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On Status and Form of the Relevance Principle Anton Benz, ZAS Berlin Centre for General Linguistics, Typology and Universals Research

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Overview Background: Relevance and Conversational Implicatures Frameworks and Definitions of Relevance Relevance and Definitions of Implicatures Relevance and Calculability of Implicatures

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Relevance and Conversational Implicatures

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Communicated meaning Grice distinguishes between: What is said. What is implicated. “Some of the boys came to the party” said: at least two came implicated: not all came

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Assumptions about Conversation Conversation is a cooperative effort. Each participant recognises in the talk exchanges a common purpose. A stands in front of his obviously immobilised car. A: I am out of petrol. B: There is a garage around the corner. Joint purpose of B’s response: Solve A’s problem of finding petrol for his car.

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The Conversational Maxims (short, without Manner) Maxim of Quality: Be truthful. Maxim of Quantity: 1. Say as much as you can. 2. Say no more than you must. Maxim of Relevance: Be relevant.

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The Conversational Maxims Be truthful (Quality) and say as much as you can (Quantity) as long as it is relevant (Relevance).

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Relevance Scale Approach (Hirschberg, van Rooij) A theory about relevance implicatures is a relevance scale approach iff it defines or postulates a linear pre-order on propositions such that an utterance of proposition A implicates a proposition H iff A is less relevant than H:

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Examples Job Interview: J interviews E J: Do you speak Spanish? E: I speak some Portugese. +> E doesn’t speak Spanish. A in front of his obviously immobilised car. A: I am out of petrol. B: There is a garage around the corner. (G) +> The garage is open. (H)

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An Explanation of the Out of Petrol Example Set H*:= The negation of H B said that G but not that H*. H* is relevant and G H* G. Hence if G H*, then B should have said G H* (Quantity). Hence H* cannot be true, and therefore H.

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Problem: We can exchange H and H* and still get a valid inference: 1. B said that G but not that H. 2. H is relevant and G H G. 3. Hence if G H, then B should have said G H (Quantity). 4. Hence H cannot be true, and therefore H*.

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Guiding Questions What is the proper definition of relevance that makes the first but not the second inference valid? What is the status of this notion of relevance with respect to the other maxims?

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Optimal Assertions

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General Situation We consider situations where: A person I, called inquirer, has to solve a decision problem ((Ω, P),A,u). A person E, called expert, provides I with information that helps to solve I’s decision problem. P E represents E’s expectations about Ω at the time when she answers.

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The general situation

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Game and Decision Theory Decision theory: Concerned with decisions of individual agents Game theory: Concerned with interdependent decisions of several agents.

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Measures of Relevance I New information A is relevant if it leads to a different choice of action, and it is the more relevant the more it increases thereby expected utility.

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Measures of Relevance I Let ((Ω, P),A,u) be a given decision problem. Let a* be the action with maximal expected utility before learning A. Possible definition of Relevance of A: (Sample Value of Information)

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Measures of Relevance II New information A is relevant if it increases expected utility. it is the more relevant the more it increases it.

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Measures of Relevance III New information A is relevant if it changes expected utility. it is the more relevant the more it changes it.

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Previous Result: No decision theoretically defined relevance measure can account for choice of best answers. (Benz 2006) First Negative Result about Relevance. Is it possible to acount for Implicatures of answers ( = assertions subordinated to a decision problem of the addressee)?

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Implicatures and Relevance Scales Second Negative Result about Relevance

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Relevance Scale Approach Let M be a set of propositions. Let be a linear well-founded pre-order on M with interpretation: A B B is at least as relevant as A. then A +> B iff A < B.

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Lemma

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An Example (Argentine wine) Somewhere in Berlin... Suppose J approaches the information desk at the entrance of a shopping centre. He wants to buy Argentine wine. He knows that staff at the information desk is very well trained and know exactly where you can buy which product in the centre. E, who serves at the information desk today, knows that there are two supermarkets selling Argentine wine, a Kaiser’s supermarket in the basement and an Edeka supermarket on the first floor. J: I want to buy some Argentine wine. Where can I get it? E: Hm, Argentine wine. Yes, there is a Kaiser’s supermarket downstairs in the basement at the other end of the centre.

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Propositions

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No Relevance scale approach can explain this example.

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Calculating Implicatures and Relevance Third Negative Result about Relevance

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The Out of Patrol Example A stands in front of his obviously immobilised car. A: I am out of petrol. B: There is a garage around the corner. (G) +> The garage is open (H)

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The “correct” explanation Set H*:= The negation of H B said that G but not that H*. H* is relevant and G H* G. Hence if G H*, then B should have said G H* (Quantity). Hence H* cannot be true, and therefore H.

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Is there a relevance measure that makes the argument valid?

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The previous result shows that this is not possible if the relevance measure defines a linear pre-order on propositions.

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The Posterior Sample Value of Information Let O(a) be the set of worlds where action a is optimal. If 1. the speaker said that A; 2. it is common knowledge that a P E (O(a)) = 1 3. for all K H* : UV I (K|A) > 0, then H is true. Where UV I (K|A) is the sample value of information posterior to learning A. UV I (K|A) := EU I (a A K |A K) EU I (a A |A K)

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Application to Out-of-Petrol Example Let K H* = ‘the garage is closed’ A: ‘there is a garage round the corner’ We assume that the inquirer has a better alternative than going to a closed garage. It follows then that UV I (K|A) > 0, and our criterion predicts that H: ‘the garage is open’ is true.

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Relevance and Answers Relevance is presumed to be maximised by the answering person. defines a linear pre-order on the set of possible answers. is definable from the receivers perspective. makes the ‘standard’ explanation in the out-of- patrol example valid.

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Relevance and Answers Relevance is presumed to be maximised by the answering person. defines a linear pre-order on a set of possible answers. is definable from the receivers perspective. makes the ‘standard’ explanation in the out- of-patrol example valid.

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Relevance and Conversational Maxim Conversational Maxim: presumed to be followed by the speaker. Necessary for calculating appropriate answers and implicatures. The relevance measure defined by the posterior sample value of information does not define a conversational maxim.

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THE END

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Relevance and Best Answers

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The Italian Newspaper Example Somewhere in the streets of Amsterdam... a) J: Where can I buy an Italian newspaper? b) E: At the station and at the Palace but nowhere else. (SE) c) E: At the station. (A) / At the Palace. (B)

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Answers (A) There are Italian newspapers at the station. (B) There are Italian newspapers at the Palace. With sample value of information: Only B is relevant. With utility value: A, B, and A B are equally relevant.

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Assume now that E learned that: (¬A) there are no Italian newspapers at the station. With sample value of information: ¬A is relevant. With utility value: the uninformative answer is the most relevant answer.

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Need: Uniform definition of relevance that explains all examples.

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No relevance based approach can avoid non-optimal answers. First Negative Result about Relevance

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The Conversational Maxims Maxim of Quality: 1. Do not say what you believe to be false. 2. Do not say that for which you lack adequate evidence. Maxim of Quantity: 1. Make your contribution to the conversation as informative as is required for he current talk exchange. 2. Do not make your contribution to the conversation more informative than necessary.

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Maxim of Relevance: Make your contributions relevant. Maxim of Manner: Be perspicuous, and specifically: 1. Avoid obscurity. 2. Avoid ambiguity. 3. Be brief (avoid unnecessary wordiness). 4. Be orderly.

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