Hi! I'm Shane, an Assistant Professor in Linguistics at the University of Washington.

My research uses computational, logical, and experimental methods to address questions at the foundations of natural language semantics and cognitive science. Much of my work has been driven by the following question: in what ways does human cognition shape the structure of the natural languages that we speak? To that end, I have pursued explanations of semantic universals and of compositionality in terms of their impact on the learnability of meaning systems. Related interests include animal communication and expressivism in the theory of communication.

Before coming to Washington, I was (after a brief visit at Institut Jean Nicod) a postdoc at the Institute for Logic, Language and Computation at Universiteit van Amsterdam, on the project Cognitive Semantics and Quantities. Before that, I did my PhD in Philosophy and Symbolic Systems at Stanford University. During Summer 2016, I was a research software engineering intern in the Research and Machine Intelligence division of Google. Before that, I studied Philosophy, Mathematics, and Computer Science at The Johns Hopkins University.

You can reach me via snail or electronic mail:

Guggenheim Hall, room 418D
Seattle, Washington 98195

shanest AT uw DOT edu


Journal Articles

Shane Steinert-Threlkeld and Jakub Szymanik, "Ease of Learning Explains Semantic Universals", Cognition, vol 195, no. XX, pp. XX. official preprint code

Shane Steinert-Threlkeld, "Towards the Emergence of Non-trivial Compositionality", Philosophy of Science, forthcoming. preprint code

Shane Steinert-Threlkeld, "An Explanation of the Veridical Uniformity Universal", Journal of Semantics, forthcoming. preprint code

Shane Steinert-Threlkeld and Jakub Szymanik, "Learnability and Semantic Universals", Semantics & Pragmatics, vol 12 issue 4. early access code

Peter Hawke and Shane Steinert-Threlkeld, "Informational Dynamics of Epistemic Possibility Modals", Synthese, vol 195 no 10, pp. 4309-4342. official

Shane Steinert-Threlkeld, "Compositional Signaling in a Complex World", Journal of Logic, Language, and Information, vol 25 no 3, pp. 379-397. official code

Shane Steinert-Threlkeld, "Compositionality and Competition in Monkey Alert Calls", Theoretical Linguistics, vol 42 no 1-2, pp. 159-171. official local

Shane Steinert-Threlkeld, "Some Properties of Iterated Languages", Journal of Logic, Language, and Information, vol 25 no 2, pp. 191-213. official local

Shane Steinert-Threlkeld and Thomas F. Icard, III., "Iterating semantic automata", Linguistics and Philosophy, vol 36 no 2, pp. 151-173. official

Grigori Mints and Shane Steinert-Threlkeld, "ADC Method of Proof Search in Intuitionistic Propositional Natural Deduction", Journal of Logic and Computation, vol 26 no 1, pp. 395-408. official

Shane Steinert-Threlkeld, Siamak Ardekani, Jose L.V. Mejino, Landon Todd Detwiler, James F. Brinkley, Michael Halle, Ron Kikinis, Raimond L. Winslow, Michael I. Miller, and J. Tilak Ratnanather, "Ontological Labels for Automated Location of Anatomical Shape Differences", Journal of Biomedical Informatics, vol 45 no 3, pp. 522-527. official

Conference Proceedings

Shane Steinert-Threlkeld, "Quantifiers in natural language optimize the simplicity/informativeness trade-off", Proceedings of the 22nd Amsterdam Colloquium, forthcoming.

Fausto Carcassi, Shane Steinert-Threlkeld (co-first), and Jakub Szymanik, "The emergence of monotone quantifiers via iterated learning", Proceedings of the 41st Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2019). [paper, code]

Iris van de Pol, Shane Steinert-Threlkeld, and Jakub Szymanik, "Complexity and learnability in the explanation of semantic universals", Proceedings of the 41st Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2019). [paper, code]

Lewis O'Sullivan and Shane Steinert-Threlkeld, Neural Models of the Psychosemantics of "Most", Proceedings of the 9th Workshop on Cognitive Modeling and Computational Linguistics (CMCL2019). [paper, poster, code]

Shane Steinert-Threlkeld, "Paying Attention to Function Words", Emergent Communication Workshop @ 32nd Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems (NeurIPS 2018). [paper, poster, code]

Sandro Pezzelle, Shane Steinert-Threlkeld, Raffaella Bernardi, Jakub Szymanik, "Some of them can Be Guessed! Exploring the Effect of Linguistic Context in Predicting Quantifiers", Proceedings of the 56th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL 2018) [paper, code].

Shane Steinert-Threlkeld, "Uniform Definability in Assertability Semantics", Proceedings of the 21st Amsterdam Colloquium, eds. Alexandre Cremers, Thom van Gessel, and Floris Roelofsen, pp. 445-454.

Shane Steinert-Threlkeld, Gert-Jan Munneke, and Jakub Szymanik, "Alternative Representations in Formal Semantics: A case study of quantifiers", Proceedings of the 20th Amsterdam Colloquium, eds. Thomas Brochhagen, Floris Roelofsen, and Nadine Thelier, pp. 368-379.

Peter Hawke and Shane Steinert-Threlkeld, "Informational Dynamics of `Might' Assertions", Proceedings of Logic, Rationality, and Interaction (LORI-V), eds. Wiebe van der Hoek, Wes Holliday, and Wen-fang Wang, pp. 143-155. (DOI: 10.1007/978-3-662-48561-3_12)

Shane Steinert-Threlkeld, "Learning to Use Function Words in Signaling Games", Proceedings of Information Dynamics in Artificial Societies (IDAS-14), eds. Emiliano Lorini and Laurent Perrussel.

Shane Steinert-Threlkeld, "On the Decidability of Iterated Languages", Proceedings of Philosophy, Mathematics, Linguistics: Aspects of Interaction (PhML2014), ed. Oleg Prosorov, pp. 215-224.

Jakub Szymanik, Shane Steinert-Threlkeld, Marcin Zajenkowski, and Thomas F. Icard, III., "Automata and Complexity in Multiple-Quantifier Sentence Verification", Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Cognitive Modeling (ICCM)

Shane Steinert-Threlkeld, Siamak Ardekani, Jose L.V. Mejino, Landon Todd Detwiler, James F. Brinkley, Michael Halle, Ron Kikinis, Raimond L. Winslow, Michael I. Miller, and J. Tilak Ratnanather, "Ontological Labels for Automated Location of Left-Ventricular Remodeling", Proceedings of 2011 Fifth IEEE International Conference on Semantic Computing, pp. 572- 573 (DOI: 10.1109/ICSC.2011.99)

In Progress

Peter Hawke and Shane Steinert-Threlkeld, paper on epistemic modals, under revision.

Shane Steinert-Threlkeld, Emmanuel Chemla and Philippe Schlenker, paper on the evolution of general calls and scalar reasoning, under review.

Shane Steinert-Threlkeld and Zachary Steinert-Threlkeld, "Social Network Structure and the Repression-Dissent Puzzle", in prep.

Sonia Ramotowska, Shane Steinert-Threlkeld, Leendert van Maanen and Jakub Szymanik, experimental paper on "most" vs "more than half", in prep.

Other Publications

Shane Steinert-Threlkeld, "Communication and Computation: New Questions About Compositionality", PhD Dissertation, Stanford University (reprinted as ILLC Dissertation Series 2017-05).

Shane Steinert-Threlkeld, "Lambda Calculi", Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Shane Steinert-Threlkeld and J Tilak Ratnanather, "Open standards, web-based mathlets: making interactive tutorials using the html5 canvas element, Loci/JOMA.



  • LING 571: Deep Processing Techniques for Natural Language Processing. [Aut '19, Aut '20]
  • LING 572: Advanced Statistical Methods for Natural Language Processing. [Win '20]
  • LING 575N: Deep Learning for NLP [Spr '21]
  • LING 575: Topics in Computational Linguistics
    • Win '20: Analyzing Neural Language Models
    • Spr '21: TBD

Summer Schools

Amsterdam + Stanford

  • Causality, Decision Making, and Games @ ILLC (with Robert van Rooij)
  • Neural network methods for quantifiers @ ILLC, Universiteit van Amsterdam
  • PHIL 152: Computability and Logic @ Stanford (syllabus)
  • PHIL 23A: Cognitive Science of Mathematics @ Stanford (syllabus)
  • PHIL 150e: Logic in Action @ Stanford (with Peter Hawke and Thomas F. Icard, III.)


  • Wouter Posdijk, MSc Logic: "Simplicity and informativeness trade-off in the semantic typology of quantifiers"
  • Lewis O'Sullivan, MSc Brain and Cognitive Sciences: "Neural models of context-dependent quantifier verification in the visual identification paradigm"
  • Two BS in AI theses: machine learning for semantic universals
  • Two BS in AI theses: probabilistic models of syllogistic reasoning



  • Journals: Semantics & Pragmatics (2); Mind; Noûs; Mind & Language; Erkenntnis (2); Synthese (2); The Review of Symbolic Logic (2); Journal of Logic, Language and Information (2); Journal of Semantics; Ergo; Frontiers in Psychology (Language Sciences); Theoria (2); Logic Journal of the IGPL
  • Conferences: ACL; EMNLP; ICLR; SALT; Amsterdam Colloquium; CogSci; Fourth Workshop on Logic, Rationality, and Interaction (LORI-IV)

Conference Organization

Program committee:

Organizing committee:

  • 1st, 2nd, 3rd CSLI Workshop on Logic, Rationality, and Intelligent Interaction
  • 1st, 2nd Prometheus Undergraduate Philosophy Conference


Expository Material / Resources

  • Tutorial introduction to neural networks: slides and Jupyter notebook, explaining and introducing neural networks. Includes a worked example with quantifiers (in PyTorch) and additional practical advice. (Largely supersedes the tutorial linked below, though that one can still be useful for understanding TensorFlow's estimators interfactor.)
  • Decision and Game Theory for AI: lecture notes (in the form of Jupyter Notebooks) for a mini-course on decision and game theory for undergraduates in AI. Includes simple implementations of things like CDT/EDT, replicator dynamic, reinforcement learning in signaling games.
  • Introduction to Neural Networks via TensorFlow and its Estimators library, with an eye to quantifiers: an interactive Jupyter notebook that introduces the basics of training neural networks with TensorFlow. The main example is designed with an eye towards training networks to learn quantifiers.
  • Generate Dot Arrays for Psycholinguistic Experiments: Python script for generating colored dot arrays, including the four stimulus type from Pietroski et al 2009, "Psychosemantics of `most'".
  • Replicator Dynamics Examples: this repository has simple Python code that makes it easy to run and visualize simulations of the replicator and replicator-mutator dynamics in evolutionary game theory. It includes matrices and plots for common examples.
  • Joyce's Argument for Probabilism: this is a Mathematica notebook that carries out the construction in the proof of Joyce's most general argument for probabilism from his 2009 "Accuracy and Coherence: Prospects for an Alethic Epistemology of Partial Belief"

Erdös Number

My Erdös Number is 4, via at least three paths:

  • Grigori Mints - Yuri Matiyasevitch - Richard Guy - Paul Erdös
  • Michael I Miller - Ulf Grenander - Oved Shisha - Paul Erdös
  • Raimond L Winslow - Daniel Q. Naiman - János Pach - Paul Erdös