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Shane Steinert-Threlkeld
University of Washington
  1. Semantic expressivism for epistemic modals.Peter Hawke & Shane Steinert-Threlkeld - 2021 - Linguistics and Philosophy 44 (2):475-511.
    Expressivists about epistemic modals deny that ‘Jane might be late’ canonically serves to express the speaker’s acceptance of a certain propositional content. Instead, they hold that it expresses a lack of acceptance. Prominent expressivists embrace pragmatic expressivism: the doxastic property expressed by a declarative is not helpfully identified with that sentence’s compositional semantic value. Against this, we defend semantic expressivism about epistemic modals: the semantic value of a declarative from this domain is the property of doxastic attitudes it canonically serves (...)
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  2.  30
    Learnability and Semantic Universals.Shane Steinert-Threlkeld & Jakub Szymanik - forthcoming - Semantics and Pragmatics.
    One of the great successes of the application of generalized quantifiers to natural language has been the ability to formulate robust semantic universals. When such a universal is attested, the question arises as to the source of the universal. In this paper, we explore the hypothesis that many semantic universals arise because expressions satisfying the universal are easier to learn than those that do not. While the idea that learnability explains universals is not new, explicit accounts of learning that can (...)
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  3.  55
    Informational Dynamics of Epistemic Possibility Modals.Peter Hawke & Shane Steinert-Threlkeld - 2018 - Synthese 195 (10):4309-4342.
    We investigate, in a logical setting, the expressivist proposal that assertion primarily functions to express and coordinate doxastic states and that ‘might’ fundamentally expresses lack of belief. We provide a formal model of an agent’s doxastic state and novel assertability conditions for an associated formal language. We thereby prove that an arbitrary assertion always succeeds in expressing a well-defined doxastic state, and propose a fully general and intuitive update operation as a model of an agent coming to accept an arbitrary (...)
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  4.  28
    Compositional Signaling in a Complex World.Shane Steinert-Threlkeld - 2016 - Journal of Logic, Language and Information 25 (3-4):379-397.
    Natural languages are compositional in that the meaning of complex expressions depends on those of the parts and how they are put together. Here, I ask the following question: why are languages compositional? I answer this question by extending Lewis–Skyrms signaling games with a rudimentary form of compositional signaling and exploring simple reinforcement learning therein. As it turns out: in complex worlds, having compositional signaling helps simple agents learn to communicate. I am also able to show that learning the meaning (...)
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  5.  10
    Ease of Learning Explains Semantic Universals.Shane Steinert-Threlkeld & Jakub Szymanik - 2020 - Cognition 195:104076.
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  6.  29
    An Explanation of the Veridical Uniformity Universal.Shane Steinert-Threlkeld - forthcoming - Journal of Semantics.
    A semantic universal, which we here dub the Veridical Uniformity Universal, has recently been argued to hold of responsive verbs (those that take both declarative and interrogative complements). This paper offers a preliminary explanation of this universal: verbs satisfying it are easier to learn than those that do not. This claim is supported by a computational experiment using artificial neural networks, mirroring a recent proposal for explaining semantic universals of quantifiers. This preliminary study opens up many avenues for future work (...)
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  7.  1
    Toward the Emergence of Nontrivial Compositionality.Shane Steinert-Threlkeld - 2020 - Philosophy of Science 87 (5):897-909.
    All natural languages exhibit a distinction between content words and function words. Yet surprisingly little has been said about the e...
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  8.  52
    Iterating Semantic Automata.Shane Steinert-Threlkeld & I. I. I. Thomas F. Icard - 2013 - Linguistics and Philosophy 36 (2):151-173.
    The semantic automata framework, developed originally in the 1980s, provides computational interpretations of generalized quantifiers. While recent experimental results have associated structural features of these automata with neuroanatomical demands in processing sentences with quantifiers, the theoretical framework has remained largely unexplored. In this paper, after presenting some classic results on semantic automata in a modern style, we present the first application of semantic automata to polyadic quantification, exhibiting automata for iterated quantifiers. We also discuss the role of semantic automata in (...)
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  9.  4
    Monotone Quantifiers Emerge Via Iterated Learning.Fausto Carcassi, Shane Steinert-Threlkeld & Jakub Szymanik - 2021 - Cognitive Science 45 (8):e13027.
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  10.  16
    Some Properties of Iterated Languages.Shane Steinert-Threlkeld - 2016 - Journal of Logic, Language and Information 25 (2):191-213.
    A special kind of substitution on languages called iteration is presented and studied. These languages arise in the application of semantic automata to iterations of generalized quantifiers. We show that each of the star-free, regular, and deterministic context-free languages are closed under iteration and that it is decidable whether a given regular or determinstic context-free language is an iteration of two such languages. This result can be read as saying that the van Benthem/Keenan ‘Frege Boundary’ is decidable for large subclasses (...)
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  11.  12
    Iterating Semantic Automata.Shane Steinert-Threlkeld & Thomas F. Icard - 2013 - Linguistics and Philosophy 36 (2):151-173.
    The semantic automata framework, developed originally in the 1980s, provides computational interpretations of generalized quantifiers. While recent experimental results have associated structural features of these automata with neuroanatomical demands in processing sentences with quantifiers, the theoretical framework has remained largely unexplored. In this paper, after presenting some classic results on semantic automata in a modern style, we present the first application of semantic automata to polyadic quantification, exhibiting automata for iterated quantifiers. We also discuss the role of semantic automata in (...)
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  12.  14
    Function Words and Context Variability.Shane Steinert-Threlkeld - unknown
    Natural language expressions fall into two categories: content and function words. While function words are essential to compositional semantics, surprisingly little has been said about their emergence. In this paper, I will show that most extant approaches to the emergence of compositional signaling fail to account for the emergence of functional vocabulary. After providing a result that explains why this is so,, I will present a model and simulation results exhibiting conditions under which such vocabulary can emerge from simple learning (...)
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  13.  74
    Mathematical Existence de-Platonized: Introducing Objects of Supposition in the Arts and Sciences.Robert Rynasiewicz, Shane Steinert-Threlkeld & Vivek Suri - unknown
    In this paper, we introduce a suppositional view of linguistic practice that ranges over fiction, science, and mathematics. While having similar con- sequences to some other views, in particular Linsky and Zalta’s plenitudinous platonism, the view advocated here both differs fundamentally in approach and accounts for a wider range of phenomena and scientific discourse.
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  14.  7
    Referential and general calls in primate semantics.Shane Steinert-Threlkeld, Philippe Schlenker & Emmanuel Chemla - 2021 - Linguistics and Philosophy 44 (6):1317-1342.
    In recent years, the methods of formal semantics and pragmatics have been fruitfully applied to the analysis of primate communication systems. Most analyses therein appeal to a division of labor between semantics and pragmatics which has the following three features: calls are given referential meanings, some calls have a general meaning, and the meanings of calls in context are enriched by competition with more informative calls, along the lines of scalar implicatures. In this paper, we develop highly simplified models to (...)
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  15.  1
    Indefinite Pronouns Optimize the Simplicity/Informativeness Trade‐Off.Milica Denić, Shane Steinert-Threlkeld & Jakub Szymanik - 2022 - Cognitive Science 46 (5):e13142.
    Cognitive Science, Volume 46, Issue 5, May 2022.
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  16.  1
    Explaining Semantic Typology, Forms and All.Shane Steinert-Threlkeld - forthcoming - Trends in Cognitive Sciences.
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