Dr Chris Fox

The Centre for Linguistic Theory and Studies in Probability (CLASP)
University of Gothenburg

‚úć Contact me for my UK postal address or ‚ėŹ phone number

Prior to 16th January 2021:
¬∑ ‚ėŹ +44 (0)1206 87 2576 ‚úć University of Essex, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester CO4 3SQ, UK
ūüĒú University of Essex will close the above email account on 21st April 2021 ūüĒö


I am an assoc­iate mem­ber of The Centre for Ling­uistic Theory and Studies in Proba­bility (CLASP), Univer­sity of Gothen­burg (Sweden). The focus of my academ­ic work is on the seman­tic analy­sis of lang­uage, and relat­ed metho­do­logic­al quest­ions.

I am also work­ing on various music projects (including The Emerg­ency Room, Good Intensions, and others). I play a range of instru­ments, including electric bass, guitar, piano, fiddle, and percus­sion. In addi­tion to per­form­ing, I also work on arrang­ing, re­cord­ing, and pro­duc­tion.

Academic Work

Prior to my mem­ber­ship of CLASP, I was a Reader at the Univer­sity of Essex until 16th January 2021.

More details

Previously, I was a lecturer at Goldsmiths College, Univer¬≠sity of London, and at King‚Äôs College London, and also a research fellow at the Comp¬≠uta¬≠tional Linguist¬≠ics Insti¬≠tute in Saar¬≠br√ľcken.

My research is located in the inter­sec­tion of ling­uist­ics, comp­uter science, and phil­oso­phy. My main inter­est is in the formal inter­pre­ta­tion of lang­uage, and found­a­tional issues in seman­tics. My recent work has focused on founda­tional issues in the inter­preta­tion of imper­a­tive and deon­tic utter­ances. I am also expl­or­ing methodo­logical and onto­logical issues in formal seman­tic analy­sis.

My pub­lica­tions include two mono­graphs: The Ontol­ogy of Lang­uage (CSLI, 2000) and Founda­tions of Inten­sional Semant­ics (Blackwell, 2005), along with numer­ous other arti­cles. These works explore axiom­atic and proof-theor­etic accounts of mean­ing. I have co-edited the Hand­book of Natural Lang­uage Pro­cess­ing and Comp­uta­tional Ling­uist­ics (Wiley-Black­well, 2010) and the sec­ond edition of the Hand­book of Contemp­orary Semantic Theory (Wiley-Black­well, 2015).

Selected Publications


The Ont­ology of Lang­uage. Chris Fox. CSLI. 2000. (Distri­buted by Chicago Univer­sity Press.)

Founda­tions of Int­ens­ion­al Seman­tics. Chris Fox and Shalom Lappin. Black­well. 2005.

Hand­book of Nat­ural Lang­uage Pro­cess­ing and Comp­u­ta­tional Ling­uist­ics. Alex Clark, Chris Fox and Shalom Lappin (eds). Wiley-Black­well. 2010.

Hand­book of Cont­emp­orary Sem­an­tic Theory (second edi­tion). Shalom Lappin and Chris Fox (eds). Wiley-Black­well. 2015.

Selected Articles and Conference Papers

(Note: This is a summary of selected publications. Details of most of my acad­emic publ­ica­tions are avail­able on a separate search­able pub­lica­tions page, which includes ab­stracts, BibTEX entries, and links to papers.)

  1. ‚Äú‚ÄėOught Implies Can‚Äô and the Law‚ÄĚ. Chris Fox and Guglielmo Feis. Inquiry. Volume 61. Number 4. 2018. pp370‚Äď393.
  2. ‚ÄúImpera¬≠tives‚ÄĚ. Chris Fox. Hand¬≠book of Contemp¬≠or¬≠ary Seman¬≠tic Theory (2nd ed). Wiley-Black¬≠well. 2015.
  3. ‚ÄúThe Mean¬≠ing of Formal Semantics‚ÄĚ. In Seman¬≠tics and Beyond. Philoso¬≠phical and Linguis¬≠tic Invest¬≠iga¬≠tions. De Gruyter. 2014. pp85‚Äď108.
  4. ‚ÄúType-Theore¬≠tic Logic with an Opera¬≠tional Account of Intension¬≠ality‚ÄĚ. Chris Fox and Shalom Lappin. Synthese. January 2014. DOI: 10.1007/s11229-013-0390-1.
  5. ‚ÄúImpera¬≠tives: a Judge¬≠men¬≠tal Analysis‚ÄĚ. Studia Logica. Volume 100. Issue 4. 2012. pp879‚Äď905. DOI: 10.1007/s11225-012-9424-9
  6. ‚ÄúIn Defense of Axiom¬≠atic Seman¬≠tics‚ÄĚ. Chris Fox and Raymond Turner. In Philo¬≠sophical and Formal Approaches to Linguis¬≠tic Analy¬≠sis. Ontos Verlag. 2012. pp145‚Äď160.
  7. ‚ÄúObliga¬≠tions and Permis¬≠sions‚ÄĚ. Language and Linguis¬≠tics Compass. Volume 6. Issue 9. 2012. Wiley-Black¬≠well. pp593‚Äď610. DOI: 10.1002/lnc3.352
  8. ‚ÄúExpres¬≠sive¬≠ness and Complexity in Under¬≠specif¬≠ied Seman¬≠tics‚ÄĚ. Chris Fox and Shalom Lappin. Linguistic Analy¬≠sis. Volume 36. Number 1‚Äď4. pp385‚Äď417. 2010. Fest¬≠schrift for Jacob Lambek.
  9. ‚ÄúThe Good Samaritan and the Hygienic Cook‚ÄĚ. In Philosophy of Language and Linguistics, Volume I: The formal turn. Ontos Verlag. 2010. pp103‚Äď118.
  10. ‚ÄúComputa¬≠tional Semantics‚ÄĚ. In Handbook of Natural Language Process¬≠ing and Computa¬≠tional Linguis¬≠tics. Edited by Alex Clark, Chris Fox and Shalom Lappin. Wiley-Black¬≠well. 2010.
  11. ‚ÄúObliga¬≠tions, Permis¬≠sions and Trans¬≠gres¬≠sions: an altern¬≠at¬≠ive approach to deontic reason¬≠ing‚ÄĚ. Pro¬≠ceed¬≠ings of the Tenth Sympo¬≠s¬≠ium on Logic and Lang¬≠uage. 2009. pp81‚Äď88.
  12. ‚ÄúUnder¬≠speci¬≠fied Inter¬≠preta¬≠tions in a Curry-Typed Repre¬≠senta¬≠tion Language‚ÄĚ. Chris Fox and Shalom Lappin. Journal of Logic and Comp¬≠uta¬≠tion 15(2). 2005. pp131‚Äď143.
  13. ‚ÄúAn Expres¬≠sive First-Order Logic with Flex¬≠ible Typ¬≠ing for Natural Language Seman¬≠tics‚ÄĚ. Chris Fox and Shalom Lappin. Logic Journal of the Inter¬≠est Group in Pure and Applied Logics 12. 2004. pp135‚Äď168.
  14. ‚ÄúPlurals and Mass Terms in Property Theory‚ÄĚ. In Plural¬≠ity and Quant¬≠ifica¬≠tion. Edited by F. Hamm and E. Hinrichs. Kluwer. 1998. pp113‚Äď175.
  15. ‚ÄúExist¬≠ence Pre¬≠sup¬≠posi¬≠tions and Categ¬≠ory Mistakes‚ÄĚ. Acta Linguistica Hungarica 42. 1994. pp325‚Äď339.
  16. ‚ÄúIndivid¬≠uals and Their Guises: a Property-theoretic Analy¬≠sis‚ÄĚ. Pro¬≠ceed¬≠ings of the Ninth Amster¬≠dam Col¬≠loquium II. 1993. pp301‚Äď312.

Research Interests

My primary research interests lie in the area of formal seman­tics and the philo­sophy of lang­uage. I also have inter­ests in program analysis, parti­cu­larly in human compre­hension of computer programs, and process model­ling. Much of my work in these last two areas exploits ideas and tech­niques from language analy­sis. I also have an interest in the uses and abuses of tech­nology in the context of human and humani­tarian rights.

Formal Semantics & the Philosophy of Language

This is my primary research interest. My work on formal seman¬≠tics is focused on ‚Äúnon-Kripkean‚ÄĚ proof-theoretic/‚Äčaxiomatic analy¬≠sis. Rather than view formal seman¬≠tics as the activity of reduc¬≠ing pheno¬≠mena to set-theoretic, possible-worlds models, the aim is to formalise the basic onto¬≠logical notions and their struct¬≠ural behav¬≠iours. This is motiv¬≠ated by a methodo¬≠logical view that formalism should reflect our intui¬≠tions about onto¬≠logical categories. Set theory is demon¬≠strably insensi¬≠tive to such notions ‚ĒÄ requir¬≠ing an accompany¬≠ing narra¬≠tive to provide the intended inter¬≠preta¬≠tion ‚ĒÄ and is in that sense is not faith¬≠ful to the terms in which we describe our seman¬≠tic theories (follow¬≠ing Feferman and Benacerraf).

Recently I have been work¬≠ing on deontic reason¬≠ing ‚ĒÄ reason¬≠ing with obliga¬≠tions and permis¬≠sions ‚ĒÄ and on impera¬≠tives and ques¬≠tions. Currently I am explor¬≠ing logical issues relat¬≠ing to mereo¬≠logical univers¬≠al¬≠ism and nihilism. This is concerned with the ques¬≠tions of whether we compose natural objects out of arbitrary composi¬≠tions of other objects (univers¬≠al¬≠ism), whether there is anyth¬≠ing in the world that governs what objects we take there to be (which nihil¬≠ism rejects), and whether, and in what way, logical formal¬≠isa¬≠tion can help us to reflect on these issues (as in Lewis‚Äô and Sider‚Äôs work on uni¬≠vers¬≠al¬≠ism). The focus of the work is trying to see what connex¬≠ions there may be, if any, between such meta¬≠physic¬≠al questions and the prag¬≠matic analy¬≠sis of lang¬≠uage. This work is revisit¬≠ing some issues and argu¬≠ments that were discus¬≠sed in my thesis on Plurals and Mass Terms in Property Theory, and my mono¬≠graph on The Ontology of Language.

Topics on which I have made contribu­tions

  • Fine-grained intension¬≠ality
  • Impera¬≠tives
  • Deontic reason¬≠ing
  • Ques¬≠tions and answers
  • Methodo¬≠logical issues
  • Under¬≠specifica¬≠tion
  • Anaphora and ellipsis
  • Property Theory
  • Type theory, includ¬≠ing poly¬≠morphic and dependent types
  • Weak first-order theories
  • Plurals and mass terms

I am a member of the editorial board for Seman­tics and Prag­matics, a member of the EPSRC College, and former member of the editorial board for Linguis­tics and Philo­sophy. I am a found­ing member of the inter­disciplin­ary Language and Computa­tion Group at Essex (LAC) which holds regular workshops. (Details are avail­able from the Language and Computa­tion Wiki.) Previously, I also helped establish and run the CSEE Logic Seminar Series. (Details of the logic talks from this series may still be found on the Logic Seminar Series web­site.)

Some of this work has been support­ed at various times by the Royal Society, EPSRC/SERC and ESRC.

Human Rights and Informa­tion Technology

I am a member of the Senior Manage­ment Team, and technical workstream director on the ESRC-funded centre on Human Rights, Big Data and Technology project.

We are explor­ing: (i) the use of social media by exist­ing human rights groups and NGOs; (ii) problems in the statistical analysis of social media for identify­ing human right abuses; techniques for systematic analysis of (iii) textual social media and (iv) image data, to identify or track potential human rights abuses, and improve humanitarian responses; and (v) ethical issues associated with big data and algorithmic analysis.

The project is based in the Human Rights Centre at Essex (Principal Investigator: Lorna McGregor; Co-Lead: Maurice Sunkin).

This work is funded by the ESRC.

Process Modell­ing & Program Analysis

I have an interest in the type-theoretic analysis of soft¬≠ware engin¬≠eer¬≠ing languages and nota¬≠tions and in formal models of processes. Previously I have also worked on weak conserva¬≠tive approaches to reason¬≠ing with computer programs: in general, many ‚Äúinterest¬≠ing‚ÄĚ ques¬≠tions about computer programs are unanswer¬≠able due to various versions of the halt¬≠ing problem; weak, conserva¬≠tive approaches attempt to approxi¬≠mate such problems in order to produce ‚Äúgood enough‚ÄĚ answers to common ques¬≠tions.

I produced the first fully-auto¬≠matic condi¬≠tioned program slicer: program slic¬≠ing is intended to elimin¬≠ate program state¬≠ments that are not required for the sub¬≠computa¬≠tion of interest; condi¬≠tioned program slic¬≠ing addi¬≠tionally elimin¬≠ates code that cannot be executed in a given context ‚ĒÄ it requires us to reason with the condi¬≠tions under which dif¬≠fer¬≠ent program paths can be exec¬≠uted.

Areas in which I have made contr­ibu­tions include: (i) Trans­lat­ing between formal process repre­senta­tion lang­uages and business models; (ii) Weak con­serva-tive reason­ing with process models; (iii) Trans­lat­ing control­led descrip­tions of proces­ses into formal models; (iv) Distri­buted work­flow manage­ment; (v) Variable depend­ence analy­sis; (vi) Program trans­forma­tion to aid test­ing; (vii) Condi­tioned program slic­ing; (viii) Slic­ing and condi­tion­ing of state-charts. (The last of these is inter­est­ing in that gener­ally state-chart proces­ses do not terminate; thought has to be given to using general­ised notions of reacha­bil­ity in place of term­ina­tion.)

Some of the work on process model­l­ing has been funded by the EU. Some of the research on program analysis has been supported by Daimler­Chrysler and the EPSRC.

Teaching & Research Supervision

I have extens­ive experi­ence of teach­ing at under­grad­uate and post­graduate level in areas related to lang­uage, logic, and comp­uter science, and of super­vis­ing post­grad­uate research students.


Topics I have taught include:

  • natural language semant¬≠ics;
  • logic;
  • formal methods;
  • arti¬≠ficial intel¬≠ligence;
  • discrete mathe¬≠matics;
  • program seman¬≠tics;
  • algor¬≠ithms; data-structures;
  • automata theory;
  • embed¬≠ded systems;
  • lang¬≠uages and compil¬≠ers;
  • the rela¬≠tional model; and
  • technical stage craft,

as well as super­vis­ing group projects, indi­vidual disser­ta­tions, and post­grad­uate research students.

Supervision and Research Degrees

Assuming suitable arrangements can be made, I am happy to [co]super­vise PhD and MPhil research in natural lang­uage seman­tics, comp­uta­tional ling­uist­ics, program analy­sis (applied and theore­tical) and relat­ed areas. Poss­ible topics include:

  • Combin¬≠ing type-logical grammar with intensional seman¬≠tics
  • Model¬≠l¬≠ing ques¬≠tions and answers without poss¬≠ible worlds
  • Imple¬≠ment¬≠ing a type-theor¬≠etic analy¬≠sis of anaph¬≠ora and ellip¬≠sis
  • Type-theor¬≠etic analy¬≠sis of impera¬≠tive prog¬≠ramm¬≠ing lang¬≠uages
  • Type-theor¬≠etic analy¬≠sis of architec¬≠tural lang¬≠uages


Recent roles

  • Member of the Senior Management Team for the ESRC-funded Human Rights and Big Data Technology project (HRBDT).
  • Member of the editorial board of Semantics and Pragmatics.

Previous roles

  • President of Essex UCU
  • Head of the Human Language Technology group
  • Member of the Research Advisory Group
  • Postgraduate Director
  • Member of the editorial board of Linguistics and Philosophy.
  • Chair of Postgraduate Curriculum Development
  • Chair of Linguistics‚Äô Postgraduate Examination Board
  • ‚Ķ and many more!

Author: Dr Chris Fox · Round Peg

Created: 2021-03-05 Fri 09:23