Linguistics and Philosophy

, Volume 26, Issue 6, pp 727–763 | Cite as

Questioning to Resolve Decision Problems

  • Robert van Rooy


Why do we ask questions? Because we want tohave some information. But why this particular kind ofinformation? Because only information of this particularkind is helpful to resolve the decision problemthat the agent faces. In this paper I argue thatquestions are asked because their answers help toresolve the questioner's decision problem, and that thisassumption helps us to interpret interrogativesentences. Interrogative sentences are claimed to have asemantically underspecified meaning and thisunderspecification is resolved by means of the decisionproblem.


Artificial Intelligence Decision Problem Computational Linguistic Interrogative Sentence 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Aloni, M.: 2001, Quantification under Conceptual Covers, Ph.D. thesis, ILLC, University of Amsterdam.Google Scholar
  2. Asher, N. and A. Lascarides: 1998, ‘Questions in Dialogues’ , Linguistics and Philosophy 21, 237–309.Google Scholar
  3. Atlas, J. and S. Levinson: 1981, ‘It-Clefts, Informativeness and Logical Form’ , in P. Cole (ed.), Radical Pragmatics, Academic Press, New York.Google Scholar
  4. Bar-Hillel, Y. and R. Carnap: 1953, ‘Semantic Information’ , Proceedings of the Symposium on Applications of Communication Theory, Butterworth Scientific Publications, London.Google Scholar
  5. Beck, S. and H. Rullmann: 1999, ‘A Flexible Approach to Exhaustivity in Questions’ , Natural Language Semantics 7, 249–298.Google Scholar
  6. Blackwell, D.: 1953, ‘Equivalent Comparisons of Experiments’ , Annals of Mathematical Statistics 24, 265–272.Google Scholar
  7. Boër, S. E. and W. G. Lycan: 1975, ‘Knowing Who’ , Philosophical Studies 28, 299–344.Google Scholar
  8. Gerbrandy, J.: 1997, ‘Questions of Identity’ , in P. Dekker et al. (eds.), The Proceedings of the 11th Amsterdam Colloquium, Amsterdam.Google Scholar
  9. Ginzburg, J.: 1995, ‘Resolving Questions, I’ , Linguistics and Philosophy 18, 459–527.Google Scholar
  10. Ginzburg, J. and I. Sag: 2000, Interrogative Investigations. The Form, Meaning, and Use of English Interrogatives, CSLI Publications, Stanford.Google Scholar
  11. Grewendorf, G.: 1981, ‘Answering as Decision Making: A New Way of Doing Pragmatics’ , in H. Parret et al. (eds.), SLCI, vol 7, Possibilities and Limitations of Pragmatics, John Benjamin, Amsterdam, pp. 263–284.Google Scholar
  12. Groenendijk, J.: 1999, ‘The Logic of Interrogation’ , in T. Matthews & D. L. Strolowitch (eds.), Proceedings SALT 9, CLC Publications, Stanford.Google Scholar
  13. Groenendijk, J. and M. Stokhof: 1982, ‘Semantic Analysis of wh-complements’ , Linguistics and Philosophy 5, 175–233.Google Scholar
  14. Groenendijk, J. and M. Stokhof: 1984, Studies on the Semantics of Questions and the Pragmatics of Answers, Ph.D. thesis, University of Amsterdam.Google Scholar
  15. Hamblin, C. L.: 1973, ‘Questions in Montague English’ , Foundations of Language 10, 41–53.Google Scholar
  16. Hausser, R. and D. Zaefferer: 1979, ‘Questions and Answers in a Context-dependent Montague Grammar’ , in F. Guenthner & S. Schmidt (eds.), Formal Semantics and Pragmatics for Natural Languages, Reidel, Dordrecht, pp. 339–358.Google Scholar
  17. Heim, I.: 1994, ‘Interrogative Semantics and Karttunen's Semantics for know’ , in R. Buchalla & A. Mittwoch (eds.), IATL 1, Akademon, Jerusalem, pp. 128–144.Google Scholar
  18. Higginbotham, J. and R. May: 1981, ‘Questions, Quantifiers, and Crossing’ , Linguistic Review 1, 41–79.Google Scholar
  19. Hintikka, J.: 1976, ‘The Semantics of Questions and the Questions of Semantics’ , Acta Philosophica Fennica 28.Google Scholar
  20. Hintikka, J.: 1978, ‘Answers to Questions’ , in H. Hiz (ed.), Questions, D. Reidel, Dordrecht, pp. 347–1300.Google Scholar
  21. Hirschberg, J.: 1985, A Theory of Scalar Implicatures, Ph.D. thesis, UPenn.Google Scholar
  22. Karttunen, L.: 1977, ‘Syntax and Semantics of Questions’ , Linguistics and Philosophy 1, 3–44.Google Scholar
  23. Krifka, M.: 1999, ‘For a Structured Account of Questions and Answers’ , in C. Smith (ed.), Proceedings to Workshop on Spoken and Written Text, University of Texas at Austin.Google Scholar
  24. Lewis, D.: 1988, ‘Relevant Implication’ , Theoria 54, 161–174.Google Scholar
  25. Marschak, J.: 1974, ‘Information, Decision, and the Scientist’ in C. Cherry (ed.), Pragmatic Aspects of Human Communication, Reidel, Dordrecht, pp. 145–178.Google Scholar
  26. Merin, A.: 1999, ‘Information, Relevance, and Social Decisionmaking: Some Principles and Results of Decision-Theoretic Semantics’ , in L. Moss, J. Ginzburg and M. de Rijke (eds.), Logic, Language, and Computation. Vol. 2, CSLI, Stanford.Google Scholar
  27. Parikh, P.: 1992, ‘A Game-theoretical Account of Implicature’ , in Y. Vardi (ed.), Theoretical Aspects of Rationality and Knowledge: TARK IV, Monterey, California.Google Scholar
  28. Parikh, P.: 2001, The Use of Language, CSLI Publications, Stanford, California.Google Scholar
  29. Parikh, R.: 1994, ‘Vagueness and Utility: The Semantics of Common Nouns’ , Linguistics and Philosophy 17, 521–535.Google Scholar
  30. Perry, J.: 1977, ‘Frege on Demonstratives’ , Philosophical Review 86, 474–497.Google Scholar
  31. Raiffa, H. and R. Schlaifer: 1961, Applied Statistical Decision Theory, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.Google Scholar
  32. Ramsey, F. P.: 1990, ‘Weight or the Value of Knowledge’ , British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 41, 1–4.Google Scholar
  33. Rooy, R. van: 1999, ‘Questioning to Resolve Decision Problems’ , in P. Dekker (ed.), Proceedings of the Twelfth Amsterdam Colloquium, ILLC, Amsterdam.Google Scholar
  34. Rooy, R. van: 2001, ‘Relevance of Communicative Acts’ , in J. van Benthem (ed.), Theoretical Aspects of Rationality and Knowledge: TARK VIII, Morgan Kaufmann, San Francisco, pp. 83–96.Google Scholar
  35. Rooy, R. van: 2002, ‘Utility, Informativity, and Protocols’ , in Bonanno et al (eds.), Proceedings of LOFT 5: Logic and the Foundations of the Theory of Games and Decisions, Torino.Google Scholar
  36. Rooy, R. van: to appear, ‘Utility of Mention-some Questions’ , Journal of Language and Computation.Google Scholar
  37. Rozenkrantz, R.: 1970, ‘Experimentation as Communication with Nature’ , in J. Hintikka & P. Suppes (eds.), Information and Inference, Reidel, Dordrecht, pp. 58–93.Google Scholar
  38. Rullmann, H.: 1995, Maximality in the Semantics of WH-Constructions, Ph.D. thesis, Amherst.Google Scholar
  39. Savage, L. J.: 1954, The Foundations of Statistics, New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  40. Schulz, K.: 2002, Relevanz und ‘Quantity’ Implikaturen, Diplomarbeit, University of Stuttgart.Google Scholar
  41. Shannon, C.: 1948, ‘The Mathematical Theory of Communication’ , Bell System Technical Journal 27, 379–423 and 623–656.Google Scholar
  42. Stechow, A. von: 1984, ‘Comparing Semantic Theories of Comparison’ , Journal of Semantics 3, 1–77.Google Scholar
  43. Westerståhl, D.: 1984, ‘Determiners and Context Sets’ , in J. van Benthem and A. ter Meulen (eds.), Generalized Quantifiers in Natural Language, Foris, Dordrecht, pp. 45–71.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert van Rooy
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for Language, Logic and Information (ILLC)University of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations