lect16-potts-semantics

lect16-potts-semantics - The pragmatics of questions and...

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Unformatted text preview: The pragmatics of questions and answers Christopher Potts UMass Amherst Linguistics CMPSCI 585, November 6, 2007 Background Pragbot This lecture 1 A brief, semi-historial overview of linguistic pragmatics 2 A few notes on the SUBTLE project 3 Some illustrative examples 4 The partition semantics for questions 5 A decision-theoretic approach 6 Research challenges Useful follow-up reading: Chapters 23 and 24 of Jurafsky and Martin (chapters 18 and 19 of the 1st edition) Background Pragbot The merest sketch Background Pragbot The merest sketch So here is the miracle: from a merest, sketchiest squiggle of lines, you and I con- verge to find adumbration of a coherent scene The problem of utterance interpretation is not dissimilar to this visual miracle. An utterance is not, as it were, a verdical model or snapshot of the scene it de- scribes Levinson (2000) Background Pragbot The birth of Gricean pragmatics In the early 1960s, Chomsky showed us how to give compact, general specifications of natural language syntax. In the late 1960s, philosopher and linguist H. Paul Grice had the inspired idea to do the same for (rational) social interactions. Background Pragbot Rules and maxims Rules S NP VP NP N | PN N hippo | VP V s S VP V trans NP V s realize | Maxims Quality Above all, be truthful! Relevance And be relevant! Quantity Within those bounds, be as informative as you can! Manner And do it as clearly and concisely as possible! Syntactic rules are like physical laws. Breaking them should lead to nonsense (or falsification). Pragmatic rules (maxims) are like laws of the land. Breaking them can have noteworthy consequences. Background Pragbot Pragmatic pressures Maxims Quality Above all, be truthful! Relevance And be relevant! Quantity Within those bounds, be as informative as you can! Manner And do it as clearly and concisely as possible! Background Pragbot Then a miracle occurs The maxims do not yield easily to a treatment in the usual terms of seman- tic theory. One can usu- ally be precise up to a point, but then . . . Background Pragbot Then a miracle occurs The maxims do not yield easily to a treatment in the usual terms of seman- tic theory. One can usu- ally be precise up to a point, but then . . . Background Pragbot The probability of formalizing the maxims Some are skeptical: Beaver (2001:29) calls formalization in this area notoriously problematic. Bach (1999) is more decisive, offering various reasons why it seems futile for linguists to seek a formal pragmatics. Devitt and Sterelny (1987: 7.4) strike a similar chord. Its a harsh verdict. Maxims (at least one) are the main engine behind all pragmatic theories. Background Pragbot A probable breakthrough Things are looking up....
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lect16-potts-semantics - The pragmatics of questions and...

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