Chicago-Vienna Workshop on Communication and Coordination

30 June 2022

Thursday 30 June 2022, Hörsaal 27 Hauptgebäude, Universität Wien


9h–10.25h: Triinu Eesmaa (Vienna), 
Is Indeterminacy Indecision?

10.35h–12h: Mike Tabatowski (Chicago), 
Preferring to learn: an attitudinal approach to polar questions

12h–15h Lunch break

15h–16.25h: Indrek Reiland (Vienna),
Language without Communication or Coordination

16.35h–18h: Chris Kennedy (Chicago), 
Context, convention and coordination: Insights from gradable adjectives


All welcome, but we would appreciate if you could let us know in advance that you are coming (, This is an in person event, zoom possible on application.



Triinu Eesmaa (Vienna): 
Is Indeterminacy Indecision? 

Abstract: In cases of felicitous underspecification, a speaker uses a context-sensitive sentence to make a declarative utterance, and although the utterance is felicitous, it does not seem to express a unique proposition. MacFarlane (2016, 2020) argues that these cases can be dealt with if we extend Gibbard’s (2003) plan expressivism to the expressions in question. According to this view, declarative utterances express sets of possible world and hyperplan pairs. Furthermore, the view is paired with an account of conversational dynamics, on which to make an assertion is to propose to adopt a joint plan about how the expressions are to be applied in the conversation. In my talk, I will argue that although this view might fit some cases of felicitous underspecification, it does not work as a general solution. One would be better off adopting a kind of relativism which is somewhat similar to MacFarlane’s proposal but does not commit one to the claim that assertions are proposals to adopt joint plans.
Gibbard, Allan (2003). Thinking How to Live. Harvard University Press.
MacFarlane, John (2016). Vagueness as Indecision. Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 90 (1):255-283.
MacFarlane, John (2020). Indeterminacy as Indecision, Lecture III: Indeterminacy as Indecision. Journal of Philosophy 117 (11/12):643-667.


Mike Tabatowski (Chicago): 
Preferring to learn: an attitudinal approach to polar questions

Abstract: The semantics and pragmatics of polar questions remains a surprisingly undertheorized problem. What is most conspicuously missing is an account that relates the semantic value of a polar question to its felicity across contexts and the range of speech acts it can perform. To bridge this gap, I present an analysis of polar question semantics that treats them as expressing the speaker’s preference to learn the radical proposition, if true. In effect, this is a “strong semantics,” as opposed to a “minimal semantics,” in the terminology of von Fintel and Iatridou (2017) for analyses of imperatives; it builds what has been traditionally taken to be the pragmatic effect of a question into its semantic value. I argue that this move has a few useful consequences. First, preference, ordered by speaker goals, allows for a fine-grained account of felicity across contexts, depending on speaker goals and intentions. Second, a denotation not dependent on a partition structure provides a better way to analyze so-called “high negation questions” like “Aren’t you hungry?”. And finally, this denotation gives rise to a straightforward analysis of semantic strength across polar questions, which can shed light on the behavior of negative polarity items in polar questions of various types.


Indrek Reiland (Vienna): 
Language without Communication or Coordination

Abstract: Many philosophers of language appeal in their theorizing about language to communication or other interpersonal notions like coordination. Such an approach is characteristic to both the Gricean program which explains things in terms of audience-directed communicative intentions as well as Stalnakerian views in terms of common ground. In this talk I defend the idea that public language, as it exists, has an autonomous existence independent of communication and other interpersonal notions. This is motivated by the fact that you can use language in thought, speak or write without an audience, and exploit it for non-cooperative or -coordinative purposes. The moral is that in theorizing about language and doing semantics we should avoid using interpersonal notions, the proper home of which is pragmatics.


Chris Kennedy (Chicago): 
Context, convention and coordination: Insights from gradable adjectives

Abstract: Gradable adjectives denote properties that are relativized to contextual thresholds of application: how long an object must be in order to count as `long' in a context of utterance depends on what the threshold is in that context. But thresholds are variable across contexts and adjectives, and are in general uncertain. This leads to several questions about the meaning and interpretation of gradable adjectives in particular contexts of utterance, including: what truth conditions are they understood to introduce, what information are they taken to communicate, and how (if at all) do language users adapt their understanding of these expressions over time? In this talk, I will report on a series of studies that my colleague Ming Xiang and I have carried out that are prompted by these questions, which provide insights on the role of context, convention and coordination in our use and understanding of this particular class of context-dependent expressions.