The Situations We Talk About

  • Lenhart K. Schubert
Part of the The Springer International Series in Engineering and Computer Science book series (SECS, volume 597)


I argue in favor of associating situations (events, episodes, eventualities, etc.) with arbitrarily complex sentences, not just atomic predicates, in NL interpretation. In that respect, a Situation Semantics approach to incorporating situations into semantic representations is preferable to a Davidsonian one. However, I will further argue that beyond the notion of truth or falsity of a sentence in a situation, as in Situation Semantics, we also need the notion of a sentence characterizing a situation, in order to deal adequately with causal relations mentioned or implied in NL texts. I propose a way of doing this that essentially reduces complex situations to joins of basic, Davidsonian ones, along with basic situations corresponding to negated predications. The resulting situational logic, called FOL**, captures many of the essential features of both Davidsonian and Situation Semantics approaches to representing the content of sentences describing situations. The proposed semantics supports common intuitions about truth-in-situations, about the existence of situations characterized by sentences, and about persistence of information from parts of situations to the whole. I allow for temporal parts of situations as well as concurrent parts, and distinguish persistence properties of telic and atelic sentences. The development of FOL** is part of a continuing effort to fully formalize Episodic Logic, an implemented knowledge representation designed to support language understanding.


Events situations eventualities episodes situation description situation characterization FOL** episodic logic causal relations event anaphora Davidsonian events negative situations complex situations situation semantics event semilattice persistence 


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lenhart K. Schubert
    • 1
  1. 1.University of RochesterRochesterUSA

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