Keynote Speakers

Betty Birner
(Northern Illinois University, USA)

Dr. Betty Birner is Professor of Linguistics and Cognitive Science in the Department of English at Northern Illinois University. She received her BA from Hope College, Holland, Michigan in 1982 and her PhD in Linguistics from Northwestern University in 1992. After that she held a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania’s Institute for Research in Cognitive Science. She joined NIU in 2000 and served as Director of Graduate Studies in the English Department from 2007-2012. Her professional interests and expertise range from Linguistic Pragmatics, Discourse, and Reference to the Semantics/Pragmatics Interface.

Her major and most recent publications include:

  • (forthcoming). Language and Meaning. Abingdon: Routledge. In press.
  • With Ward, G. and Kaiser, E. (2017). Pragmatics and Information Structure. In Huang, Y. ed., The Oxford Handbook of Pragmatics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 567-590.
  • (2013). Introduction to Pragmatics. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.
  • With Ward, G. (2011). Discourse Effects of Word Order Variation. In Heusinger, K., Maienborn, C. and Portner, P. eds., Semantics: An International Handbook of Natural Language Meaning. Berlin/Boston: Mouton de Gruyter, 2, 1934-1963.
  • With Ward, G. (2009). Information Structure and Syntactic Structure. Language and Linguistics Compass, 3, 1167-1187.
  • (2009). Noncanonical Word Order and the Distribution of Inferrable Information in English. In Shaer, B., Cook, P. and Frey, W. eds. Dislocation: Syntactic, Semantic, and Discourse Perspectives. Routledge, 12, 232-254.
  • With Kaplan, J. and Ward, G. (2007). Functional Compositionality and the Interaction of Discourse Constraints. Language, 83(2), 317-343.
  • With Ward, G., eds. (2006). Drawing the Boundaries of Meaning: Neo-Gricean Studies in Pragmatics and Semantics in Honor of Laurence R. Horn. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

The Pragmatics of Constituent Order in English

In recent work, I have argued for the existence of sets of syntactic variants, or ‘alloforms’, of noncanonical-word-order constructions, defined by a shared discourse function but conditioned by their syntactic environment. For example, inversion and long passives share a functional constraint, but appear in complementary distribution syntactically, and thus may be considered alloforms of a single construction. At the same time, an analysis of inversion as an alloform of both preposing and postposing fully accounts for its distribution in discourse, without the need to stipulate an independent pragmatic constraint. Similar reasoning suggests alloform status for other pairs of noncanonical structures. But increasing numbers of such relationships raise a worrisome question: If, for example, long passives are an alloform of inversion, and inversion is an alloform of presentationals, what does that mean for the relationship between long passives and presentationals? In this talk, I confront the inevitable problem of tying it all together. Using patterns of both syntactic and functional distribution, I argue for a class of preposing structures that constitute one abstract construction with syntactically-conditioned alloforms, and a class of postposing structures that constitute another such construction, along with a class of argument-reversing structures constituting conditioned alloforms of both. I then consider the ramifications of this analysis for various approaches to the notion of a construction, and argue for a view of noncanonical constructions as functionally constrained structural templates for syntactically-conditioned alloforms.


Ira Noveck
(Institut des Sciences Cognitives - Marc Jeannerod, Lyon, France)

Ira Noveck is a Senior Scientist at the Institut des Sciences Cognitives-Marc Jeannerod in Lyon, an independent research center that operates under the auspices of the CNRS (Le Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique), where he has been working since 1999. Noveck received his undergraduate degree in Psychology from Binghamton in 1984 and then continued his work at NYU, where he received his Master’s and PhD in Experimental Psychology, with a focus on human reasoning. Before obtaining his current position at the CNRS, he had post-docs in Paris (Université de Paris 8), Minneapolis (U. of Minnesota), and Montreal (UQAM), a research position in Paris at the CREA, Ecole Polytechnique, the forerunner of today's Institut Jean Nicod, as well as an assistant professorship at the Université de Grenoble.

Through his investigations into the psychology of reasoning, it became clear to him that linguistic approaches, and specifically those offered by semantics and pragmatics, were indispensable for better understanding a participant's performance. This led to a research program in the mid- to late-1990's called Experimental Pragmatics that was developed in collaboration with Dan Sperber.

While he has focused mostly on inference-making related to logical terms, he also investigates pragmatics more generally, with research interests extending to figurative and conventional language. He recently finished (writing) a book, Experimental Pragmatics: The making of a cognitive science (Cambridge University Press), that is due to come out in 2018.

Some of his recent publications include:

Van Tiel, B., Noveck, I., & Kissine, M. (in press). Reasoning with 'Some'. Journal of Semantics.

Mazzarella, D., Trouche, E., Mercier, H. & Noveck, I. A. (2018). Believing what you’re told: Politeness and scalar inferences. Frontiers in psychology, 9, 908.

Noveck, I. A. (2018). Experimental Pragmatics: The making of a cognitive science. Cambridge University Press.

Prado, J., Spotorno, N., Koun, E., Hewitt, E., Van der Henst, J.B., Sperber, D., & Noveck, I.A. (2015). Neural interaction between logical reasoning and pragmatic processing in narrative discourse. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience.

Grossman, E. & Noveck, I. A. (2015). What can historical linguistics and experimental pragmatics offer each other? Linguistics Vanguard.

Spotorno, N. & Noveck, I. A. (2014). When is irony effortful? JEP: General, 143(4), 1649-1665.

Krönmuller, E., Morisseau, T. & Noveck, I. A. (2014). Show me the pragmatic contribution: A developmental investigation of referential communication. Journal of Child Language, 41(5), 985-1014.

What do experiments add to the field of pragmatics?

Paul Grice's seminal proposal placed intentions at the center of utterance understanding and laid the groundwork for a theory in which an addressee arrives at a speaker’s meaning (what the speaker intended to communicate by uttering a sentence) while encoding sentence meaning (the properties of a sentence assigned to it by the grammar). His armchair approach to pragmatics also provided researchers of a different stripe -- experimentalists -- with a framework to investigate pragmatic processes constructively, viz. by treating (mostly) addressees as naive participants. In this talk, I will show how Gricean analyses have led to experiments that provide the literature with original discoveries and reliable findings. Studies to be discussed include developmental and adult behavioral experiments as well as those using the tools of neuroscience. Among the topics I aim to cover are scalar implicature, irony and conventional implicature. I will describe how Gricean approaches along with alternative accounts collectively play an important role in experimental research because they provide a forum in which theoretical approaches can be compared. That is, experiments encourage researchers to agree on the contours and contrasts in a phenomenon and to make specific theory-driven predictions that can then be tested. Experimental work thus represents an opportunity for pragmatists to better delimit the field through generally accepted methods and objectives. 


Jason Stanley
(Yale University, USA)

Jason Stanley is Jacob Urowsky Professor of Philosophy at Yale University. Before coming to Yale in 2013, he was Distinguished Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Rutgers University. He has also held professorships at the University of Michigan (2000-4) and Cornell University (1995-2000).

He earned his PhD in 1995 from the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (under Robert Stalnaker, chair), and received his BA in Philosophy from the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 1990.

Professor Stanley has published four monographs and over thirty-eight papers: His book Knowledge and Practical Interests (2005, Oxford University Press) was the winner of the 2007 American Philosophical Association book prize. Professor Stanley’s book Language in Context (2007, Oxford University Press) is a collection of papers in semantics published between 2000 and 2007 on the topic of linguistic communication and context. Professor Stanley’s How Propaganda Works (2015, Princeton University Press) was the winner of the 2016 PROSE award for the subject area of philosophy. In 2015, Professor Stanley received an Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, from Binghamton University.

His most recent publications include:

  • With Williamson, T. (forthcoming). Skill, Nous.
  • (2017). The Emergency Manager: Strategic Racism, Technocracy, and the Poisoning of Flint's Children. The Good Society, 25(1), 1-45.
  • (2016). Is Epistemology Tainted? Disputatio-International Journal of Philosophy, 8, 1-35.
  • With Justice, B. (2016). Teaching in the Time of Trump. Social Education, 80(1), 36-41.
  • (2016). On a Case for Truth‐Relativism. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 92(1), 179-188.
  • (2015). Knowledge, habit, practice, skill. Journal of Philosophical Research, 40 (Supplement), 315-323.