18 January 2015

Call for papers: Formal and experimental pragmatics

Workshop “Formal and experimental pragmatics: methodological issues of a nascent liaison"

Date: 1st – 3rd June 2015

Venue: Zentrum für Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft (ZAS), Berlin


After decades of defying broad-coverage formalization, recent years have seen a surge of precise and testable pragmatic theories, which have substantially advanced our understanding of various types of pragmatic inferences, including scalar implicatures, ad hoc Quantity implicatures, M-implicatures, and ignorance implicatures, to name just a few. At least two kinds of approaches can be distinguished according to the level of abstraction at which they operate. Structural approaches are high-level descriptions of pragmatic phenomena in terms of general and abstract constraints, principles or rules. These constraints, principles or rules are often, but not always, motivated by ideas about optimal conversation (think: Gricean Maxims and its offspring) and often target the interpretation of sentences in a default context. On the other hand, interactional approaches try to explain pragmatic phenomena by explicitly representing relevant contextual factors, distinguishing speaker and listener perspectives and interlocutors’ possibly divergent, partial or approximate beliefs about the aforementioned. Structural and interactional approaches should not be perceived as being in opposition, but rather as synergetic, with insights from either positively stimulating the respective other. In this spirit, this workshop is about general methodological problems of connecting formal pragmatics to empirical data, especially data from psycholinguistic experiments. The problem is brought to the surface clearly by interactional approaches, but affects structural approaches too. A prerequisite for these models to work are formally explicit assumptions regarding speaker and listener beliefs about various contextual factors, including, e.g., action alternatives, interlocutor preferences, degree of interlocutor cooperativity, or differential interlocutor knowledge. Therefore, it is vital that empirically driven pragmatic modeling be explicit about how these contextually relevant factors are mapped from the experimental setup onto the formal pragmatic theory.

The workshop will provide a forum for the discussion of methodological questions and related theoretical issues that arise for researchers working at the interface between formal pragmatic theory and experimental data.

Invited Speakers:

Mike Tanenhaus (University of Rochester)

Hannah Rohde (University of Edinburgh)

Call for papers:Authors are invited to submit an extended abstract relevant to the workshop’s topics. Submissions should be anonymous, in PDF format and not exceed 2 pages with standard formatting, including all references, figures, tables etc.Please upload your submission to


by 1st March 2015.

Relevant topics include, but are not limited to, the following:

modeling of context-dependence and the subsequent challenges of controlling context in experimental designs

linking functions between model predictions and experimental data from different measures, including meta-linguistic judgments, sentence verification, response times, reading times, eye movements, sentence completion and other production measures

the role of cognitive resource limitations in computational models

the connection between computational models of pragmatics and online pragmatic processing


Anton Benz (benz@zas.gwz-berlin.de)

Nicole Gotzner (gotzner@zas.gwz-berlin.de)

Important Dates:

Submission Deadline: 1st March 2015

Notification of acceptance: 1st April 201

Conference date: 1st – 3rd June 2015