Workshop: Dynamic Semantics

Date: May 30-31, 2016

Location: ZAS Berlin, 10117 Berlin, Schützenstr. 18, Room 403

Guillermo Del Pinal (ged2021(at), Marie-Christine Meyer (macrst(at), Daniel Rothschild (d.rothschild(at)

This workshop is open to the public. We kindly ask that you register at if you plan to attend.

Standard semantic theories model the meaning of a sentence as a proposition. In contrast to this static view, dynamic frameworks tie sentential meaning more closely to the way sentences change the conversational background. Most famously, this is done by modeling the meaning of a sentence as an instruction for updating the context. The shift in focus away from propositional content towards update rules has inspired influential new approaches to phenomena ranging from presupposition and anaphora to conditionals and epistemic modality. With this workshop, we aim to explore and re-evaluate foundational issues of the dynamic program from both an empirical and a conceptual perspective. Specifically, we seek to address the following questions:

  1. To what extent can and should core phenomena motivating dynamic accounts (e.g., presupposition accommodation) be re-analyzed as pragmatic processes in a static semantic framework?
  2. Are formal properties of dynamic frameworks, such as lack of idempotence and commutativity, really found in natural language?
  3. How does the dynamic/static divide relate to similar conceptual distinctions in theoretical computer science?
  4. What is the relationship between the dynamic view of discourse as a set of instructions and Karttunen’s notion of discourse referents?

Recent work addressing some of these foundational issues include:

  • K. Lewis, “Do we need dynamic semantics?”, A. Burgess and B. Sherman (eds.), Oxford, forthcoming.
  • D. Rothschild & S.Yalcin, “On the Dynamics of Conversation”, Noûs, 2015.
  • P. Schlenker, “Local Contexts”, Semantics & Pragmatics, 2009.
  • R. Stalnaker, “Context”, Oxford, 2015.

Invited Talks:

  • Gennaro Chierchia (Harvard): ‘Crossover phenomena: A “dynamic” explanation?’
  • Manfred Krifka (Humboldt University)
  • Carlotta Pavese (Duke): ‘Dynamic Semantics and Inferential Competences’
  • James Pryor (New York University): ‘Modeling Dynamic Anaphora and Epistemic Modals with Monads’
  • Daniel Rothschild (University College London): ‘Dynamics of Variables’
  • Philippe Schlenker (Ecole Normale Supérieure): TBD
  • Seth Yalcin (Berkeley): ‘Three notions of Dynamicness in Language’ (joint work with D. Rothschild)
 Partial support for this workshop comes from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, Leadership Fellowship grant “Dynamics of Conversation” Ref: AH/M009602/1.