Content in Context

Alice ter Meulen

The way in which we express information in time about time in ordinary English provides a core empirical domain to study the dynamics of interpretive and inferential processes in context. This paper advocates the view that contexts are tree-structures that represent static and dynamic information content, to allow for a configurational characterization of situated inference. In an interpretation of a sequence of sentences we obtain descriptive, aspectual and perspectival information. Finite labelled trees, called Dynamic Aspect Trees (DATs), with two node-sorts represent these three kinds of information in an integrated way, leading to a new notion of a chronoscope., the locally consistent information-stage. DATs are interpreted in event-structures which satisfy certain domain specific semantic constraints based on inferential properties of progressive, perfect and past tense inflections. Aspectual information controls how such DATs are updated, which may or may not affect the given chronoscope. Static information is represented by stickers that are portable into new chronoscopes given specific thresholds, configurationally defined in the DATs. The notion of situated inference models the context-dependent reasoning about the flow of time.

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