Research on Language and Computation

, Volume 3, Issue 2–3, pp 363–389 | Cite as

Situation Semantics: The Ontological Balance Sheet

  • Jonathan GinzburgEmail author


One of the important challenges facing NL semantics in the early 21st century is to theoretically underpin analysis and generation of conversational interaction. I start by considering certain requirements a semantic framework needs in order to be viable for this task, with reference to a benchmark example. One fundamental requirement is the provision of an ontology which incorporates propositions, questions, and similar abstract entities. The main theme of this paper concerns the construction of such an ontology. I argue that Barwise and Perry’s approach to ontology – including its nonstandard trichotomy distinguishing between situations/events, situation types, and propositions – provides useful building blocks. I implement the construction using the type theoretic framework developed by Cooper [this Journal].


abstract entities ontology situation semantics situation theory type theory 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Aczel, P. 1988Non Well Founded SetsCSLI Publications StanfordCaliforniaGoogle Scholar
  2. Allen, J. 1995Natural Language UnderstandingBenjamin/CummingsRedwood CityGoogle Scholar
  3. Allen, J., Perrault, R. 1980Analyzing Intention in UtterancesArtificial Intelligence15143178CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Asher, N., Lascarides, A. 2003Logics of ConversationCambridge University PressCambridgeGoogle Scholar
  5. Barwise J. (1989a) Scenes and Other Situations. In: J. Barwise (ed.) The Situation in Logic. CSLI Publications, Stanford. Originally published in the Journal of Philosophy in 1981.Google Scholar
  6. Barwise, J. 1989Situations, Facts, and True PropositionsBarwise, J. eds. The Situation in LogicCSLI PublicationsStanfordGoogle Scholar
  7. Barwise, J., Etchemendy, J. 1987The LiarOxford University PressNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  8. Barwise, J., Perry, J. 1983Situations and AttitudesMIT PressCambridgeGoogle Scholar
  9. Barwise, J., Perry, J. 1985Shifting Situations and Shaken AttitudesLinguistics and Philosophy.8399452CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Betarte, G., Tasistro, A. 1998Martin-Löf’s Type Theory with Record Types and SubtypingSambin, G.Smith, J. eds. 25 Years of Constructive Type TheoryOxford University PressOxfordGoogle Scholar
  11. Boër, S., Lycan, W. 1985Knowing WhoBradford Books. MIT PressCambridgeGoogle Scholar
  12. Brown-Schmidt, S., Campana E., Tanenhaus M. (2003) Real-time Reference Resolution by Naive Participants During a Task-based Unscripted Conversation. In: Trueswell J., Tanenhaus M. (eds.), World-situated Language Processing: Bridging the Language as Product and Language as Action Traditions. MIT Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  13. Cohen, P., Perrault, R. 1979Elements of a Plan-based Theory of Speech ActsCognitive Science3177212CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Consortium T. T. (2000) The TRINDI Book. University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg. Available from Scholar
  15. Cooper, R. 1998Mixing Situation Theory and Type Theory to Formalize Information States in Dialogue ExchangesHulstijn, J.Nijholt, A. eds. Proceedings of TwenDial 98, 13th Twente Workshop on Language TechnologyTwente UniversityTwenteGoogle Scholar
  16. Coquand, T., Pollack, R., Takeyama, M. 2003A Logical Framework with Dependent TypesFundamenta Informaticae20121Google Scholar
  17. Fernando T. (2001) Conservative Generalized Quantifiers and Presupposition. In: SALT, Vol. 11. NYU/Cornell, pp. 172–191.Google Scholar
  18. Fletcher C. (1994) Levels of Representation in Memory for Discourse. In: Gernsbacher M. A. (ed.), Handbook of Psycholinguistics. Academic Press.Google Scholar
  19. Frege, G. 1918ThoughtsGeach, P.Black, M. eds. Translations from the Philosophical Writings of Gottlob Frege3Basil BlackwellOxfordGoogle Scholar
  20. Ginzburg J. (1993) Propositional and Non-Propositional Attitudes. In Aczel P., Israel D., Katagiri Y., Peters S. (eds.), Situation Theory and Its Applications, III, CSLI Lecture Notes Number 37. CSLI Publications, Stanford.Google Scholar
  21. Ginzburg, J. 1995aResolving Questions, ILinguistics and Philosophy18459527CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Ginzburg, J. 1995bResolving Questions, IILinguistics and Philosophy18567609CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Ginzburg, J. 1996Interrogatives: Questions, Facts, and DialogueLappin, S. eds. Handbook of Contemporary Semantic TheoryBlackwellOxfordGoogle Scholar
  24. Ginzburg, J. 2005Questions as Propositional Abstracts in Type Theory with RecordsJournal of Logic and Computation15113130CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Ginzburg, J., Cooper, R. 2004Clarification, Ellipsis, and the Nature of Contextual UpdatesLinguistics and Philosophy27297366CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Ginzburg J., Sag I. A. (2000) Interrogative Investigations: The Form, Meaning and Use of English Interrogatives, No. 123 in CSLI Lecture Notes. CSLI Publications, Stanford, California.Google Scholar
  27. Grice H. P. (1989) Studies in the Ways of Words. Harvard University Press. Reprinted from a 1957 article.Google Scholar
  28. Institute for Creative Technologies (2003) University of Southern California Mission Rehearsal Exercise System, Scholar
  29. Karttunen, L. 1977Syntax and Semantics of QuestionsLinguistics and Philosophy1344CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kopylov A. (2003) Dependent Intersection: A New Way of Defining Records in Type Theory. In: Proceedings of LICS 2003, pp. 86–95.Google Scholar
  31. Krahmer E., Piwek P. (1999) Presupposition Projection as Proof Construction. In: Bunt H., Muskens R. (eds.), Computing Meaning: Current Issues in Computational Semantics, Volume 1. Kluwer.Google Scholar
  32. Litman, D., Allen, J. 1987A Plan Recognition Model for Subdialogues in ConversationCognitive Science11163200CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Penn G. (2000) The Algebraic Structure of Attributed Type Signatures. PhD thesis, Carnegie Mellon University.Google Scholar
  34. Parsons, T. 1990Events in the Semantics of English: A Study in Subatomic SemanticsMIT PressCambridgeGoogle Scholar
  35. Peterson, P. 1997Fact, Proposition, Event. Studies in Linguistics and PhilosophyKluwerDordrechtGoogle Scholar
  36. Poesio, M., Traum, D. 1997Conversational Actions and Discourse SituationsComputational Intelligence13309347CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Portner, P. 1997The Semantics of Mood, Complementation, and Conversational ForceNatural Language Semantics5167212CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Ranta, A. 1994Type Theoretical GrammarOxford University PressOxfordGoogle Scholar
  39. Searle, J. 1969Speech ActsCambridge University PressCambridgeGoogle Scholar
  40. Searle, J., Vanderveken, D. 1985Foundations of Illocutionary LogicCambridge University PressCambridgeGoogle Scholar
  41. Seligman, J., Moss, L. 1997Situation TheoryBenthem, J.Meulen, A. eds. Handbook of Logic and LinguisticsNorth HollandAmsterdamGoogle Scholar
  42. Simmons M. (2002) Disjunction and Alternatives. Linguistics and Philosophy 25.Google Scholar
  43. Soames, S. 1985Lost InnocenceLinguistics and Philosophy85971CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Traum D. (2003) Semantics and Prgamatics for Questions and Answers for Dialogue Agents. In: Bunt H. (ed.), Proceedings of the 5th International Workshop on Computational Semantics. ITK, Tilburg University, Tilburg.Google Scholar
  45. Rooy, R. 2003Questioning to Resolve Decision ProblemsLinguistics and Philosophy.26727763CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Vendler, Z. 1972Res CogitansCornell University PressIthacaGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Computer ScienceKing’s CollegeLondonUK

Personalised recommendations