753 Topics in Semantics (3 units)

Spring 2008


Tu 2:30 - 5:15 - Tobin 520




Christopher Potts []


The notion of conversation as a game is immediately appealing, and many problems in pragmatics and discourse structure are fruitfully conceptualized in such terms. Since early work by David Lewis, researchers have been honing this insight, and recent years especially have seen exciting new developments in its model-theoretic foundations. There is now an active, fast-growing community working to cast discourse phenomena as complex, iterated, semi-conventionalized patterns of strategically optimized information exchange, often with decision-theoretic and game-theoretic solution concepts. As a result, we have gained a better understanding of the power of the Gricean program (broadly construed), and the field has (re-)established connections with information theory, probability theory, and constraint programming. This seminar will critically examine these new models, attempting to gain a better understanding of how they work and whether they can provide sound and insightful theories of complex, realistic pragmatic phenomena. I will not presuppose prior knowledge of any of the theoretical tools. They'll all be carefully introduced as we go.