02 October 2011

GLOW Workshop on Focus

GLOW-Workshop "Association with focus", Potsdam, March 31, 2012

Keynote speaker: David Beaver

Important dates:
Workshop date: March 31, 2012 (Please note the change of date!)
Date of the GLOW colloquium: March 28-30, 2012
Deadline: November 15


Research on focus has always been linked to research on focus-sensitive elements. One central area of research is concerned with the nature of this sensitivity. Is it semantic, and therefore encoded into the lexical meaning of these elements (Rooth 1985, Jacobs 1983)? Or is it pragmatic (Rooth 1992, 1996, von Fintel 1994)? Or are there different kinds of focus-sensitivity, as proposed in Beaver and Clark (2008)? In the case of pragmatic association with focus, must the particles rely on focus, or can they also associate with alternatives provided by other elements such as e.g. contrastive topics (Krifka 1999)? What role does accenting on the focus-sensitive elements themselves play in interpretation?

The second area of research concerns the meaning contribution of focus-sensitive elements. What meanings, across languages, do focus-sensitive elements contribute? In most cases, the contributed meaning components are non-truth-conditional. What is the nature of these meaning components? If e.g. the prejacent of only and the additive component of also are both presupposed (as suggested e.g. in König 1991), why do the presuppositions said to be triggered by also/even differ from those said to be triggered by only: uttering a sentence with also is not permissible unless its presupposition is already in the Common Ground (the presupposition cannot be accommodated), whereas the presupposition of only is easily, and most often, accommodated; see. e.g. the classification of projective meanings by Tonhauser et al. 2011)? A third area of research concerns the function of these particles in discourse. It has been suggested that the function of some focus-sensitive particles lies in discourse structuring, e.g. by marking an utterance as unexpected, unlikely, or surprising (e.g. Karttunen and Peters 1979 for even, Zeevat 2009 and Beaver and Clark 2008 for only). But whose surprise is marked by these particles? That of the hearer, or that of the speaker? And what does this mean for a more fine-grained model of the Common Ground that keeps track of speaker/hearer commitments?

Questions to be discussed include, but are not limited to, the following:

* What is the inventory of focus-sensitive elements in different languages? In what sense do they function as discourse particles (Thurmair 1989)?
* What is the nature of their association with alternatives? Is there evidence for different classes, as suggested by Beaver and Clark (2008), or evidence for a unified account? Are there cross-linguistic similarities with respect to the class that corresponding elements belong to?
* Do such expressions associate exclusively with focus, or rather with alternatives in general (including alternatives generated by contrastive topics, Krifka 1999)?
* What is the nature of their meaning components? What can we learn about presuppositions / conventional / conversational implicatures by looking at association with focus?
* For those focus-sensitive elements that are said to have a scalar meaning component, what is the nature of these scales?
* What is the discourse function of focus-sensitive elements, and what can we learn from them for a model of the Common Ground?

We invite abstracts for 30 + 10 minutes talks. Abstracts are to be submitted via EasyChair (https://www.easychair.org/account/signin.cgi?conf=glow35). Please consult the abstract guidelines (http://www.ling.uni-potsdam.de/~glow/submit.html) before submitting.

For more information, please visit http://www.ling.uni-potsdam.de/~glow/