The dynamic, inquisitive, and visionary life of ϕ, ?ϕ, and ◇ϕ

A festschrift for Jeroen Groenendijk, Martin Stokhof, and Frank Veltman.


Johan van Benthem: Suave radicals. “While the inner sanctum of the Montague system are eternal homomorphisms between the algebras of natural and formal languages, GSV started looking at the dynamic agency behind natural language, as was also done by Lewis, Stalnaker and Kamp, but quickly developing one seminal new theme after another in their own distinctive style at the interface of semantics and pragmatics. One of these themes is the nature of information, perhaps the main currency created and conveyed by natural language. Look at the data semantics of Veltman, or the early work of Groenendijk & Stokhof with van Emde Boas on knowledge, and you will see how this played around 1980. The other main theme, forming a natural unity with the first, is communication between language users, which eventually led to dynamic semantics of the 1980s and 1990s, with classics such as Dynamic Predicate Logic and Defaults in Update Semantics where the potential for changing hearer information is at the heart of the meaning of linguistic expressions. These ideas were developed by paying close attention to carefully selected facts from natural language, concerning anaphora, questions, and conditionals, the way expert geologists detect the presence of gold seams by looking at small, but telling facts of rock coloring or vegetation. In doing all this, GSV achieved something that is rare for academics: they set the international agenda of research of their field, instead of following it.”

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