Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)



Key graduate level seminars run annually in Formal Semantics-Pragmatics and also in Pragmatics for the benefit of graduate students and faculty.

2023-24 Programme

The full Formal Semantics-Pragmatics programme can be viewed here: www.ucl.ac.uk/~ucjtudo/teaching/SRS-2023.html

The full Pragmatics programme can be viewed here: sites.google.com/site/expraglab/teaching/plin0050-graduate-seminar-in-pragmatics-2023-24

2022-23 Programme

The full programme can be viewed here: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/~ucjtudo/teaching/SRS-2022.html

2021-22 Programme

We investigate the articulation between domain-general reasoning and interpretive processes in failures of deductive reasoning. We focus on illusory inferences from disjunction-like elements, a broad class of deductive fallacies studied in some detail over the past 15 years.

  • 15 Oct 2021: Diego Feinmann (École Normale Supérieure, Paris), 'On Hyperbole'

A hyperbole is an exaggerated statement that isn’t meant literally and is used for effect (typically, to convey affect or make an evaluation of either positive or negative valence). For example, I may utter ‘The water in the bath is boiling’, despite knowing that the water in the bath isn’t boiling, to communicate that the water in the bath is too hot—and that I’m frustrated as a result of this. Since Grice (1975), this phenomenon has been thought to be fully pragmatic in nature (cf. Sperber and Wilson 2008; Wilson 2011; Kao, Wu, Bergen and Goodman 2014). In this talk, I put forward a contrarian idea: hyperbole interpretation is partly a semantic phenomenon (come to the talk if you want to know more).

  • 22 Oct 2021: Guillermo Del Pinal (University of Illinois/ZAS, Berlin) 'Meaning-driven unacceptability, modulated logical forms and the ``spontaneous logicality of language'''

This talk will present a specific implementation of the `Logicality of language' hypothesis, according to which the human language system includes not just a recursive syntax and compositional semantics, as standardly assumed, but also a computational system that identifies and filters out expressions that are informationally trivial. This hypothesis is motivated by a class of trivial expressions which are syntactically well-formed, have no semantic type mismatches, and are not more complex than comparable expressions which are easily processed, yet are reliably judged to be strictly unacceptable in a way that is almost indistinguishable from typical ungrammaticality judgments. Triviality-driven unacceptability restricts the distribution of various kinds of logical/functional terms and phrases, including determiners, modals, attitude verbs, prepositions, and overt and covert exhaustifiers. An important challenges for proponents of Logicality is to implement it in a way that doesn't over-generate strict unacceptability assignments for various kinds of superficial tautologies and contradictions.

  • 29 Oct 2021: Alexandre Cremers (Vilnius University) 'Rational Speech Act, exhaustivity, and symmetry (joint work with Benjamin Spector, ENS)'
  • 5 Nov 2021: Brian Leahy (Harvard) 'Might and might not: Children's conceptual development and the acquisition of modal verbs'

When a child acquires her first modal verbs, is she learning how to map words in the language she is learning onto innate concepts of possibility, necessity, and impossibility? Or does she also have to construct modal concepts? If the concepts are constructed, does learning to talk about possibilities play a role in the construction process? Exploring this hypothesis space requires testing children's acquisition of modal vocabulary alongside nonverbal tests of their modal concepts. I will report data from 152 children aged from 4;0 through 7;11 and 24 adults. I will argue that the data fit best with the hypothesis that acquisition of modal language and development of modal concepts proceed hand-in-hand. However, more  research is needed, especially with 3-year-olds.

  • 19 Nov 2021: Matthew Mandelkern (NYU) 'Either/Or'
  • 26 Nov 2021: Paul Marty (UCL)  'Repugnant validities: the case of disjunction introduction'
  • 3 Dec 2021: Daniel Rothschild (UCL)

2020-21 Programme

Details will be posted soon for archive purposes

2019-20 Programme

Programme and handouts are available here: http://danielrothschild.com/dynamics1920/

Older seminars

Autumn 2018-19: Attitudes
Spring 2017-18: Presupposition