Kyle Rawlins

Associate Professor, Cognitive Science Department

SALT paper

My SALT 20 paper, Conversational Backoff, has appeared online.

I explore and analyze a phenomenon (“conversational backoff”) where, instead of accepting an assertion in the normal way, a speaker challenges its exhaustiveness, but not its content. The result is that speakers publicly back off of the exhaustivity of the claim. These challenges are typically triggered by special questions of a conditional type, and I focus in particular on the case of “what if” questions, developing a detailed analysis of their semantics and dynamics.