Matthijs Westera


Anticipation and reconstruction of implicit questions

Which questions a discourse or percept evokes is a fascinating window into the human mind, on which discourse coherence and utterance interpretation both crucially depend.

2020. TED-Q: TED Talks and the Questions they Evoke; with Laia Mayol and Hannah Rohde. To appear in proceedings of LREC 2020.
2019. A closer look at scalar diversity using contextualized semantic similarity; with Gemma Boleda. Presented at Sinn und Bedeutung 24 in Osnabrück.
2018. Towards unsupervised language models for QUD prediction. Presented at the 22nd workshop on the Semantics and Pragmatics of Dialogue (SemDial), Aix-en-Provence.
2014. Ignorance in context: the interaction of modified numerals and QUDs, joint work with Adrian Brasoveanu (UCSC), in proceedings of SALT, New York, May 2014
2019. Asking between the lines: Elicitation of evoked questions in text, joint work with Hannah Rohde. Presented at the Amsterdam Colloquium, December 2019.
2019. Studying the anticipation of QUDs and discourse relations by crowdsourcing a dataset of 'evoked questions', GLiF seminar, Barcelona, December 2019.
2019. Towards a quantitative model of 'Questions Under Discussion'. Presented at XIV International Symposium of Psycholinguistics (ISP), Tarragona.
2019. Predicting explicit and implicit questions, presented at the COLT kick-off workshop, Barcelona, February 2019.
2014. Cancellation, underspecification and experimental pragmatics, based on joint work with Adrian Brasoveanu (UCSC), presented at SFB Kolloquium, Düsseldorf, July 2014
2014. The QUD-guessing game: how to play it and how to avoid it, based on joint work with Adrian Brasoveanu (UCSC), presented at Questions in Discourse 5, Stuttgart, May 2014

Formal and distributional/neural semantics

Language and cognition have both continuous aspects (e.g., concepts) and discrete aspects (e.g., reference to a particular entity). An adequate theory of language and communication will combine distributional semantics with pragmatics, and derive as a mere side-effect what formal semantics has put center stage.

2020. Representing a concept by the distribution of names of its instances, joint work with Gemma Boleda and Sebastian Padó. Presented at Computational Linguistics in The Netherlands 30, Utrecht.
2019. Don't blame distributional semantics if it can't do entailment, with Gemma Boleda, presented at 13th International Conference on Computational Semantics (IWCS), Gothenburg, 2019
2019. Some linguistic correlates of gradients and attention weights in BERT. Presented at the second BlackBoxNLP workshop at ACL 57, Florence.
2019. What do Entity-Centric Models Learn? Insights from Entity Linking in Multi-Party Dialogue, with Laura Aina, Carina Silberer, Ionut-Teodor Sorodoc and Gemma Boleda. In proceedings of NAACL, Minneapolis.
2018. Formal and distributional semantics model different notions of meaning, with Gemma Boleda, presented at Semantics and Philosophy in Europe 10, Barcelona, 2018
2018. AMORE-UPF at SemEval-2018 Task 4: BiLSTM with Entity Library, with Laura Aina, Carina Silberer, Ionut-Teodor Sorodoc and Gemma Boleda. In Apidianaki, Mohammad, May, Shutova, Bethard and Carpuat (eds.), proceedings of the 12th International Workshop on Semantic Evaluation (SemEval).

Joint attention and closed-world reasoning (exhaustivity)

Answers are often interpreted as exhaustive, e.g., "Bert and Elmo" as implying "only Bert and Elmo". This doesn't derive from the standard Gricean maxims, nor from the pragmatic principles on which the so-called grammatical approach relies, but from a pragmatics of attention.

2019. Implying or implicating not both in declaratives and interrogatives. In proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung 24 in Osnabrück.
2020 (under review). Attentional Pragmatics: a new pragmatic approach to exhaustivity.
2019 (under review). Hurford disjunctions: an in-depth comparison of the grammatical and the pragmatic approach.
2018. An attention-based explanation for some exhaustivity operators, in proceedings (2018) of Sinn und Bedeutung 21, Edinburgh 2016.
2017. QUDs, brevity, and the asymmetry of alternatives, in proceedings of Amsterdam Colloquium 2017, Amsterdam.
2017. Exhaustivity and intonation: a unified theory, PhD dissertation, University of Amsterdam.

More articles

2013. Where the air is thin, but the view so much clearer, in The dynamic, inquisitive, and visionary life of phi, ?phi and diamond phi, a festschrift for Groenendijk, Stokhof and Veltman. For an update, see my 2018 SuB paper above.
2013. Exhaustivity through the Maxim of Relation, presented at Logic and Engineering of Natural Language Semantics 10.
2013. Exhaustivity without the competence assumption, presented at the Semantics/Pragmatics Colloquium, Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen.
2013. Attentive pragmatics: an account of exhaustivity and the final rise, presented at the ESSLLI Student Session, Düsseldorf.
2012. Meanings as proposals: a new semantic foundation for a Gricean pragmatics Presented at the 16th workshop on the Semantics and Pragmatics of Dialogue (SemDial), Université Paris-Diderot.
2012. Meanings as proposals: an algebraic inquisitive semantics Presented at the 10th Conference on Logic and the Foundations of Game and Decision Theory (LOFT), University of Sevilla.

More presentations

2018. Why exhaustivity is sometimes but not always part of what is meant, presented at Semantics and Philosophy in Europe 10, Barcelona, December 2018.
2017. On the possible pragmatic origins of inquisitiveness, presented at Inquisitive Semantics Below and Beyond the Sentence Boundary, December 2017, Amsterdam.
2017. Explaining at-issueness contrasts between questions and assertions, presented at Theoretical and Experimental Approaches to Presuppositions, Genoa, March 2017.
2017. How the symmetry problem solves the symmetry problem, presented at DGFS AG2: Information structuring in discourse, Saarbrücken, March 2017.
2016. Explaining exhaustivity in terms of Attentional Quantity, presented at Logic and Language in Conversation, Utrecht, September 2016
2014. Giving conversational implicatures the status they need and deserve, presented at Semantics and Philosophy in Europe 7, Berlin 2014
2014. Why semantics is the wastebasket, presented at the Tilburg Research Seminar in Logic and Language, May 2014
2013. Exhaustivity is a conversational implicature, presented at the Semantics Research Group, Keio University, Tokyo, October 2013
2013. Exhaustivity is a conversational implicature, presented at the Leiden Utrecht Semantics Happenings, Universiteit Utrecht, October 2013
2013. Exhaustivity implicatures and attentive content, presented at Investigating semantics: Empirical and philosophical approaches, Bochum, October 2013
2013. Attention, exhaustivity and non-cooperativity, presented at the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, October 2013
2013. Exhaustivity through the maxim of Relation, presented at the Tenth International Tbilisi Symposium on Language, Logic and Computation, September 2013
2013. Grice can do it (but he was wrong about cancellability), presented at LEGO, Universiteit van Amsterdam, October 2013
2013. Attention, exhaustivity and non-cooperativity, presented at the Logic and Interactive Rationality seminar, Amsterdam, September 2013
2013. An attentive approach to exhaustivity, presented at the International Congress of Linguists, Geneva, July 2013
2013. Inquisitive pragmatics: entailment as relatedness, presented at the Sixth Philosophy and Semantics in Europe Colloquium, Saint Petersburg, June 2013
2013. Exhaustivity, relatedness and the final rise, S-circle talk, April 2013, University of California, Santa Cruz
2012. Inquisitive pragmatics: ignorance, possibility and exhaustivity Presented at the Workshop on Questions and Inquisitive Semantics, December 17-18, 2012, FLoV, University of Gothenburg.
2012. Meanings as proposals: an inquisitive approach to exhaustivity Presented at the NAP-day, October 12, 2012, ACLC, University of Amsterdam.

The meaning of intonation

Speakers of English and related languages use rises and falls in various places to convey (non-)compliance with the conversational maxims. It's a simple idea, but if you plug in a precise set of maxims you get fine-grained predictions and insightful explanations.

In press. The meanings of tones and tunes, with Daniel Goodhue and Carlos Gussenhoven, to appear Gussenhoven and Chen (eds.) Handbook of Prosody, Oxford University Press.
2019. Intonational Compliance Marking: a theory of English intonational meaning. Séminaire Laboratoire Parole et Langage, January 2019, Aix-en-Provence.
2019. Rise-fall-rise as a marker of secondary QUDs, in Gutzmann and Turgay (eds.) Secondary content: the linguistics of side issues, CRISPI 37, Brill.
2018. Rising declaratives of the Quality-suspending kind, in Glossa: a journal of general linguistics.
2014. Grounding topic and focus in biological codes, presented at TAL, Nijmegen, May 2014
2013. 'Attention, I'm violating a maxim!' - a unifying account of the final rise, presented at SemDial, Amsterdam, December 2013
2018. Rise-fall-rise: a prosodic window on secondary QUDs. Presented at the Workshop on Prosody and Meaning, November 2018, Aix-en-Provence.
2017. The pragmatics and prosody of declarative 'questions' (and interrogative questions), presented at the Fachbereichskolloquium linguistics, Universität Konstanz, November 2017.
2017. English rising declaratives of the Quality-suspending kind, presented at the Grup de Lingüística Formal, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, November 2017.
2017. A unifying understanding of RFR, topics and non-at-issue meaning, presented at GLOW workshop 2: Compositionality at the interfaces, Leiden, March 2017
2017. Rise-fall-rise intonation and secondary QUDs, presented at DGFS AG3: Secondary information and linguistic encoding, Saarbrücken, March 2017.
2015. Ideal and actual cooperativity, presented at Semantics and Philosophy in Europe 8, Cambridge 2015
2014. A pragmatics-driven theory of intonational meaning, presented at McGill, Yale, MIT, and Düsseldorf, May/June/July 2014
2013. A compositional account of contrastive topic in terms of non-cooperativity, presented at Questions in Discourse, Amsterdam, December 2013
2013. The Rise and Fall of Cooperativity, presented at Discourse Coherence, Information Structure, and Implicatures, Düsseldorf, August 2013
2013. Attentive pragmatics: an account of exhaustivity and the final rise, presented at the ESSLLI Student Session, Düsseldorf, August 2013
2013. Not sure if this is relevant..., presented at Discourse Expectations: Theoretical, Experimental and Computational Perspectives, Tübingen, June 2013
2013. Exhaustivity, relatedness and the final rise, S-circle talk, April 2013, University of California, Santa Cruz

Verb semantics, conceptual structure and language evolution

2012. Event structure, conceptual spaces and the semantics of verbs With Massimo Warglien and Peter Gärdenfors. Target article (plus comments on comments) in Theoretical Linguistics, Volume 38, Issue 3-4.
2011. Freistaat Flaschenhals, or How the Language Acquisition Bottleneck Shaped the Lexicon-Syntax Interface. MSc Thesis, Utrecht, March 2011.
2011. The inevitable active lexicon Presented at 8th Workshop of Syntax and Semantics, Paris, November 2011. (The slides are flattened (no transitions); download the source .svg here.)
2011. How, what for and since when does word meaning influence syntactic composition? Presented at Seminar AI, Utrecht, March 2011.
2010. Reconsidering the code model of communication for simulations of language evolution In A.D.M. Smith, K. Smith and M. Schouwstra, Eds. The Evolution of Language. Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on the Evolution of Language, 2010
2008. Principles for Concept Combination and Negation The final paper for the MSc course Conceptual Semantics.
2008. Action Representations and the Semantics of Verbs My BSc thesis, in which I connect linguistic phenomena to psychological data, using conceptual spaces as an intermediary level.


''Yes'' and ''no'' according to attentive pragmatics, a squib.
2013. The inquisitive semantics and pragmatics of modified numerals, February 2013, University of California, Santa Cruz
2013. Modified numerals in inquisitive pragmatics, presented at UGGS, January 2013, University of California, Santa Cruz
Existential inquisitive semantics, term paper for the course on Inquisitive Semantics, University of Amsterdam.
Proceedings of the 18th Amsterdam Colloquium 2011 Eds. with M. Aloni, V. Kimmelman, G. Weidman Sassoon, F. Roelofsen, K. Schulz. Springer (2012)
2010. Employing Use-cases for Piecewise Evaluation of Requirements and Claims Together with Boschloo, J., Diggelen, J. van, Koelewijn, L.S., Neerincx, M.A., Smets, N.J.J.M. In Proceedings of the 28th European Conference on Cognitive Ergonomics (2010).
2009. Towards a Connectionist Model for Minimalist Syntax A paper written for the MSc course Neurocognition of Language, in which I formulate a number of tentative principles through which a connectionist model could deal with constituent-free minimalist syntax, using a synchrony-based encoding.
2008. Tools, Language and the Aggregate Mind A philosophical paper for the MSc course Philosophy of A.I., reconsidering the Extended Mind Hypothesis. Based on Dennett's homuncular functionalism I argue for an alternative, the Aggregate Mind Hypothesis.