The school includes the following 20 courses. At the registration you can select up to three of them. Each course includes 8 sessions of 90 minutes. You will receive 3 ECTS credit points per course!


Lecturer: Clemens Steiner-Mayr, Göttingen University
Room: 1.404
One of the goals of participants in a conversation is to determine what the actual world is like. A way to come closer to this goal is by answering questions about the world. To afford this, the interpretive component of grammar makes use of alternatives. Interrogative utterances highlight alternatives that the world might correspond to. Declarative utterances assert that one or a number of these alternatives is/are the case. Implicatures get factored into the meaning to exclude other alternatives. How much are these phenomena grammaticalized? The present course addresses this issue by giving an overview of a number of phenomena relying on alternatives.
Lecturer: Bob van Tiel, ZAS Berlin
Room: 1.403
In his Logic and conversation, Grice famously observed that communication is a cooperative enterprise: when we say something, it is thereby understood that our utterance addresses the goal of the conversation. In some cases, hearers make additional assumptions to align what a speaker says with the assumption of cooperativity. Thus, when someone says ‘Donald is an arse’, the hearer infers that the speaker uses the word ‘arse’ figuratively, because otherwise her utterance would not make much sense, and thus be uncooperative. Inferences that follow from the assumption of cooperativity are called conversational implicatures.
Over the past decades, conversational implicatures have consistently been at the forefront of pragmatic theorising. In this course, we provide an overview of this research. First, we consider the various theories of conversational implicatures that have been put forward. Afterwards, we discuss a number of implicature-related phenomena, with particular attention to their relation to the theories that we introduced. Throughout this course, we also consider relevant experimental work.
Lecturer: Hazel Pearson, Queen Mary University of London
Room: 1.402
This course is an introduction to the problem of how perspective is encoded in natural language, with particular attention to the representation of mental states and especially first person perspective (the so-called ‘de se’). We will marshall a range of evidence from linguistic phenomena across a range of languages (e.g. predicates of personal taste, counteridentical statements etc.) in order to develop a new approach to the linguistic representation of de se. The topic has consequences for the analysis of pronouns and anaphora, obligatory control, binding and other core topics from linguistic theory, as well as bearing on current debates in philosophy and psychology.
Lecturer: Philippe Schlenker, CNRS (Institut Jean-Nicod, Paris)
Room: 1.401

Presuppositions are a central problem in natural language semantics, which centers around two main questions:

  1. Triggering Problem: why are the inferences triggered by some expressions treated as presuppositions rather than, say, at-issue entailments?
  2. Projection Problem: how are the presuppositions of complex sentences inherited from the presuppositions of their component parts and the way they are put together?

Most research has centered on the Projection Problem. In the 1980’s, the analysis of ‘presupposition projection’ led to the development of a new and more powerful type of semantics, called ‘dynamic semantics’. In recent years, various alternatives (some of them pragmatic, some of them not) were developed within non-dynamic semantics. We will provide an introduction to this debate, first by developing an explicit dynamic semantics for presuppositions, and then by considering various alternatives to it, including ones developed within bivalent or trivalent logics. The database will include traditional data, experimental data, and also gestural inferences that enrich the debate (they pertain to presupposition-like inferences that are arguably triggered by co-speech gestures).

We will then turn to the Triggering Problem, and we will discuss recent and ongoing attempts to derive the presuppositions of elementary expressions from their bivalent content (which only specifies of which they objects they are true vs. non-true, without further dividing ‘non-true’ into ‘false’ and ‘presupposition failure’). Here too, we will bring gestural data into the picture, arguing that the existence of presuppositions triggered by pro-speech gestures (i.e. speech-replacing gestures) that one may not have encountered before strongly argues for the existence of a ‘triggering algorithm’. Findings its precise form is thus an important challenge for contemporary research.
Lecturer: Maribel Romero, University of Konstanz
Room: 1.404
The internal semantic composition and final utterance meaning of questions has, over the years, raised non-trivial issues concerning the syntax/prosody/semantics interface and the division of labor between at-issue content, non-at-issue content and pragmatic processes. This course provides a critical overview of some of these issues. We start with an introduction to the compositional semantics of questions in traditional approaches. Then, we zoom into the three main interrogative clause types – namely, Wh-Question (WhQs), Alternative Questions (AltQs) and Polar Questions (PolQs) – and present, for each of them, one problem currently under debate, including degrees of exhaustivity, the interaction of syntactic and prosodic cues in the construction of meaning, and the licensing of Negative Polarity Items (NPIs). Next, moving away from purely information-seeking uses, we inspect what non-canonical questions reveal about meaning composition and discourse pressures. We will examine epistemic bias in PolQs, illocutionary range and cornering effects in AltQs and the role of discourse particles in German WhQs. Finally, we present puzzles on questions embedded under attitudes, such as the *surprise+whether puzzle and the admit+*if/✓whether puzzle.
Lecturer: Petra Schumacher, University of Cologne
Room: 1.402
The study of reference has been approached from various angles in linguistics, philosophy and psychology. In this course we will address the questions of why so many different referential expressions are available, what their specific functional contributions are and how their use is constrained by the language system and more generally the cognitive system.
We will first examine the functions of referential expressions and their use conditions in context. We will focus on the referents’ cognitive accessibility and the context-change potential of referential expressions. Then we will assess the functional contribution of two particular instances of reference in more depth – demonstratives and definite expressions. We will further look at cases of reference resolution that involve operations at the interface of discourse-pragmatics with syntax and prosody before evaluating the conditions that govern referential choice.
Lecturer: Manfred Krifka, ZAS Berlin, HU Berlin
Room: 1.403
Speech Acts are the smallest units with a communicative function of their own. A name like Susan refers to a person and does not have a communicative function other than as a building block for a larger utterance, but used with appropriate prosody as in Susan!, it can serve as an independent social act by which the speaker attracts a person’s attention. Similarly, a clause like Susan sang denotes a communicatively inert proposition, but used in an assertion, a speaker can make a public commitment to its truth. Hence, speech acts sit right at the contested border of semantics and pragmatics.
The course will start out with the classical approaches to speech acts and then focus on recent semantic and pragmatic theories. It will present a theoretical view in which communicative acts are modeled within an extended framework of dynamic semantics, as mappings from information states to information states. Novel aspects include an integration of the social commitments of interlocutors, and of the possible continuations of information states, which are modulated by questions. Also, there will be a focus on how morphosyntactic and prosodic means are used to express and to modify speech acts, and how speech acts work in conversation.
Prerequesite: A good understanding of truth-conditional semantics; an understanding of dynamic semantics is helpful.


Lecturer: Maria Spychalska, University of Cologne
Room: 1.404
Electroencephalography (EEG) — a method to record electrical activity of the brain along the scalp – has become a very popular tool used to investigate various aspects of language processing. Its main advantage is high temporal resolution, i.e. EEG allows to record the electrical activity with a milisecond precision. In the research on language, EEG has mainly been used to measure event-related brain potentials (ERPs), i.e. direct brain responses time-locked to triggering events such as, for instance, linguistic stimuli. Some ERP components, i.e. scalp-recorded voltage changes characterized by their amplitude polarity and topography, have been considered particularly relevant for language and regarded to reflect specific neural processes underlying linguistic comprehension. Still, the precise functional role of these components remains debated, as well as their relevance for the theoretical debates in semantics or pragmatics. In this course, I provide a thorough introduction to EEG, including methodological aspects of experimental design, data pre-processing and statistical analysis. I also discuss more broadly the application of the ERP research in experimental pragmatics.
Lecturer: Jesse Snedeker, Harvard University
Room: 1.401
Lecturer: Valentina Bambini, IUSS Pavia
Room: 1.403
What does it mean that an individual has pragmatic difficulties? Very likely, that individual would have problems in matching language and the communicative context, resulting in the incapacity to deal with implicit meanings and to conduct an appropriate conversation. Considering that these aspects are fundamental in communication, people with pragmatic language disorders might have problems in communicating effectively and in social functioning. For a long time the study of language disorders concentrated on structural features such as grammar and vocabulary knowledge. But the last decades have witnessed an increasing interest towards pragmatic skills, now acknowledged as an important part of the individual’s socio-communicative competence. Most of the current literature is devoted to assess the impact of pragmatic language disorder in each specific population, and to capture its relation with other cognitive functions that might be compromised.
This course will offer an overview of current research on pragmatic language disorders. Different clinical conditions will be considered, from schizophrenia to neurological and neurodevelopmental disorders. Each condition will offer the opportunity of focus on specific core pragmatic aspects (such as figurative language, different types of inferences, and discourse coherence), combining clinical and linguistic considerations. We will also consider the implications for cognitive models of pragmatic processing, and how theoretical pragmatics can contribute to shape training programs. Students will become familiar with the main approaches and tools to assess pragmatic skills and with the pragmatic profile of the main clinical conditions exhibiting pragmatic language disorders.
Lecturers: Maria Teresa Guasti, Milan Bicocca University / Napoleon Katsos, Cambridge University London
Room: 1.403
The course will provide students with knowledge about different topics in experimental pragmatics and at the interface between pragmatics and semantics. It will focus both on theoretical issues and methodological issues. Although the topics are relatively independent, there is continuity. It is articulated in 8 sessions, the first four sessions will be delivered by Prof. Katsos and the last four by Prof. Guasti.
Lecturer: Judith Degen, Stanford University
Room: 1.401
Pragmatics was once thought of as the wastebasket of linguistics: as the caricature went, phenomena that were too complex to handle in the semantics were pushed to the mushy pragmatics, where they were dispatched with hand-wavy just-so stories. Recent developments in cognitive science have led pragmatics to a new period of maturation, facilitated by two important factors: a) the novel application of mathematical modeling techniques, and b) access to rich experimental data. Advances in probabilistic and game-theoretic models that treat pragmatic inference as a problem of social reasoning under uncertainty have yielded testable quantitative predictions about the outcome of many different kinds of pragmatic inference. The phenomena that these types of models have been successfully applied to include scalar implicature, ad hoc Quantity implicatures, M-implicatures, gradable adjectives, and hyperbole, among many others (for a review, see Goodman & Frank, 2016).
The course will introduce students to models of pragmatics that employ probabilistic inference to explain both utterance interpretation and production choices for a variety of phenomena. The basics of fitting experimental data to probabilistic cognitive models will be explained on the basis of case studies of increasing complexity from the recent literature. Students will learn to modify and build their own computational models within the Rational Speech Act framework using the probabilistic programming language WebPPL.
Lecturer: Nicole Gotzner, ZAS Berlin; Teaching assistant: Camilo Rodríguez Ronderos, Humboldt University
Room: 1.404
This class gives an introduction to statistics using R for the novice. You will learn about basic concepts of statistics and practice data analysis in R with linguistic examples.
In the first week, you will learn about core notions of statistics. The second goal is to learn how to do basics in R such as creating scripts, accessing information in data frames, plotting and calculating descriptive statistics.
The second week is devoted to basic and advanced methods of inferential statistics. We will start out with non-parametric tests, correlations and regression modeling. Another session is devoted to t-tests and ANOVA. Then we move to linear and logit mixed models. You will learn about contrast coding, model comparison and current conventions concerning model fitting. Throughout the entire course, we will allow time for questions concerning your own data sets.


Lecturer: Judith Tonhauser, Ohio State University / University of Stuttgart
Room: 1.402
Over the past twenty years, research in semantics and pragmatics has significantly broadened its empirical horizons by bringing evidence collected through one-on-one elicitation and experiments to bear on theorizing. This course introduces students to the methodology of collecting data “in the field”, though we will see that many of the techniques also apply to data collected in the lab. Students learn how to collect data that pertains to the hypotheses they are exploring by considering, for instance, different types of response tasks, what constitutes a piece of data, and what constitutes a minimal pair in semantics and pragmatics. The final sessions of the course highlight data elicitation on central topics in pragmatics, such as focus, presuppositions, as well as temporal and aspectual reference.
Lecturer: Cornelia Ebert, Goethe University Frankfurt
Room: 1.403

People gesture while they speak. They move their hands and arms in certain ways to accompany their speech. For example, in a route description as in (1)

  1. Then you will come by a church

the speaker can indicate the shape of the steeples with her hands. To do that, the stroke of the gesture will most naturally synchronize with speech in that it will align with the word that it modifies and the syllable that is stressed most (i.e. “CHURCH”). In this example, the co-speech gesture would be an iconic one, one that indicates the shape of the steeples. Interestingly, the speaker can convey information by means of this gesture that is not included in the speech signal, for example the fact that the church has two steeples, e.g. by indicating the two steeples with her two hands. After having heard (1) and having observed the co-speech gesture, the listener will know that she will pass a church and that this church has two steeples.

Next to iconic gestures, there are other kinds of gestures that we will take a closer look at in the course, e.g. pointing gestures or emblematic ones, i.e. conventionalized gestures like the victory sign. There are different modes of performing a gesture (e.g. static vs. dynamic modes) and there are different alignment strategies of gesture and speech. We will discuss the semantic contributions and effects of all these different gesture types, modes, and strategies and closely look at current formal semantic theories that aim at capturing them.
In addition, gestures in sign languages will be investigated and we will try to approach the question how to define gesture in sign languages and how to draw the line between gesture and sign. Also, we will discuss how gesture initiates and guides language acquisition and how gestures can be used to help learning second languages.
Lecturer: Johann-Mattis List, MPI-SHH / University of Jena
Room: 1.402
The fact that “all languages evolve, as long as they exist” (Schleicher 1863: 18f) has been long known to linguists and does not surprise us anymore. The reasons why all language change constantly, however, is still not fully understood. What we know, however, is that language usage must be at the core of language evolution. It is the dynamics among speakers, who want to be understood and understand what others say, while at the same time trying to be efficient, convincing, or poetic when communicating with others. If the dynamics of language use are indeed one of the driving forces of language evolution, it is evident that the phenomena of language change need to be studied from the perspective of pragmatics. In times of constantly increasing amounts of digital language data, in various forms, ranging from wordlists via results of laboratory experiments to large historical corpora, it is clear that every attempt to understand the specific dynamics of language evolution must be carried out in an empirical framework. In the course, I will try to give a rather broad (but nevertheless eclectic) introduction into topics in historical linguistics in which pragmatics play a crucial role for the study of language change and its driving forces. In this context, we will look into empirical aspects of research on language evolution, experimental studies on sound change, and the pragmatics of language contact. In addition, we will also learn how pragmatic theories can be tested with help of agent-based models of language change, and how we can study pragmatic phenomena themselves from an evolutionary perspective by investigating how speech acts (in the primary sense of Austin 1955/1962) and poetic traditions evolve.


  • Austin, J. L. (1955[1962]): How to do things with words. The William James Lectures delivered at Harvard University (1955). Clarendon Press: Oxford.
  • Schleicher, A. (1863): Die Darwinsche Theorie und die Sprachwissenschaft. Offenes Sendschreiben an Herrn Dr. Ernst Haeckel. Hermann Böhlau: Weimar.
Lecturer: Lyn Frazier, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Room: 1.401
We will examine various case studies at the interface of syntax and discourse. They fall under two broad categories.
The first concerns the QUD. Does the language processor relate linguistic input to the QUD as it is being processed? Or is the QUD something that organizes an entire text, identifiable only at the end of the entire text? Related issues concern differences, and similarities, in the processing of at-issue content and not-at-issue content. For example, does the processor structure and interpret a restrictive relative clause and an appositive relative clause in the same way? Are expressives (Damn) processed like non-expressive phrases? Does not-at-issue content play the same role in processing subsequent material that at-issue content plays?
The second broad category of studies concerns the processing of the kinds of ellipsis that can readily embed, which we take to be VP ellipsis, sluicing and fragment answers to questions. We will examine repair theories of ellipsis, and the role that processing theories can play in explaining the distribution of ellipsis, and graded acceptability of ellipsis structures. The course will examine psycholinguistic evidence indicating that an elided constituent contains syntactic structures, and claims that ellipsis may be viewed as a type of discourse anaphora. Finally, ellipsis mechanisms will be compared to accommodation mechanisms.
Lecturers: Salvatore Pistoia-Reda, ZAS Berlin / Università degli Studi di Siena, and Mihaela Popa-Wyatt, ZAS Berlin
Room: 1.404

Logicality (Pistoia-Reda)

In this seminar, we will discuss the thesis that language includes a deductive system to draw inferences from the structures. In current linguistics work, this thesis is often referred to as the «Logicality of Language» proposal (cf. e.g. Gajewski 2008; Chierchia 2013. Cf. also von Fintel 1993). Main evidence in favour of this proposal includes observation that some analytic sentences result in ungrammaticality effects, arguably on account of their analytic status. In our discussion, we will present the proposal in some details, including with formal analysis of the crucial cases. In addition, we will provide a philosophical analysis of the notion of analyticity and we will try to connect the logicality proposal with  classical discussion on analyticity (cf. e.g. Carnap  1936; Quine 1960. Cf. Chierchia 2013). In the second part of the seminar, we will discuss scalar implicatures. This phenomenon, traditionally understood as being an exemplum of Gricean reasoning (cf. Grice 1989; Horn 1989; Geurts 2010), has been recently reassigned to the semantic level of composition (cf. Chierchia 2006; Fox 2007; Chierchia et al. 2012). We will discuss the interaction between grammatical approaches to scalar implicatures and the logicality of language proposal. Special emphasis will be put on the contextual blindness of scalar implicatures, i.e. the property whereby scalar implicatures do not access to contextual knowledge and, as a result, contextual contradiction can be generated as scalar implicatures.

Philosophy (Popa-Wyatt)

Language is a powerful tool. It not only conveys information, but changes social relations. This includes the capacity to harm others, which will be the focus of this course. We will cover pejoratives, slurs, hate speech, sexist and racist language, generics, and code words such as ‘dogwhistles’. Because of the nature of the topic, the course will take the approach of philosophy of language rather than one based on formal semantics.

We will cover the following questions: 

  1. How shall we theorise about the role of attitude-expression and their place with respect to the semantics/pragmatics distinction?
  2. What kind of speech-acts are performed with slurring acts, sexist speech and generic speech?
  3. What role does such speech play in oppression and what does this tell us about the nature of meaning?
  4. How does slurring speech contribute to imposing and reinforcing imbalanced power relations?
Lecturer: Uli Sauerland, ZAS Berlin
Room: 1.402
In the 1970s, a sequential view of how semantics and pragmatics interact emerged (Grice, Searle): semantics assigns a logical meaning to a sentence which usage conditions on communication make reference to. Despite its strong intuitive appeal, this view frayed as soon as linguists attempted to formally specify the pragmatic conditions. A conception where “semantic” and “pragmatic” operations are interleaved with each other fares empirically better, but leaves the “pragmatic” conditions without grounding in communication. I primarily present this conundrum, but then espouse a alternate view of pragmatics based on cognitive efficiency following Meyer (2013) and the thought uniqueness idea of Sauerland (2018).
Lecturers: Ira Noveck, CNRS Lyon / Diana Mazzarella, University of Neuchâtel
Room: 1.401

For many scholars, pragmatics is a component of the linguistic system that allows us to deal with the interpretation of a given sentence through some well-defined rules or constraints. For others, pragmatics is an exercise in mind-reading, by which the hearer infers the speaker’s intended meaning. It is this latter view, especially, that takes one beyond linguistics and into the cognitive sciences more generally. This view also justifies presenting experimental pragmatics as a cognitive science that adopts approaches from its more fundamental forebears.

The course will discuss the relationship between pragmatics and other cognitive sciences by presenting their historical connections as well as their intersection in the study of human cognition and communication. The course will discuss the way in which pragmatic inference interacts with reasoning and social cognition (Theory of Mind, epistemic vigilance, group cognition) by focusing on a series of different pragmatic phenomena, such as scalar inferences, conditionals and figurative uses of language.