Date of Award

May 2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Joshua Spencer

Committee Members

Peter van Elswyk, William Penn


Linguists and philosophers use models to study language and communication. But as in many model-based sciences, our ability to model linguistic and conversational phenomena outstrips our understanding of said phenomena. Indeed, we don't often think about or agree upon the subject matters of our models. This paper argues that we should.

To this end, I use Craige Roberts's model of communication---the Question Under Discussion (QUD) framework---as a proof-of-concept. I propose that the QUD framework's subject matter is zetetic attentional: attentional shifts caused by the attitudes that drive inquiry. I then argue that my account ensures that the QUD framework provides the explanations linguists and philosophers want it to, and shows how the QUD framework is supported by work in the epistemology and cognitive science of inquiry. Accordingly, my account illustrates how providing subject matters for our models is both necessary (to ensure our models provide the explanations we want them to) and valuable (because they show us how our models relate to work in other fields).

Available for download on Monday, June 16, 2025