IWCS 2013 Workshop: Towards a formal distributional semantics

Event Notification Type: 
Call for Papers
University of Potsdam
Tuesday, 19 March 2013
Contact Email: 
Aurelie Herbelot
Roberto Zamparelli
Gemma Boleda
Submission Deadline: 
Friday, 30 November 2012

IWCS 2013 Workshop: Towards a formal distributional semantics

March 19, 2013, Potsdam, Germany


Over the last 50 years, model-theoretic semantics has made great progress in formalising various phenomena of human language, especially those related to the compositionality of meaning. It has also left some aspects largely unexamined: in particular, those concerned with the meaning of content words, which have been the concern of lexical semantics. Distributional or vector-space models of meaning, in turn, successfully model many lexical semantic phenomena, but, despite recent efforts, still do not account for compositionality or the role of function words.

This workshop aims to foster the integration of formal and distributional semantics, building on their complementary strengths to produce better models of meaning in natural language. Its focus is on giving formal semantics a better handle on lexical semantics, while still preserving the aspects that have made it useful: for instance, the tight syntax-semantics interface for phenomena such as quantification, scope, modification and semantic roles, the notions of truth and extension, and the modeling of inference, at the level of both lexical items and propositions. Beyond the goal of better embedding lexical information in formal semantic representations, we encourage the investigation of the probabilistic aspects of distributional models in order to handle cases where truth theory falters (e.g., truth of generic statements). More generally, the workshop is open to new ideas about aspects of meaning beyond the level of truth values, and on how distributional semantics may contribute to the notion of intension.


Contributions can take the form of theoretical proposals, descriptions of a particular phenomenon, or experimental investigations. We specifically welcome collaborations between researchers in formal semantics and computational linguistics. We look for contributions on the following topics (list not exhaustive), always from the perspective of integrating formal and distributional semantics:

* Inferential properties of language both at the propositional and lexical level (e.g., how to account for entailment as licensed by different types of adjectives?).

* Truth theory, reference, and extension (e.g., to what extent is there a relation between distributional representations built from corpora and models, which exhaustively enumerate individuals in a particular set? How could this be used to tie distributional representations of words with specific objects in real or virtual scenarios?).

* Intension (e.g., can distributional models provide an alternative or complementary account to the definition of intension in terms of possible world semantics?).

* Syntax-semantics interface (e.g., composition with different types of verbal arguments).

* Morphology-semantics interface (e.g., exploring the possibility to build distributional models of derivational and inflectional morphology, for instance to capture the semantic difference between singular and plural forms of nouns).

* Representation and mechanics of logical operators (e.g., how to account for negation, not only in propositions but also with regard to its effects on the lexicon; how to deal with coordination at the various levels at which it applies; how to deal with nominal and VP quantifiers?).

* Semantic representation at the lexical and constituent / sentential level (e.g., what kind of representations do we need to retain lexical information at the level of the sentence?).




Nicholas Asher (Université Paul Sabatier / The University of Texas at Austin)
Marco Baroni (University of Trento)
David Beaver (The University of Texas at Austin)
Raffaella Bernardi (University of Trento)
Stephen Clark (University of Cambridge)
Ann Copestake (University of Cambridge)
Katrin Erk (The University of Texas at Austin)
Mohan Ganesalingam (University of Cambridge)
Ed Grefenstette (University of Oxford)
Louise McNally (Universitat Pompeu Fabra)
Diarmuid Ó Séaghdha (University of Cambridge)
Sebastian Pado (Universitaet Heidelberg)
Manfred Pinkal (Saarland University)
Stephen Pulman (University of Oxford)
Mehrnoosh Sadrzadeh (University of Oxford)
Mark Steedman (University of Edinburgh)
Stefan Thater (Saarland University)
Jason Utt (University of Stuttgart)
Eva Maria Vecchi (University of Trento)


Aurelie Herbelot, Universitaet Potsdam
Roberto Zamparelli, University of Trento
Gemma Boleda, University of Texas at Austin


Papers should describe original research and must not exceed 10 pages. Authors are requested to follow the style guidelines of the IWCS main conference (available at

Papers should be electronically submitted in PDF format via the START system at Please contact the organisers if you have problems using START.

Submissions may be accepted either as a full oral presentation or as poster. All accepted papers will be published in the workshop proceedings.


November 30 2012: submission deadline.
January 4 2013: notification of acceptance.
January 25 2013: final version of papers due.


For any questions, please write to