, Volume 183, Issue 1, pp 33-58

First online:

Dialogue structure and logical expressivism

  • Paul PiwekAffiliated withCentre for Research in Computing, The Open University Email author 

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This paper aims to develop the implications of logical expressivism for a theory of dialogue coherence. I proceed in three steps. Firstly, certain structural properties of cooperative dialogue are identified. Secondly, I describe a variant of the multi-agent natural deduction calculus that I introduced in Piwek (J Logic Lang Inf 16(4):403–421, 2007) and demonstrate how it accounts for the aforementioned structures. Thirdly, I examine how the aforementioned system can be used to formalise an expressivist account of logical vocabulary that is inspired by Brandom (Making it explicit: reasoning, representing, and discursive commitment, 1994; Articulating reasons: an introduction to inferentialism, 2000). This account conceives of the logical vocabulary as a tool which allows speakers to describe the inferential practices which underlie their language use, i.e., it allows them to make those practices explicit. The rewards of this exercise are twofold: (1) We obtain a more precise account of logical expressivism which can be defended more effectively against the critique that such accounts lead to cultural relativism. (2) The formalised distinction between engaging in a practice and expressing it, opens the way for a revision of the theory of dialogue coherence. This revision eliminates the need for logically complex formulae to account for certain structural properties of cooperative dialogue.


Dialogue coherence Logical expressivism Natural deduction Logical vocabulary Inferential practices