Once upon a time... Semantic approaches to fiction, literature, and narrative.

September 17, 2018 - September 18, 2018
Department of Theoretical Philosophy & Linguistics, University of Groningen


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University of Groningen

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We seem to approach a text that we know to be a work of fiction rather differently than a newspaper article, or a conversation about the weather. An influential view in philosophy is that fictional narratives are prescriptions for the reader to imagine some fictional world, while regular assertions are proposals to update the common ground. But whatever the eventual diagnosis, the (apparent) difference between the interpretation of fiction and of non-fiction already raises interesting linguistic questions: How does a reader even know that a text is fiction? Are there linguistic clues an author may leave that mark a given text as such? And is our formal semantic toolkit, developed for dealing with assertions in every day communication, suitable and sufficient for dealing with the peculiarities of narrative fiction and literary style?

In this workshop we want to bring together linguists and philosophers interested in applying formal semantic tools to linguistic phenomena characteristic of fiction/narrative. Examples of questions we would like to address include:

- Are there languages with dedicated markers of fiction or story-telling (e.g. "fiction-evidentials")?

- What exactly are so-called historical/narrative uses of present tense? Are there other tense/aspect/mood configurations characteristic of narrative?

- What is the role of imagination in the semantics of fiction?

- Conversely, what is the role of the usual foundational semantic concepts like truth, reference, truth-conditions, and common ground?

- Can/should we distinguish fiction and non-fiction at a discourse level, e.g. in terms of discourse structure, coherence relations etc.?

- How to model free indirect discourse and other forms of perspective shifting, and to what extent are these constructions characteristic of narrative fiction?

- What is the role of (direct) speech/thought representation in literature?

- How can we model different types of narration/narrators (omniscient third person, first/second person narration, unreliable narrators) semantically?

- Can we push our semantics beyond literary/textual narrative to e.g. oral storytelling, comics, picture books, movies, or narrative music/dance?


- Márta Abrusán (Paris)

- Stefan Hinterwimmer (Köln)

- Hans Kamp (Austin/Stuttgart)

- Alessandro Zucchi (Milan)


We invite submissions of anonymous two-page abstracts (including references etc.) for 25 minute talks (plus 10 minutes discussion), via Easychair: https://easychair.org/conferences/?conf=fiction2018 

With enough high quality submissions we'll also organize a poster session with lightning talks.


University of Groningen, The Netherlands. Exact conference location in Groningen to be announced. 

We can offer limited daycare facilities, contact the organizers.


- Workshop: Mo, Sept 17, 2018 -- Tue, Sept 18, 2018
- Deadline for abstract submission: May 25, 2018
- Notification: June 10, 2018    

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