Institut Jean Nicod

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Contextual Indefiniteness and Semantic Theory


April 19-20




The Institut d’Études Avancées de Paris will host a two-day workshop on “Contextual Indefiniteness and Semantic Theory.”

The workshop will take place April 19-20, 2017 at the historic Hôtel de Lauzun in Paris.

The workshop will be jointly funded by the IEA de Paris, the Institut Jean Nicod, and UC Berkeley (via John MacFarlane).


In truth-conditional semantics, one often proceeds as if context supplies determinate values to free variables or parameters of an index, even when speakers and hearers lack common knowledge of what these values are.  For example, according to widely accepted theories, truth conditions for "That apple is large" depend on a contextually determined threshold for largeness, and truth conditions for "If Caesar had been in command in Korea, he would have used the A-bomb" depend on a contextually determined similarity relation on possible worlds.  But is it plausible to think of definitions of truth at a context as theories of meaning when the relevant contextual parameters are not known in common between speakers and hearers? How do such definitions figure in explanations of communication? If it is problematic to posit inscrutable settings for contextual parameters, what are the upshots for the abundant work in semantic theory that seems to posit them? Are there ways of reconceiving this work without throwing away its insights? Is it time to rethink the way formal semantic theory relates to the use of language?

Registration: by invitation only / sur invitation seulement





3:30-4:30 Tour of the Hotel de Lauzun (for those interested)

4:30-5:50 John MacFarlane, UC Berkeley/IEA de Paris
 Constraint Semantics



10-11:20 Chris Barker, NYU
Delineations, not Hyperplans

11:30-12:50 Diana Raffman, University of Toronto
 Vagueness, Indefiniteness, and Multiple Reference

1-2 Lunch

2:10-3:30 Michael Glanzberg, Northwestern
 The Precision of Scales in Adjectival Meaning

3:40-5 Una Stojnic, NYU
Vague Utterances in Context

5:10-6:30 Sam Cumming, UCLA
Meaning and Classification

8 Conference dinner (probably near the Hotel de Lauzun)




10-11:20 Peter Pagin, University of Stockholm
Communicative Success in Context

11:30-12:50 Martin Abreu Zavaleta, NYU
 Communicative Coordination

1-2 Lunch

2:10-3:30 Gabe Dupre, UCLA
Truth and Idealization in Natural Language Semantics

3:40-5 Ethan Nowak, UCL
No Context, No Content, No Problem

5:10-6:30 Josh Armstrong, UCLA
Truth and Imprecision