Pragmatics Workshop: Mark your Calendars

Mark your calendars! On May 23-25, the department will host a workshop on pragmatics as part of the McSIRG (the McGill Syntactic Interfaces Research Group) activities. The workshop is funded by the FQRSC team grant that supports McSIRG and a SSHRC Connection grant. You can read a short description of the workshop below.

Workshop description

Research on generative linguistics has traditionally assumed a modular organization of the basic levels of linguistic representation: syntactic representations reflect sentence structure, morphological representations deal with word internal structure, phonological representations with the properties of the sound system, and semantics with meanings. In recent years, the connection between these modules (the so-called grammatical interfaces) has been subject to intense scrutiny. The McGill Syntactic Interfaces Research Group (McSIRG) (Profs. Alonso-Ovalle, Newell, Piggott, Schwarz, Shimoyama, Travis, and
Wagner, in alphabetical order), funded by a grant from Quebec’s Fonds de Recherche Societé et Culture (FQRSC) (Programme Soutien aux Équipes de Recherche Grant 144646, principal investigator: Lisa Travis), has been actively engaged in the past years in the investigation of the properties of grammatical
interfaces.

The research activity of the McSIRG is organized around three axes: Axis I investigates the role of the representation of word structures at the interfaces, Axis II the role of sentence structure, and Axis III the role of semantic representations.

A central goal of Axis III is the investigation of the semantics/pragmatics interface: the relation between the grammatical modules responsible for the computation of literal (semantic) and non-literal (pragmatic) meanings. This topic has received great attention in the recent semantic literature through
the investigation of the computation of a particular type of non-literal meanings, the so-called conversational implicatures, inferences that are drawn on the basis of literal meanings together with the assumptions about the rational behavior of speakers. In recent years, research on the computation of conversational implicatures has widened its traditional empirical domain by considering new data that challenges established views on the semantics/pragmatic interfaces. Probing into this new data has pushed forward a methodological shift that favors adopting experimental research methods in the study of pragmatics. The overall goal of the second McSIRG workshop is to evaluate the justification for these
paradigm shifts.

Six international leading researchers on the computation of implicatures and scalar particles have agreed to participate in the workshop: Emmanuel Chemla (Ecole Normale Superieure, Paris), Luka Crnic (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem), Bart Geurts (University of Nijmegen), Paula Menéndez-Benito
(University of Göttingen), Uli Sauerland (Zentrum fürAllgemeine Sprachwissenschaft, Berlin), and Raj Singh (Carleton University, Ottawa). They will be joined by two specialist from the Montréal linguistics community: Brendan Gillon (McGill) and Alan Bale (Concordia University.)

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