Linguistics Meets Literature: Common Ground in Literary Communication

20th November 2020

organised by projects A5 and A2

The workshop will be held online via zoom.


Workshop Description

The principal aim of this workshop is the investigation of fictional texts by combining literary scholarship and formal linguistics. Special emphasis is put on how linguistic notions such as Common Ground manifest themselves in fictional contexts, i.e. in drama, prose fiction and poetry.

This general endeavour comprises questions such as:

  • How can linguistic concepts like CG be adapted/complemented/operationalised for literary analysis?
  • Are there differences between general approaches and those pertaining to specific text types, i.e., prose, drama and poetry? If so, (how) can they be formalised?
  • To what degree do these conceptual adaptations with regard to literary texts enable new insights into the linguistic concepts themselves?

For example, the basic linguistic concept of the pragmatic step generally seems to function differently in fictional texts. In non-fictional discourse, the pragmatic step can be modelled by the speech act operator Assert (Krifka 1995, 2004), which adds a proposition to the Common Ground. The same assumption cannot be made for fictional texts, however, as they are counterfactually independent, and therefore do not refer to the actual world but to possible worlds. Bauer & Beck (2014) suggest the alternative operator FictionalAssert, which takes into account the fictional nature of literary texts as well as their particular communicative situation, proposing that a fictional utterance only has an indirect impact on the Common Ground.

Concerning the nature of CG across different literary genres, it still remains to be investigated how the CG on the external level of communication, i.e. between a fictional text and its readers, is related to the CG between various characters on the internal level of communication. This leads to the more general question of the specific properties of pragmatic embedding and meaning enrichment in fictional texts; in particular, we are interested in the impact of deceptions, lies and other types of strategic speaker/hearer-interactions.


Bauer, Matthias, and Sigrid Beck. 2014. "On the Meaning of Fictional Texts." In Approaches to Meaning: Composition, Values, and Interpretation, edited by Daniel Gutzmann, Jan Köpping, and Cécile Meier, 250-75. Leiden: Brill.

Krifka, Manfred. 1995. "The Semantics and Pragmatics of Polarity Items." Linguistic Analysis 25: 1-49.

Krifka, Manfred. 2014. "Embedding Illocutionary Acts." In Recursion: Complexity in Cognition, edited by M. Speas and T. Roeper, 59-87. Berlin: Springer.

Invited Speakers

Prof. Dr. Regine Eckardt, Universität Konstanz

Prof. Jonathan Culpeper, Lancaster University

Andreas Stokke, PhD, Uppsala University



9:00 - 9:15

Welcome Address

9:15 - 9:45 talk

9:45 - 10:15 discussion

Invited Talk: Prof. Dr. Regine Eckardt, Universität Konstanz

"Innovative compounds as probes of common ground: How BILD uses compounding to enrich the CG"
Chair: Laura Bon

10:15 - 10:30 coffee break

10:30 - 11:00 talk

11:00 - 11:30 discussion

Prof. Dr. Irene Rapp, Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen

"Irony in drama: Modelling lies, fallacies and misunderstandings in a multilayered common ground model"

Chair: Raphaela Wolman

11:30 - 11:45 coffee break

11:45 - 12:15 talk

12:15 - 12:45 discussion

Invited Talk: Prof. Jonathan Culpeper, Lancaster University

"Interpreting characters in context: Some reflections"

Chair: Julia Braun

12:45 - 1:45 lunch break

1:45 - 2:15 talk

2:15 - 2:45 discussion

Invited Talk: Andreas Stokke, PhD, Uppsala University
"Fiction and Importation"

Chair: Julia Braun

2:45 - 3:00 coffee break

3:00  - 3:30 talk

3:30  - 4:00  discussion


Prof. Dr. Matthias Bauer & Prof. Dr. Sigrid Beck, Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen

"Multiple common grounds in drama - the case of Henry V"

Chair: Susanne Riecker

Because of the pandemic, the format as well as the programme of the conference may be subject to change.


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zur Beschreibung



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