A formal semantics for situated conversation

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Julie Hunter
Nicholas Asher
Alex Lascarides


While linguists and philosophers have sought to model the various ways in which the meaning of what we say can depend on the nonlinguistic context, this work has by and large focused on how the nonlinguistic context can be exploited to ground or anchor referential or otherwise context-sensitive expressions. In this paper, we focus on examples in which nonlinguistic events contribute entire discourse units that serve as arguments to coherence relations, without the mediation of context-sensitive expressions. We use both naturally occurring and constructed examples to highlight these interactions and to argue that extant coherence-based accounts of discourse should be extended to model them. We also argue that extending coherence-based accounts in this way is a nontrivial task. It forces us to reassess basic notions of the nonlinguistic context and rhetorical relations as well as models of discourse structure, evolution, and interpretation. Our paper addresses the conceptual and technical revisions that these types of interaction demand.


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