The Acquaintance Inference — Linguistic and Philosophical Perspectives

University of Konstanz, October 20-21, 2022

Organizers: Natasha Korotkova and Jochen Briesen

Stay tuned for practical details.


This workshop is devoted to the Acquaintance Inference, a phenomenon whereby utterances with certain expressions are only felicitous when the speaker has firsthand experience with the object of the predication. For example, we typically call an item "tasty" only if we have tried it. This fact raises questions about (a)~the epistemological and metaphysical source of the Acquaintance Inference, (b)~the nature of linguistic expressions that give rise to it, and (c)~properties of such discourses more broadly. Several recent accounts, developed within linguistics and philosophy, address those questions. Each account has important consequences as to how we theorize about knowledge, evidence and speech acts in relation to predicates like "tasty".

However, rarely have been both philosophical and linguistic aspects of the problem examined together as a whole. The proposed conference seeks to redress this by bringing together leading experts on the topic from both disciplines. Its goal is to foster a dialogue that will reconcile different approaches and that will help better understand the acquaintance phenomenon at the intersection of epistemology, metaphysics, philosophy of language, formal semantics and formal pragmatics. Our guiding questions are the following:

— Which predicates give rise to the AI?

— Should we strive for a unified explanation of the AI?

— What is the status of the AI?

— How is the acquaintance phenomenon related to other expressions of evidence in language?

— When do the acquaintance inference and the acquaintance norm go away?

— To which philosophical issues is the AI related?

  1. Pranav Anand (UC Santa Cruz) and Natasha Korotkova (University of Konstanz) "Unifying acquaintance across domains"
  2. Jochen Briesen (University of Konstanz) "The Acquaintance Inference and Hybrid Expressivism"
  3. Fabrizio Cariani (University of Maryland) "Embedded evidence-type constraints"
  4. Katharina Felka (University of Graz) TBA
  5. Elsi Kaiser (University of Southern California) "On the role of experience and evidence: Experimental investigations"
  6. Chris Kennedy and Malte Willer (University of Chicago) "Decomposing acquaintance"
  7. Dilip Ninan (Tufts) "An expressivist theory of taste predicates"
  8. Hazel Pearson (University College London) "First-person oriented genericity and the acquaintance inference"