Situation semantics

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Situation semantics, pioneered by Jon Barwise and John Perry in the early 1980s,[1] attempts to provide a solid theoretical foundation for reasoning about common-sense and real world situations, typically in the context of theoretical linguistics, philosophy, or applied natural language processing,

Barwise and Perry[edit]

Situations, unlike worlds, are not complete in the sense that every proposition or its negation holds in a world. According to Situations and Attitudes, meaning is a relation between a discourse situation, a connective situation and a described situation. The original theory of Situations and Attitudes soon ran into foundational difficulties. A reformulation based on Peter Aczel's non-well-founded set theory[2] was proposed by Barwise before this approach to the subject petered out in the early 1990s.


Situation semantics is the first semantic theory that was used in head-driven phrase structure grammar (HPSG).[3]

Angelika Kratzer[edit]

Barwise and Perry's system was a top-down approach which foundered on practical issues which were early identified by Angelika Kratzer and others. She subsequently developed a considerable body of theory bottom-up by addressing a variety of issues in the areas of context dependency in discourse and the syntax-semantics interface.[4] Because of its practical nature and ongoing development this body of work "with possible situations as parts of possible worlds, now has much more influence than Barwise and Perry’s ideas".[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jon Barwise and John Perry, Situations and Attitudes, 1983. MIT Press, ISBN 0-262-02189-7
  2. ^ Barwise, Jon. 1989. The Situation in Logic. CSLI Lecture Notes 17. Center for the Study of Language (CSLI)
  3. ^ Pollard, Carl and Ivan A. Sag, 1987. Information-Based Syntax and Semantics. Vol. 1: Fundamentals. CSLI Lecture Notes 13. CSLI, Stanford, CA.
  4. ^ Umass Faculty Member Site with links to corpus
  5. ^ Barbara Partee, Reflections of Formal Semanticist as of Feb. 2005, p. 20. February 14, 2005

External links[edit]