General Talk

April 20, 16-17:30, Erasmusbuilding 14.01

Henk Zeevat, UvA

Uniform Contexts for Cognition?

Abstract: Standard notions of context in dynamic context come close to providing a uniform notion of context, but do not quite get there. From a cognitive evolutionary perspective this is unsatisfactory: a context of interpretation different from a global context should not diverge in properties from the global context and the way information is treated there: extra contexts are a late addition to the cognitive scene. It is extremely implausible that assertion and presupposition (anaphora) would not be exactly the same when an auxiliary context is constructed. It is equally implausible to assume --- for other than strategic reasons--- that basic global context can only be updated. A visual scene is open to further refinement, but also to correction.

My desiderata for contexts are therefore both uniformity under assertion and presupposition (with anaphora as a special case) and the possibility of corrections. I will try to show that various notions of context that can be formulated from DRT or update semantics have serious problems in these respects.

My own attempt is preliminary: I will provide a syntactic model of contexts based on the work of Gazdar and Kamp and will go through the technical details. Some consequences for the treatment of presupposition and denial will be explored including a number of empirical linguistic applications.