The semantics and pragmatics of discourse particles (2 weeks)

Instructor: Eva Csipak (


We will investigate the division of labor between semantics and pragmatics by looking at discourse particles in languages such as German, Japanese, and Gitksan. Discourse particles help fit the utterance to the discourse context, but how does this happen exactly, and how can we model it theoretically? We will develop analyses of discourse particles using the Table Model of Farkas & Bruce (2010) and extensions thereof and compare them with existing alternative proposals.


  1. At-issue-ness vs. Not-at-issue-ness
  2. The Table Model of Farkas & Bruce
  3. (Mostly German) discourse particles in declaratives
  4. (Mostly German) discourse particles in questions
  5. Extensions of the Table Model
  6. (Mostly German) discourse particles elsewhere, e.g. in imperatives, conditionals, optatives
  7. Discourse particles in Japanese
  8. Discourse particles in Gitksan
  9. Optional: fieldwork — discourse particles in languages spoken at EGG

Suggested introductory readings:

Farkas, D. & K. Bruce. 2010. “On Reacting to Assertions and Polar Questions”. Journal of Semantics 27: 81–118.

Zimmermann, M. 2011. “Discourse particles”. In HSK 33.2, 2012–2038


AnderBois, S., A. Brasoveanu, and R. Henderson (2015). At-issue proposals and appositive impositions in discourse. Journal of Semantics 32(1), 93 – 138.

Csipak, E. and S. Zobel (2016). Discourse particle denn in the antecedent of conditionals. In C. Pinon (Ed.), Empirical issues in syntax and semantics 11, pp. 31 – 60.

Farkas, D. and K. Bruce (2010). On reacting to assertions and polar questions. Journal of Semantics 27, 81 – 118.

Grosz, P. (2016). Discourse particles. In Semantics Companion. Blackwell.
Kwon, M.-J. (2005). Modalpartikeln und Satzmodus. Ph. D. thesis, Ludwig Maximilian Universität, München.

Malamud, S. and T. Stephenson (2015). Three ways to avoid commitments: declarative force modifiers in the conversational scoreboard. Journal of Semantics 32(2), 275 – 311.

Matthewson, L. (2015). Discourse particles in Gitksan. Plenary talk at DGfS Jahrestagung 2015, Leipzig.

McCready, E. (2006). On the meaning of Japanese Yo. In T. Washio (Ed.), JSAI Workshops, 141 – 148.

Murray, S. (2014). Varieties of update. Semantics and Pragmatics 7(2), 1 – 53.
Potts, C. (2007). The expressive dimension. Theoretical Linguistics 33(2), 165 – 198. Rojas-Esponda, T. (2014). A discourse model for u ̈berhaupt. Semantics and Pragmatics 7(1), 1 – 45.

Schwager, M. (2010). Modality and speech acts: troubled by German ruhig. In M. Aloni, Bastiaanse, T. de Jager, and K. Schulz (Eds.), Logic, Language and Meaning, pp. 416, Springer.

Simons, M., J. Tonhauser, D. Beaver, and C. Roberts (2010). What projects and why. In N. Li and D. Lutz (Eds.), Proceedings of SALT 20, pp. 309 – 327.

Zimmermann, M. (2011). Discourse particles. In K. von Heusinger, C. Maienborn, and P. Portner (Eds.), HSK 33.2, pp. 2012–2038. Berlin, New York: Mouton de Gruyter.