11 January 2016

Call for papers: ESSLLI 2016

Referential semantics one step further: Incorporating insights from conceptual and distributional approaches to meaning

ESSLLI 2016 Workshop

22‐26 August 2016,

Bolzano, Italy

Abstract submission deadline: February 15, 2016

URL: http://esslli2016.unibz.it/?page_id=397


Though referential approaches to semantics have proven very successful at providing meaningful analyses for a wide range of natural language data, some important phenomena, particularly involving the lexicon, have eluded insightful treatment. Notions going beyond reference and truth have been influencing referential semantics for years, but the interest in incorporating results and ideas from conceptually‐oriented semantics into referential approaches is noticeably increasing, as seen in the recent series of workshops devoted to the issue (see also e.g. Hamm et al. 2009, Carlson 2010). In parallel, interest has also grown in bringing related insights from cognitively‐informed distributional models of meaning into formal semantics (Lenci 2008, Copestake & Herbelot 2012, Baroni et al. 2014).

The aim of this workshop is to promote a 3‐way dialog among these approaches in order to clarify natural points of contact and to generate specific hypotheses about how to improve the explanatory capacity of referential models in a principled and testable manner. We build from referential models given the empirical evidence that reference (whether to real or imaginary objects) is a fundamental part of linguistic communication. Crucially, however, reference makes use of complex descriptive content. Cognitive/conceptual approaches place greater emphasis precisely on the richness of descriptive content and richer theories of descriptive content clearly lead to richer accounts of compositional phenomena (see e.g. Kamp & Partee 1995, Zwarts & Winter 2000, Asher 2011, Del Pinal 2015, Gust & Umbach 2015, McNally, to appear). On the other hand, cognitive models are laborious to construct, difficult to implement/test, and face challenges in grounding. Compositional distributional models can help with the analysis of rich descriptive content but are not currently suited to dealing with reference. We therefore consider the incorporation of insights from conceptual and distributional models into referential approaches, rather than the reverse, the most viable strategy.

Topics of interest for the workshop include, but are not limited to:

‐ Lexical content, including semantic decomposition and grammatically salient semantic features

‐ Polysemy and “meaning extension” more generally

‐ Semantic composition of complex lexical content, including e.g. co-composition

‐ Alternative models of the notion of kind as used in referential semantics

‐ Foundational issues

‐ Practical methodological and modeling issues


Since we want this workshop to promote extensive discussion in a still underdeveloped area, and we want to encourage broad participation, we welcome two kinds of submissions:

‐ Long (30 minute) papers, for which we solicit two‐page abstracts (plus references, at most 12pt).

‐ Short (10 minute) position statements or comments whose goal is to provoke focuseddiscussion, for which we solicit one‐page abstracts (plus references, at most 12pt).

For those who submit long papers: Please indicate whether you would also be willing to give a position statement/comment as an alternative to a long paper. 

The abstract submission deadline is February 15, 2016. Submission is through Easy Chair at:


Inquiries should be addressed to RefSemPlus2016@gmail.com.


Deadline for abstract submission: February 15, 2016

Author notification: March 31, 2016

Workshop dates: August 22‐26, 2016


Barbara Partee

Marcus Kracht

Alessandro Lenci

Mark Steedman