SFB 991

Workshop on Common Ground and discourse modeling

Invited Speakers






Workshop on Common Ground and discourse modeling

Düsseldorf, 18-19 September 2014

The workshop will bring together researchers who are interested in the interface of Common Ground, discourse and information structure.   In particular, we want to discuss on the basis of the talks, which information in the Common Ground must be represented in order to satisfy the requirements of the information structural concepts such as topic and focus.

The workshop will take place in Düsseldorf at the Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf in the Haus der Universität on September 18-19, 2014.

The workshop is organized in co-operation with the DFG Collaborative Research Centre 991.


Daniel Altshuler & Károly Varasdi (Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf)

Event structure and discourse coherence

The goal of this talk is to consider discourses that establish contingency between described eventualities and, based on such discourses, propose necessary conditions for two kinds of coherence relations that we call CAUSE and ENABLE. An important component of our analysis is the idea that event structure plays a key role in discourse interpretation, and discourse coherence in particular. Building on work by Ramchand (2003; 2008) and Varasdi (2014), we extend Moens & Steedman's (1988) tripartite event structure to include what we call pre-states. Subsequently, we build on Kallmeyer & Osswalds (2013) theory of frames to de ne CAUSE and ENABLE as relations between discourse frames that incorporate the proposed event structure. The result is a new hypothesis about what the anatomy of coherence relations is like and how we could proceed in deriving a constrained typology.


Christian Ebert (Universitat Tübingen)

Presuppositions and Information Structure

The literature in semantics and pragmatics contains many examples of effects that may be attributed to the interaction of presuppositions with focus and topicality. However, this interaction has never been investigated systematically. In an attempt to rectify this situation, I will  first give an overview over this literature. I will then discuss one particular case in detail, namely Strawson's (1964) argument that a definite description exhibits an existence presupposition only if it is topical together with (alleged) counterarguments (Lasersohn, 1993; von Fintel, 2004). I conclude by proposing a simple formal toy system for propositional updates, that illustrates in which direction an analysis of the observed phenomena might proceed.


Dejan Matic (Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen)

Common Ground, Activation and Expectations

In order to be able to update Common Ground (CG), information structure (IS) must operate over fully or partially specified propositions which are anchored in it, either via entailment as presuppositions or anaphorically as the Roothian background to focus. The update of CG must be local, and the role of the background propositions in discourse seems to consist in singling out the partition of the current CG which is to serve as the locus of the update. I will show that this is done via activation of certain partitions of CG. However, locality is not the only necessary restriction on the interaction of IS and CG. Speakers have to take into account the expectations on how the local CG will be updated. In order to illustrate how these expectations can be reflected in grammar, the focus system in Tundra Yukaghir, a north-eastern Siberian isolate, will be analysed in some detail. 


Sylvain Pogodalla (Loria, INRIA)

Logical Interpretation and Discourse Representation. A Continuation Based Approach to SDRT

We present a type-theoretic approach to the modeling of the semantics of sentences and discourses. It is based on the notion of continuation primarily developed in computer science. This approach allows us to explicitly describe the context management and to lexically specify the accessibility constraints. We show how the data structure representing the context can be enriched to model several phenomena and we focus on a SDRT rephrasing within this framework.


Malte Rosemeyer & Daniel Jacob (Universitat Freiburg)

Common Ground management in Ibero-Romance wh-questions

The notion of Common Ground (CG) is fundamental to the analysis of the use of questions in discourse. In the words of Engdahl (2006: 93), "the way questions are realized is rather systematically correlated with the speaker's view of what the hearer might know and what has happened so far in the conversation". Our talk aims at an analysis of the function of the three mayor types of Ibero-Romance wh-questions: preposed wh, cleft wh and wh-in-situ. Using data from Spanish and Portuguese familiar conversations in the C-ORAL-ROM (Cresti and Moneglia 2005), we demonstrate that in order to correctly describe the use of questions in these languages, it is necessary to not only consider existing the explicit preceding context, as frequently argued in the literature, but to take into account the overall system of existing and inferable presuppositions. The exploration of the pragmatic conditions for the use of these question types leads us to sketch a model of Common Ground management: presuppositions are generated by the interaction between alternative sets dependent, in turn, on anaphora, situational context, or deduction and the current question under discussion (Ginzburg 1996; Roberts 1996).


Mitsuaki Shimojo (University of Buffalo)

Exploring Discourse Representation and Argument Linking: The Case of Zero Anaphora and Topicalization in Japanese

In this talk, I will explore how different notions of topic are associated with different argument forms on the basis of quantitative and qualitative analyses of Japanese narrative discourse. In particular, topicalization (which involves left-dislocation and post-nominal marking) and argument ellipsis are examined in terms of their relationship with continuation or shift of focus (of attention). I hope to demonstrate that these different forms represent different levels of topic (or saliency), ranging from a discourse topic to center of attention at the local level discourse, and therefore, the discourse representation needs to accommodate different levels of topic accordingly.


Henk Zeevat (Universiteit van Amsterdam)

Bayesian Presupposition Interpretation

abstract t.b.a.

::: PROGRAM :::

DAY 1: Thursday, September 18th




Van Valin, Latrouite & Balogh 

Information Structure and Discourse Modeling


Rosemeyer & Jacob 

Common Ground Management in Ibero-Romance Wh-Questions



Bayesian Presupposition Interpretation

 Workshop Dinner

DAY 2: Friday, September 19th



Presuppositions and Information Structure



Common Ground, Activation and Expectations



Discourse Representation and Argument Linking


Lunch Break



Logical Interpretation and Discourse Representation                


Altshuler & Varasdi 

Event Structure and Discourse Coherence



Registration for the workshop is now open. There is no registration fee to attend the workshop, however we need all participants to be registered via the online form below.

CG-Workshop14: Registration form

::: VENUE :::

Haus der Universität

Schadowplatz 14, Düsseldorf, Germany

How to get there

From Düsseldorf Main Station (Hauptbahnhof)

Underground (U-Bahn) U76, U77, U78 or U79 to stop: Steinstraße/Königsallee

from there follow Berliner Allee for ca. 400m and turn left into Schadowstraße


From Düsseldorf Airport

S11 (S-Bahn) from Düsseldorf Airport Terminal to Düsseldorf Werhahn

at Düsseldorf Wehrhahn change to Tram 703 (direction: Kirchfeldstraße) to stop: Jan-Wellem Platz

the stop is about 100m far from the venue


Arriving by car

The venue is situated in a pedestrian area, whereby there are no parking areas belonging to the Haus der Universität. Please use the signposted covered car parks nearby: 

Schadow-Arkaden, Kö-Bogen and Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus.


In Düsseldorf you can find plenty of hotels, but do not wait long with booking, since hotels can be easily sold out. Below you can find a list of nearby hotels. 

You can also search yourself at www.hrs.de or www.booking.com

Hotel Favor (****)

Schadowstraße 7, 40212 Düsseldorf


single room incl. breakfast: 140,00€ p.n.

BEST WESTERN Savoy Hotel (****)

Oststraße 128, 40210 Düsseldorf


single room excl. Breakfast: 80,00€ p.n.

Tryp by Wyndham Düsseldorf City Centre (***)

Kreuzstraße 19A, 40210 Düsseldorf


single room excl. breakfast: 60,00€ p.n.

Monopol Hotel (***)

Oststraße 135, 40210 Düsseldorf


single room incl. breakfast: 70,00€ p.n. 

Altstadt Hotel Abode (**)

Hunsrückenstraße 35, 40213 Düsseldorf


single room incl. breakfast: 52,00€ p.n.


::: CONTACT :::


Robert Van Valin

Anja Latrouite

Kata Balogh

Institute of Language and Information 

Heinrich Heine University

Universitätsstraße 1

D-40225 Düsseldorf (Germany)


Contact: Katalin.Balogh at hhu.de