Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)


ONLINE - LMC Workshop 'MK40: Common Knowledge, Common Ground, and Context in Communication'

25 June 2021–26 June 2021, 9:00 am–6:00 pm

image of brain with letters marked on, language and meaning

The MK40 conference is now rescheduled to take place on 25-26 June, 2021. Due to ongoing uncertainty about the possibility of large, live events, the conference will be staged online.

This event is free.

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Language and Meaning Centre

While several related, but distinct, lines of research have found it necessary to develop or apply concepts like mutual knowledge there has always existed a rich debate about the nature of these concepts, their actual functions in communication and relations among them. From the very outset, there has been scepticism about the centrality of a specifically epistemic or doxastic notion of common knowledge in meaning and communication. In particular, Grice (1982) resists the idea that common or mutual belief is conceptually necessary for meaning. Related work problematizes these notions from the perspective that they require ideal reasoners (Sperber & Wilson, 1990) or that the putative situational bases for common knowledge (public information) described in Lewis and Clark in fact lead common knowledge (Halpern & Moses, 1990; Lederman, 2018). Other work debates the primacy of shared attention and common knowledge. Some suggest the former is the foundational relation (Campbell, 2005; Peacocke, 2005), while others argue for the opposite (Gilbert, 2007). In related lines of inquiry, literature has discussed the possibility of non-mentalistic or non-individualistic replacements of common ground or common knowledge (Breheny, 2006; Geurts, 2019; Kern & Moll, 2017). In recent psycholinguistic work, questions have been raised about whether common knowledge of discourse relevant facts (common ground) is in fact maintained by interlocutors (Horton & Gerrig, 2005) and whether it is in fact common ground that is inferred in language processing or simply interlocutors’ perspectives (Heller & Brown-Schmidt, in prep).

The workshop will mark the fact that it is 40 years since the staging of a similar workshop in 1980. That workshop was organised by the Linguistics Dept at UCL and the papers were collected in the well-known volume, Mutual Knowledge edited by Neil Smith. Contributors included Paul Grice, Herbert H Clark, Philip Johnson-Laird, Gerald Gazdar, Aravind Joshi, Dan Sperber and Deirdre Wilson. The aim of that workshop was to bring together psychologists, philosophers, computational researchers and linguists to discuss questions about common knowledge and its role.

For the full abstract and call for submissions see the main workshop webpage. A programme and registration details will be added as soon as available.

Organisers: Richard Breheny (UCL), Uli Sauerland (ZAS Berlin). The event is co-sponsored by XPrag.de, Mind & Language and the Mind Association.

Invited speakers: Malinda Carpenter (St Andrews), Herbert H Clark (Stanford), Bart Geurts (U. of Nijmegen), Daphna Heller (U. of Toronto), Harvey Lederman (Princeton), Henrike Moll (USC), Mandy Simons (CMU), Dan Sperber (CEU) and Deirdre Wilson (UCL)