Hi! I'm Shane, a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Institute for Logic, Language and Computation at Universiteit van Amsterdam, on the project Cognitive Semantics and Quantities. You can find out more by looking at my CV or just scrolling down.

My research addresses questions at the foundations of natural language semantics and cognitive science using a variety of methods: philosophical, logical, computational, and experimental. 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 Amsterdam, I was briefly a visiting researcher at Institut Jean Nicod at École Normale Supérieure. 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:

P.C. Hoofthuis, room 6.27
Spuistraat 134
1012 VB Amsterdam

S.N.M.Steinert-Threlkeld AT uva DOT nl


Journal Articles

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

Shane Steinert-Threlkeld and Jakub Szymanik, "Learnability and Semantic Universals", Semantics & Pragmatics, forthcoming.

Peter Hawke and Shane Steinert-Threlkeld, "Informational Dynamics of Epistemic Possibility Modals", Synthese, vol 195 no 10, pp. 4309-4342 (DOI: 10.1007/s11229-016-1216-8)

Shane Steinert-Threlkeld, "Compositional Signaling in a Complex World", Journal of Logic, Language, and Information, vol 25 no 3, pp. 379-397 (DOI: 10.1007/s10849-016-9236-9)

Shane Steinert-Threlkeld, "Compositionality and Competition in Monkey Alert Calls", Theoretical Linguistics, vol 42 no 1-2, pp. 159-171 (DOI: 10.1515/tl-2016-0009)

Shane Steinert-Threlkeld, "Some Properties of Iterated Languages", Journal of Logic, Language, and Information, vol 25 no 2, pp. 191-213 (DOI: 10.1007/s10849-016-9239-6)

Shane Steinert-Threlkeld and Thomas F. Icard, III., "Iterating semantic automata", Linguistics and Philosophy, vol 36 no 2, pp. 151-173 (DOI: 10.1007/s10988-013-9132-6)

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 (DOI: 10.1093/logcom/ext032)

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 (DOI: 10.1016/j.jbi/2012.02.013)

Conference Proceedings

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

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) (arXiv: 1806.00354).

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

Shane Steinert-Threlkeld and Jakub Szymanik, "Ease of Learning Explains Semantic Universals", under review.

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

Shane Steinert-Threlkeld, "Function Words and Context Variability", under review. (PDF)

Iris van de Pol, Shane Steinert-Threlkeld, and Jakub Szymanik, paper on Kolomogorov complexity of quantifiers, under review.

Fausto Carcassi, Shane Steinert-Threlkeld (co-first), and Jakub Szymanik, paper on emergence of monotone quantifiers via iterated learning, under review.

Lewis O'Sullivan and Shane Steinert-Threlkeld (co-first), paper on neural models of the meaning of "most", under review.

Sonia Romatowska, Shane Steinert-Threlkeld, Leendert van Maanen and Jakub Szymanik, experimental paper on "most" vs "more than half", under review.

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

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


Full Courses

  • 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.)

Summer Schools


  • 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"



  • Journals: Semantics & Pragmatics (2); Noûs; Erkenntnis; Synthese; 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 2019; EMNLP 2018; Amsterdam Colloquium 2017; 37th, 38th, 39th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society; Fourth Workshop on Logic, Rationality, and Interaction (LORI-IV); Berkeley-Stanford-Davis graduate conference in philosophy.

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