Jan Köpping (Frankfurt / Göttingen)

A novel account of Novelty (and a familiar account of Familiarity)

The Novelty condition is central to the analysis of indefinite descriptions in Heim (1982). It states that their referential indices must not match any other referential index already established. Heim develops two notions of Novelty, a syntactic and a semantic one. Cognates of the former notion are at work in rivaling accounts of discourse anaphora as well, namely in Discourse Representation Theory (DRT, Kamp 1981, Kamp & Reyle 1993) and Dynamic Predicate Logic (DPL, Groenendijk & Stokhof 1991). But only Heim's second notion promises to develop into an account that doesn't need to built a representation of the entire discourse before interpretation can start, i.e. an account that employs a stepwise interpretation procedure in which each sentence is evaluated against a common-ground like file. This talk will take a closer look at the two notions of Novelty, elaborate on their strengths and shortcomings, and sketch an alternative approach that extends to Familiarity as well.


Groenendijk, Jeroen and Stokhof, Martin (1991): "Dynamic Predicate Logic", Linguistics and Philosophy 14, 39-100.

Heim, Irene (1982): The Semantics of Definite and Indefinite Noun Phrases in English, PhD-Thesis, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Kamp, Hans (1982): "A Theory of Truth and Semantic Representation", in: Groenendijk, Jeroen and Janssen, Theo and Stokhof, Martin (eds.): Formal Methods in the Study of Language, Amsterdam: Mathematical Center Amsterdam, 277-322.

Kamp, Hans and Reyle Uwe (1993): From Discourse to Logic. Introduction to Model-theoretic Semantics of Natural Language, Dordrech: Kluwer.