ALTA Logo Proceedings of ALTSS/ALTW, Melbourne, December 2003

Introduction to Discourse Representation Theory

Alistair Knott, University of Otago


In this seminar I will provide an introduction to Hans Kamp's Discourse Representation Theory (DRT). DRT has been around for over 20 years now: it originated as a relatively small extension of the predicate calculus, and as a result of the many people who have used DRT in their work since then, it has increased in scope quite considerably. It is now probably the dominant framework for formal treatments of natural language semantics.

I will begin by outlining the motivations for 'classical' DRT, which have their origins in hoary philosophical questions about referring expressions in natural language. I will then informally describe the syntax and semantics of DRT. Then I will discuss some extensions of DRT which are now more or less assimilated into the formalism, in particular treatments of plurality and presupposition. I will conclude by looking at some current uses of DRT in language technology applications.

Reference: Hans Kamp, Josef van Genabith and Uwe Reyle "Discourse Representation Theory: An updated survey". DRAFT of an article to appear in the new edition of the Handbook of Philosophical Logic, available at []