LOT Summer School 2018

Formal semantics and the cognitive modeling of interpretation

Jakub Dotlacil



Title of the course:

Formal semantics and the cognitive modeling of interpretation



Course description:

In the last ten years or so, there has been growing interest in experimentally testing formal semantic theories. However, even though claims about semantic models are more and more justified using experimental settings, semantic theories themselves remain fairly abstract, that is, it is far from clear (i) how semantic models are to be linked to behavioral data, (ii) in what way interpretations and LF structures postulated in the research on interpretation could be embedded in cognitively-motivated models.

In this course, we will consider several claims that have been proposed with respect to the questions (i) and (ii). In particular, we will focus on how a model of interpretation could be used to predict reading measures, as observed in e.g., self-paced reading or eye tracking. Understanding the answers to (i) and (ii) is insightful on its own, as well as interesting for predictions made in neighboring disciplines (e.g., syntax, pragmatics) and it should ultimately help us strengthen the position of semantics as part of cognitive sciences.

Day-to-day program:


Syntax-semantics interface, processing and incremental interpretation


Are Logical Form operations detectable in behavioral tasks? Evidence from quantifier scope.


Quantifier scope and LF operations vs. penalization of revised mental models.


Pronoun resolution and memory retrieval


Pronoun, presupposition and the structure of memory

Reading list:

Background and preparatory readings:

Introduction to processing/incremental interpretation:

Frazier, Lyn. On sentence interpretation. Vol. 22. Springer

Introduction to semantics:

Coppock, Liz and Lucas Champollion. Semantics boot camp. Available here:


Course readings:

Lecture 1:

1. Steedman, M., Grammar, interpretation, and processing from the lexicon. In W. Marslen-Wilson (ed.),Lexical representation and process (chap. 16, pp. 463–504). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Lecture 2:

1. Pylkkänen, L. & B. McElree. 2006. The syntax-semantic interface: On-line composition of sentence meaning. In Handbook of psycholinguistics, 537–577. New York: Elsevier. Available here:


Lecture 3:

1. Brasoveanu, A. & J. Dotlacil (to appear). Processing quantification. In C. Cummins (ed.), Handbook of experimental semantics and pragmatics. Available here:


2. Dotlacil, J. & A. Brasoveanu (2015). The manner and time course of updating quantifier scope representations in discourse. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience 30(3). 305–323. Available here:


Lecture 4:

1. Lewis, R. L., S. Vasishth and J. A. Van Dyke (2006). Computational principles of working memory in sentence comprehension. Trends in Cognitive Science, 10, pp. 447–454. Available here :


2. Anderson, J.R., D. Bothell, M.D. Byrne, S. Douglass, C. Lebiere, Y. Qin (2004). An integrated theory of mind. Psychological Review, 111, pp. 1036–1060. Available here:


3. Kush, D., Lidz, J., and C. Phillips (2015). Relation-sensitive retrieval: evidence from bound variable pronouns. Journal of Memory and Language, 82, 18-40.

Available here:


Lecture 5:

1. Brasoveanu, A. and J. Dotlačil (2015). Incremental and predictive interpretation: Experimental evidence and possible accounts. Proceedings of Semantics and Linguistic Theory, 25, pp. 57 – 81. Available here:


2. Van Rij, J., Van Rijn, H. and Hendriks, P. (2010). Cognitive architectures and language acquisition: A case study in pronoun comprehension. Journal of Child Language, 37(3), pp.731-766.

Available here: