Reinhard Blutner

 Dr. rer. nat. habil.

University of Amsterdam

R.B. is a student of theoretical physics, cognitive psychology, theoretical linguistics, and philosophy of mind. He finished a Ph.D. in Theoretical High Energy Physics, Karl Marx University of Leipzig, with a dissertation on Multiple Particle Spectra in the Multi-Regge Model (1975). Further, he finshed a habilitation thesis in Theoretical Linguistics at the Humboldt University Berlin (1995).

R.B. has started his scientific carrier at the East German Academy of science. Later, he taught linguistics at the Humboldt University of Berlin and artificial intelligence at the University of Amsterdam (where he also gave courses on the philosophy of mind, intensional logic, and quantum cognition). Further, he gave courses at the University of Krakow, the Stanford University (Nassli), the University of Bloomington (Nassli), the University of Oslo, the Universities of Stockholm and Ljubljana (ESSLLI), and at many places in Germany.

R.B. has several books and about hundred publications. His research interests concern the semantics and pragmatics of natural language, bidirectional optimality theory, lexical pragmatics, symbolic-connectionist integration, quantum cognition, and reasoning with uncertainty. Since his retirement in summer 2013 his work is concentrated on quantum cognition, including applications in the cognitive science of music.

 Research Interests


Quantum Cognition

Quantum Cognition is a research field that applies ideas from quantum physics and quantum information science in order to develop radically new models of a variety of cognitive phenomena ranging from human memory, information retrieval, and human language to decision making, social interaction, personality psychology, and philosophy of mind. For details see

Selected papers

Quantum cognition and bounded rationality (with Peter beim Graben). Syntheses DOI 10.1007/s11229-015-0928-5. Published online 2015.

A quantum probability perspective of borderline vagueness (with Emmanuel Pothos and Peter Bruza). TopiCS 5 (4), 2013, 711-736.

Questions and Answers in an Orthoalgebraic Approach. Journal of Logic, Language, and Information 21 (3), 2012, 237-277. DOI 10.1007/s10849-012-9158-0

Two Qubits for C.G. Jung (with Elena Hochnadel). Cognitive Systems Research 11(3), 243-259, 2010.

Concepts and Bounded Rationality: An Application of Niestegge’s Approach to Conditional Quantum Probabilities. In Luigi Accardi, et al. (eds., Foundations of Probability and Physics-5. Vol. 1101. American Institute of Physics Conference Proceedings. New-York. pp. 302-10, 2008.


Quantum Musicology

Using methods of Quantum Cognition, Quantum Musicology can be developed as a new field of cognitive musicology. It integrats insights from group theory (symmetries and invariances) with a novel conception of musical forces based on modern gauge theory. Applications concern the explanation static and dynamic attraction phenomena as well as the foundation of musical emotions.

Selected papers

Quantum approaches to music cognition  Journal of Mathematical Psychology 91, 38-50, 2019. [first author: Peter beim Graben].

Toward a Gauge Theory of Musical Forces. In J. A. de Barros, B. Coecke & E. Pothos (Eds.), Quantum Interaction. 10th International Conference (QI 2016), LNCS 10106 (pp. 99-111). Berlin, Heidelberg, New York: Springer (2017). First author: Peter beim Graben

Modelling tonal attraction: tonal hierarchies, interval cycles, and quantum probabilities. In: Logic, Music and Quantum Information. Edited by M. L. Dalla Chiara, R. Giuntini, E. Negri and S. Smets. Spinger, forthcoming. DOI 10.1007/s00500-015-1801-7. Published online 2015


Lexical Pragmatics

Lexical Pragmatics is a particular account of the division of labor between lexical semantics and pragmatics. It combines the idea of (radical) semantic under-specification in the lexicon with a theory of pragmatic strengthening based on conversational implicatures. In the core of this approach is a precise treatment of Atlas & Levinson's (1981) Q- and I-principles and the formalization of the balance between informativeness and efficiency in natural language processing (Horn's 1984 division of pragmatic labor).

Selected papers

Conversational Implicature and lexical pragmatics. In: Proceedings of the AAAI Spring Symposium on Conversational Implicature. Stanford 1996, pp. 1-9. [with Annette Leßmöllmann and Rob van der Sandt]

Lexical pragmatics.  In: R. van der Sandt, R. Blutner, and M. Bierwisch (Eds.), From Underspecification to Interpretation. IBM Working Papers 29 (ISSN 0946-7221), Heidelberg  1997, pp. 55-89. Also  published  in  Journal of Semantics 15, 115-162, 1998

Pragmatics and the lexicon. In: Laurence R. Horn & Gregory Ward (Eds.) Handbook of Pragmatics, Oxford, Blackwell, 2004  [pdf version with all fonts inclusive, 1.5 MB]

Lexical semantics and pragmatics.  In:  Linguistische Berichte, Sonderheft 10, 27-58 (2002): Semantics. Ed. by Fritz Hamm and Thomas Ede Zimmermann.  (ISSN 0935-9245).

Two case studies in lexical pragmatics. In E. Németh & K. Bibok (eds.)  Pragmatics and the Flexibility of Word Meaning. Elsevier Science, Amsterdam, 2001  (ISBN: 0-08-043971-3). Pp. 11-28 [with T. Solstad]. Lexikalische Pragmatik. In F. Liedtke & A. Tuchen (Eds.), Metzler-Handbuch Pragmatik). Stuttgart: J.B. Metzler Verlag 2019


BiOT (Bidirectional Optimality Theory)

The human language faculty is a bidirectional system, i.e. it can be used by processes of approximately equal computational complexity to understand and to generate utterances of a language. We assume the general framework of optimality theory and treat the language faculty as a constraint-based system where the very same constraints are uses both in comprehension and in generation. In the simplest case comprehension and generation
can be modelled by unidirectional optimization: finding an optimal interpretations for a given speech input in the case of comprehension; producing an optimal expression for a given message in case of generation. In the simplest case, the speaker and the listener roles are strictly separated. However, there are linguistic observations which indicate that the listener’s and the speaker’s perspectives are integrated to some extent. Bidirectional
optimization is an explicit proposal for doing the integration.

Selected papers

Some aspects of optimality in natural language interpretation. In: Helen de Hoop & Henriette de Swart (eds.) Papers on Optimality Theoretic Semantics. Utrecht Institute of Linguistics OTS, December 1999, pp 1-21.
Also: Journal of Semantics 17, 189-216, 2000.

Optimality Theoretic Pragmatics and the Explicature/Implicature Distinction. In Noel Burton-Roberts (Ed.), Advances in Pragmatics. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave/MacMillan, pp. 67-89, 2007

Some Experimental Aspects of Optimality-Theoretic Pragmatics. In Enikő Németh & Károly Bibok (eds.): The Role of Data at the Semantics-Pragmatics Interface. De Gruyter, Berlin, 2010.

Bidirectional Grammar and Bidirectional Optimization (with A. Strigin). Bidirectional Grammar and Bidirectional Optimization. In Benz, Anton and Jason Mattausch (Eds.), Bidirectional Optimality Theory (pp. 221-248). Amsterdam: Benjamins, 2011.  


Neural Nets and Symbolic Reasoning

Ever since the discovery of neural networks, there has been a controversy between two modes of information processing. On the one hand, symbolic systems have proven indispensable for our understanding of higher intelligence, especially when cognitive domains like language and reasoning are examined. On the other hand, it is a matter of fact that intelligence resides in the brain, where computation appears to be organized by numerical and statistical principles and where a parallel distributed architecture is appropriate. The present claim is in line with researchers like Paul Smolensky and Peter Gärdenfors and suggests that this controversy can be resolved by a unified theory of cognition – one that integrates both aspects of cognition and assigns the proper roles to symbolic computation and numerical neural computation.

Selected papers

Nonmonotonic Inferences and Neural Networks. Synthese 141 (2), 2004

Nonmonotonic logic and neural networks. In: P. Decker, M. Stokhof, and Y. Venema (eds.), Proceedings of the 11th Amsterdam Colloquium. ILLC-Publications (ISBN 90-74795-90-0), Amsterdam 1997, pp. 85-90

Neural Networks, Penalty Logic and Optimality Theory (2005).  Unpublished paper



Many variants of Cognitive Semantics assume the existence of (mental) prototypes. This has important consequences for (formal) theories of meaning and reasoning.

Selected papers

Prototypen und Kognitive Semantik, In: G. Harras (Hg.), Jahrbuch 1993 des IDS - 'Die Ordnung der Wörter', de Gruyter, 1994, pp. 227-270

'Normality' in update semantics. In: T. Galloway & M. Simons (Eds.), SALT 5 Proceedings 1995, Cornell Linguistic Publications, Cornell University, 1996, pp. 19- 36


Compositionality and Systematicity

A feasible model of natural language semantics should account for the systematicity displayed by language understanding. The idea that compositionality alone is sufficient to guarantee systematic reasoning within a semantic system is rejected. An analysis of systematic inferences involving adjective–noun combinations with intersective adjectives illustrates that more than a compositional semantics is required for their

Selected papers

Compositionality and systematicity. In G. Bouma, I. Krämer, and J. Zwarts, Cognitive Foundations of Interpretation. Amsterdam: KNAW publications, 2007 [with Jennifer Spenader]

On compositionality and bidirectional optimization. Journal of Cognitive Science 8/2 (2007) [with Helen de Hoop & Petra Hendriks]

When compositionality fails to predict systematicity. In S. D. Levy & R. Gayler (Eds.), Compositional Connectionism in Cognitive Science. Papers from the AAAI Fall Symposium (ISBN 1-57735-214-9). Arlington: The AAAI Press, 2004, pp. 6-11  [with Petra Hendriks, Helen de Hoop, and Oren Schwarz]

Two Computational Methods of Attributive Modification in Natural Language Semantics Compared. Bachelor Thesis University of Amsterdam by M.L. de Groot (supervised by Reinhard Blutner). 


Wieder (again)

This is joint work with Gerhard Jäger. We have proposed an optimality-based account for the syntax/semantics map in the German examples with wieder (“again”) and either a definite or an indefinite object.

Selected papers

Against lexical decomposition in syntax.  In Proceedings of the Fifteenth Annual Conference, IATL 7 (A.Z. Wyner, ed.), University of Haifa 2000, pp. 113-137 [with G. Jäger]

Competition and interpretation: The German adverbs of repetition [with G. Jäger]. Unpublished manuscript 1999. This version is exploiting ideas that are different from those of the published paper.


Formal Semantics

This research field has been mainly developed in the tradition of Frege and Montague. Traditionally, it is seen to conflict with the field of Cognitive Semantics.  I have worked out several attempts to reconcile both positions (see also Neural Nets and Symbolic Reasoning).

Selected papers

Dynamic generalized quantifiers and existential sentences in natural language. Journal of Semantics 10, 33-64, 1993

Formal Pragmatics. To appear in Yan Huang (Ed.),  [Oxford] Handbook of Pragmatics (2015). Online version available as Oxford Handbooks Online, Sept. 2013. DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199697960.013.002

Questions and Answers in an Orthoalgebraic Approach. Journal of Logic, Language, and Information 21 (3), 2012, 237-277. DOI 10.1007/s10849-012-9158-0

Two Qubits for C.G. Jung (with Elena Hochnadel). Cognitive Systems Research 11(3), 243-259, 2010.