Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM the OXFORD RESEARCH ENCYCLOPEDIA, LINGUISTICS ( (c) Oxford University Press USA, 2016. All Rights Reserved. Personal use only; commercial use is strictly prohibited (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 28 May 2018

Summary and Keywords

Hearers and readers make inferences on the basis of what they hear or read. These inferences are partly determined by the linguistic form that the writer or speaker chooses to give to her utterance. The inferences can be about the state of the world that the speaker or writer wants the hearer or reader to conclude are pertinent, or they can be about the attitude of the speaker or writer vis-à-vis this state of affairs. The attention here goes to the inferences of the first type. Research in semantics and pragmatics has isolated a number of linguistic phenomena that make specific contributions to the process of inference. Broadly, entailments of asserted material, presuppositions (e.g., factive constructions), and invited inferences (especially scalar implicatures) can be distinguished.

While we make these inferences all the time, they have been studied piecemeal only in theoretical linguistics. When attempts are made to build natural language understanding systems, the need for a more systematic and wholesale approach to the problem is felt. Some of the approaches developed in Natural Language Processing are based on linguistic insights, whereas others use methods that do not require (full) semantic analysis.

In this article, I give an overview of the main linguistic issues and of a variety of computational approaches, especially those stimulated by the RTE challenges first proposed in 2004.

Keywords: inference, RTE, semantics, computational semantics, pragmatics, factuality, factivity, implicative predicate, veridicity, natural logic

Access to the complete content on Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Linguistics requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can''t find the answer there, please contact us.