Shane Steinert-Threlkeld

Computational Linguist and Cognitive Scientist | | (lab)


University of Washington

Universiteit van Amsterdam

École Normale Supérieure

Google Reserach and Machine Intelligence


2011-2017 PhD., Stanford University

2007-2011 B.A., The Johns Hopkins University


2022-2023 UW Linguistics Fund

2021-2022 UW Royalty Research Fund

2016-2017 Mellon Foundation Dissertation Completion Fellowship

2011-2016 Patrick Suppes Fellowship in Philosophy of Science

2007-2011 Hodson Trust Scholar



2022 Milica Denić, Shane Steinert-Threlkeld, and Jakub Szymanik “Indefinite Pronouns Optimize the Simplicity/Informativeness Trade-Off,” Cognitive Science 46, no. 5 (2022): e13142, doi:10.1111/cogs.13142.

2022 Shane Steinert-Threlkeld “Explaining semantic typology, forms and all,” Trends in Cognitive Sciences (2022), doi:10.1016/j.tics.2022.02.001.

2021 Shane Steinert-Threlkeld “Quantifiers in Natural Language: Efficient Communication and Degrees of Semantic Universals,” Entropy 23, no. 10 (2021): 1335, doi:10.3390/e23101335.

2021 Shane Steinert-Threlkeld, Philippe Schlenker, and Emmanuel Chemla “Referential and General Calls in Primate Semantics,” Linguistics and Philosophy 44, no. 6 (2021): 1317–1342, doi:10.1007/s10988-021-09322-1.

2021 Fausto Carcassi, Shane Steinert-Threlkeld, and Jakub Szymanik “Monotone Quantifiers Emerge via Iterated Learning,” Cognitive Science 45, no. 8 (2021): e13027, doi:10.1111/cogs.13027.

2021 Shane Steinert-Threlkeld and Zachary Steinert-Threlkeld “How Social Networks Affect the Repression-Dissent Puzzle,” PLOS ONE 16, no. 5 (2021): e0250784, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0250784.

2020 Shane Steinert-Threlkeld and Jakub Szymanik “Ease of Learning Explains Semantic Universals,” Cognition 195 (2020): 104076, doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2019.104076.

2020 Shane Steinert-Threlkeld “Toward the Emergence of Nontrivial Compositionality,” Philosophy of Science 87, no. 5 (2020): 897–909, doi:10.1086/710628.

2020 Shane Steinert-Threlkeld “An Explanation of the Veridical Uniformity Universal,” Journal of Semantics 37, no. 1 (2020): 129–144, doi:10.1093/jos/ffz019.

2020 Peter Hawke and Shane Steinert-Threlkeld “Semantic Expressivism for Epistemic Modals,” Linguistics and Philosophy 44, no. 2 (2021): 475–511, doi:10.1007/s10988-020-09295-7.

2019 Shane Steinert-Threlkeld and Jakub Szymanik “Learnability and Semantic Universals,” Semantics & Pragmatics 12, no. 4 (2019), doi:10.3765/sp.12.4.

2016/2018 Peter Hawke and Shane Steinert-Threlkeld “Informational Dynamics of Epistemic Possibility Modals,” Synthese 195, no. 10 (2018): 4309–4342, doi:10.1007/s11229-016-1216-8.

2016 Shane Steinert-Threlkeld “Compositional Signaling in a Complex World,” Journal of Logic, Language and Information 25, no. 3 (2016): 379–397, doi:10.1007/s10849-016-9236-9.

2016 Shane Steinert-Threlkeld “Compositionality and Competition in Monkey Alert Calls,” Theoretical Linguistics 42, no. 1–2 (2016): 159–171, doi:10.1515/tl-2016-0009.

2016 Shane Steinert-Threlkeld “Some Properties of Iterated Languages,” Journal of Logic, Language and Information 25, no. 2 (2016): 191–213, doi:10.1007/s10849-016-9239-6.

2013/2016 Grigori Mints and Shane Steinert-Threlkeld “ADC Method of Proof Search in Intuitionistic Propositional Natural Deduction,” Journal of Logic and Computation 26, no. 1 (2016): 395–408, doi:10.1093/logcom/ext032.

2013 Shane Steinert-Threlkeld and Thomas F. Icard III. “Iterating Semantic Automata,” Linguistics and Philosophy 36, no. 2 (2013): 151–173, doi:10.1007/s10988-013-9132-6.

2012 Shane Steinert-Threlkeld, Siamak Ardekani, J.L.V. Jose LV Mejino, Landon T L.T. Detwiler, J.F. James F Brinkley, Michael Halle, Ron Kikinis, Raimond L R.L. Winslow, M.I. Michael I Miller, and J.T. Tilak Ratnanather “Ontological Labels for Automated Location of Anatomical Shape Differences,” Journal of Biomedical Informatics 45, no. 3 (2012): 522–527, doi:10.1016/j.jbi.2012.02.013.


(NB: An * next to the year indicates abstract, as opposed to full paper, review.)

2022 Qingxia Guo, Nathaniel Imel, and Shane Steinert-Threlkeld “A Database for Modal Semantic Typology,” in Proceedings of the 4th Workshop on Research in Computational Linguistic Typology and Multilingual NLP (presented at the NAACL-SIGTYP 2022, Seattle, Washington: Association for Computational Linguistics, 2022), 42–51,

2022 C.m. Downey, Fei Xia, Gina-Anne Levow, and Shane Steinert-Threlkeld “A Masked Segmental Language Model for Unsupervised Natural Language Segmentation,” in Proceedings of the 19th SIGMORPHON Workshop on Computational Research in Phonetics, Phonology, and Morphology (presented at the NAACL-SIGMORPHON 2022, Seattle, Washington: Association for Computational Linguistics, 2022), 39–50,

2022 Chih-chan Tien and Shane Steinert-Threlkeld “Bilingual Alignment Transfers to Multilingual Alignment for Unsupervised Parallel Text Mining,” in Proceedings of the 60th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers) (presented at the ACL 2022, Dublin, Ireland: Association for Computational Linguistics, 2022), 8696–8706,

2022 Shane Steinert-Threlkeld, Xuhui Zhou, Zeyu Liu, and C. M. Downey “Emergent Communication Fine-Tuning (EC-FT) for Pretrained Language Models,” in Emergent Communication Workshop at ICLR 2022, 2022,

2021 Naomi Shapiro, Amandalynne Paullada, and Shane Steinert-Threlkeld “A Multilabel Approach to Morphosyntactic Probing,” in Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2021 (presented at the EMNLP-Findings 2021, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic: Association for Computational Linguistics, 2021), 4486–4524, doi:10.18653/v1/2021.findings-emnlp.382.

2021 Jaap Jumelet, Milica Denic, Jakub Szymanik, Dieuwke Hupkes, and Shane Steinert-Threlkeld “Language Models Use Monotonicity to Assess NPI Licensing,” in Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: ACL-IJCNLP 2021 (presented at the Findings 2021, Online: Association for Computational Linguistics, 2021), 4958–4969, doi:10.18653/v1/2021.findings-acl.439.

2021 Iris van de Pol, Paul Lodder, Leendert van Maanen, Shane Steinert-Threlkeld, and Jakub Szymanik “Quantifiers Satisfying Semantic Universals Are Simpler,” Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society 43, no. 43 (2021),

2020 Chuanrong Li, Lin Shengshuo, Zeyu Liu, Xinyi Wu, Xuhui Zhou, and Shane Steinert-Threlkeld “Linguistically-Informed Transformations (LIT): A Method for Automatically Generating Contrast Sets,” in Proceedings of the Third BlackboxNLP Workshop on Analyzing and Interpreting Neural Networks for NLP (presented at the BlackboxNLP-EMNLP 2020, Online: Association for Computational Linguistics, 2020), 126–135, doi:10.18653/v1/2020.blackboxnlp-1.12.

2020 Nur Geffen Lan, Emmanuel Chemla, and Shane Steinert-Threlkeld “On the Spontaneous Emergence of Discrete and Compositional Signals,” in Proceedings of the 58th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Stroudsburg, PA, USA: Association for Computational Linguistics, 2020), 4794–4800, doi:10.18653/v1/2020.acl-main.433.

2020* Milica Denić, Shane Steinert-Threlkeld, and Jakub Szymanik “Complexity/Informativeness Trade-Off in the Domain of Indefinite Pronouns,” in Proceedings of Semantics and Linguistic Theory (SALT 30), vol. 30, 2020, 166–184, doi:10.3765/salt.v30i0.4811.

2020* Sonia Ramotowska, Shane Steinert-Threlkeld, Leendert Van Maanen, and Jakub Szymanik “Most, but Not More Than Half, Is Proportion-Dependent and Sensitive to Individual Differences,” Proceedings of Sinn Und Bedeutung 24, no. 2 (2020): 165–182, doi:10.18148/sub/2020.v24i2.891.

2019* Shane Steinert-Threlkeld “Quantifiers in Natural Language Optimize the Simplicity/Informativeness Trade-Off,” in Proceedings of the 22nd Amsterdam Colloquium, ed. Julian J Schl"{o}der, Dean McHugh, and Floris Roelofsen, 2019, 513–522.

2019 Fausto Carcassi, Shane Steinert-Threlkeld, and Jakub Szymanik “The Emergence of Monotone Quantifiers via Iterated Learning,” in Proceedings of the 41st Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2019), 2019, 190–196,

2019 Iris van de Pol, Shane Steinert-Threlkeld, and Jakub Szymanik “Complexity and Learnability in the Explanation of Semantic Universals of Quantifiers,” in Proceedings of the 41st Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2019), 2019, 3015–3021,

2019 Lewis O’Sullivan and Shane Steinert-Threlkeld “Neural Models of the Psychosemantics of ‘Most’,” in Proceedings of the Workshop on Cognitive Modeling and Computational Linguistics (Stroudsburg, PA, USA: Association for Computational Linguistics, 2019), 140–151, doi:10.18653/v1/W19-2916.

2018 Shane Steinert-Threlkeld “Paying Attention to Function Words,” in Emergent Communication Workshop @ NeurIPS 2018, 2018,

2018 Sandro Pezzelle, Shane Steinert-Threlkeld, Raffaella Bernardi, and Jakub Szymanik “Some of Them Can Be Guessed! Exploring the Effect of Linguistic Context in Predicting Quantifiers,” in Proceedings of the 56th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 2: Short Papers) (presented at the ACL 2018, Melbourne, Australia: Association for Computational Linguistics, 2018), 114–119, doi:10.18653/v1/P18-2019.

2017* Shane Steinert-Threlkeld “Uniform Definability in Assertability Semantics,” in Proceedings of the 21st Amsterdam Colloquium, ed. Alexandre Cremers, Thom van Gessel, and Floris Roelofsen, 2017, 445–454.

2015 Peter Hawke and Shane Steinert-Threlkeld “Informational Dynamics of ‘Might’ Assertions,” in Logic, Rationality, and Interaction, ed. Wiebe van der Hoek, Wesley H. Holliday, and Wen-fang Wang, Lecture Notes in Computer Science (Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer, 2015), 143–155, doi:10.1007/978-3-662-48561-3_12.

2015* Shane Steinert-Threlkeld, Gert-Jan Munneke, and Jakub Szymanik “Alternative Representations in Formal Semantics: A Case Study of Quantifiers,” in Proceedings of the 20th Amsterdam Colloquium, ed. Thomas Brochhagen, Floris Roelofsen, and Nadine Thelier, 2015, 368–378.

2014 Shane Steinert-Threlkeld “On the Decidability of Iterated Languages,” in Proceedings of Philosophy, Mathematics, Linguistics: Aspects of Interaction (PhML2014), ed. Oleg Prosorov, 2014, 215–224.

2013 Jakub Szymanik, Shane Steinert-Threlkeld, Marcin Zajenkowski, and Thomas F. Icard III. “Automata and Complexity in Multiple-Quantifier Sentence Verification,” in Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Cognitive Modeling, 2013.

2011 S. Steinert-Threlkeld, S. Ardekani, J.L.V. Mejinoz, L.T. Detwilerz, J.F. Brinkleyz, M. Halle, R. Kikinis, R.L. Winslowy, M.I. Miller, and J.T. Ratnanather “Ontological Labels for Automated Location of Left Ventricular Remodeling,” in Proceedings - 5th IEEE International Conference on Semantic Computing, ICSC 2011, 2011, doi:10.1109/ICSC.2011.99.


2017 Shane Steinert-Threlkeld “Communication and Computation: New Questions About Compositionality” (PhD Dissertation, Stanford University, 2017),

2011 Shane Steinert-Threlkeld “Lambda Calculi,” The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2011),

2009 Shane Steinert-Threlkeld, J. Tilak Ratnanather, and Tilak Ratnanather “Open Standards, Web-Based Mathlets: Making Interactive Tutorials Using the Html5 Canvas Element,” Loci: Developers 1 (2009), doi:10.4169/loci003340.

Invited Talks

An Efficient Communication Analysis of Modal Typology

05/19/2022 Cognitive Semantics and Quantities closing workshop

Unnatural Language Semantics

03/30/2022 Center for Linguistic Theory and Studies in Probability (CLASP) @ Gothenburg

03/04/2022 Allyson Ettinger lab @ Chicago

Two Approaches to Explaining Semantic Universals

09/08/2021 Computational Psycholinguistics Lab @ MIT (PI: Levy)

06/17/2021 Konstanz Philosophy Colloquium

02/17/2021 Language Change: Theoretical and Empirical Perspectives (@ Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

10/01/2020 Computation and Langauge Lab @ Berkeley (PI: Piantadosi)

Cognitive Science to / from NLP

02/22/2021 Montana State University Computer Science Colloquium

Degrees of Monotonicity

06/12/2019 Workshop in Honor of Johan van Benthem’s 70th Birthday

Explaining Semantic Universals

05/24/2019 Social Models of Meaning Acquisition (U Warsaw)

04/17/2019 Universität Osnabrück Institute of Cognitive Science Colloquium

04/05/2019 AwesomeIT Symposium (U Amsterdam)

03/07/2019 Logic and Interactive Rationality Seminar (ILLC, Amsterdam)

02/20/2019 University of Washington Linguistics Colloquium

01/24/2019 Cornell University Linguistics Colloquium

Ease of Learning Explains Semantic Universals

12/15/2018 Workshop on Universals in the Modal Domain (Utrecht)

09/10/2018 Cognition, Language and Communication Seminar (Amsterdam)

11/14/2017 Computational Linguistics Seminar (Amsterdam)

11/10/2017 Paris-Amsterdam-London Meeting

09/28/2017 Cognitive Semantics and Quantities kick-off workshop

How to be an Expressivist About Epistemic Modals

06/26/2017 Inquisitiveness Below and Beyond the Sentence Boundary (with Peter Hawke)

Pragmatic Expressivism and Non-disjunctive Properties

03/22/2017 Institut Jean Nicod

Compositional Signaling in a Complex World

12/11/2015 Center for Logic, Language, and Mind (Stockholm University)

Signaling Games

12/10/2015 Higher Seminar in Theoretical Philosophy (Stockholm University)

Epistemic Modality and the Dynamics of Discourse

05/31/2015 Fourth CSLI Workshop on Logic, Rationality and Intelligent Interaction

04/14/2015 Stanford Mathematical Logic Seminar

Learning to Use Function Words in Signaling Games

12/11/2013 Knowledge, Argumentation and Games in Amsterdam

Iterating Semantic Automata

01/09/2014 Cognition and Language Workshop

05/14/2013 Stanford Mathematical Logic Seminar

06/02/2012 First CSLI Workshop on Logic, Rationality and Intelligent Interaction



LING 571 Deep Processing Methods for NLP: Aut ’19, ’20, ’21

LING 572 Advanced Statistical Methods for NLP: Win ’20

LING 574 Deep Learning for NLP: Spr ’21, ’22

LING 575 Analyzing Neural Language Models: Win ’20, Spr ’21, ’22


Causality, Decisions, and Games (with Robert van Rooij)

Neural Network Methods for Quantifiers


PHIL 152 Computability and Logic

PHIL 23A Cognitive Science of Mathematics

PHIL 150e Logic in Action (with Thomas Icard and Peter Hawke)

Summer Schools

Learnability of Quantifiers (with Jakub Szymanik): ESSLLI 2019; NASSLLI 2022

Quantification and Computation (with Jakub Szymanik): ESSLLI 2014


PhD students

Primary Advisor

Committee Member

Graduate Student Representative (external member)

CLMS theses

2022 Nathaniel Imel (PhD Student, Logic and Philosophy of Science @ UC Irvine), “Modals in natural language optimize the simplicity/informativeness tradeoff”

2022 Katya Simpson (Software Engineer @ Twitter), ” “Obama never said that”: Evaluating fact-checks for topical consistency and quality”

2021 Megan Barnes (Software Engineer @ Google), “Latent Compositional Representations for English Function Word Comprehension”

2021 Jessica Sweeney (Data Scientist @ Coastal Community Bank), “Comparing Methods for Automatic Identification of Mislabeled Data”

2021 Shunjie Wang (Data Scientist AI/NLP @ Happify Health), “Evaluating Transformer’s Ability to Learn Mildly Context-Sensitive Languages”

2021 Wes Rose (Language Engineer @ Amazon), “Toward the Emergence of Quantifiers”

2021 Devin Johnson (PhD student, Linguistics @ Northwestern), “Semantic Universals in Bayesian Learning of Quantifiers”

2020 Benny Longwill (Research Engineer @ ETS), “The Suitability of Generative Adversarial Training for BERT Natural Language Generation”

2020 Chih-chan Tien (PhD student, CS @ Chicago), “Bilingual alignment transfers to multilingual alignment for unsupervised parallel text mining”

2020 Daniel Campos (PhD student, CS @ UIUC), “Explorations In Curriculum Learning Methods For Training Language Models”

2020 Paige Finkelstein (Software Engineer,, “Human-Assisted Neural Machine Translation: Harnessing Human Feed- back for Machine Translation”




Semantics & Pragmatics (4); Mind; Noûs; Mind & Language; Journal of Data Science; Erkenntnis (3); Synthese (2); The Review of Symbolic Logic (2); Journal of Logic, Language and Information (2); Journal of Semantics (4); Australasion Journal of Philosophy; Ergo; Philosophical Studies; Interaction Studies (formerly known as Evolution of Communication); Frontiers in Artificial Intelligence; Frontiers in Psychology (Language Sciences); Theoria (2); Logic Journal of the IGPL; PLoS Computational Biology


Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL); Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (EMNLP); International Conference of Learning Representations (ICLR); Semantics and Linguistic Theory (SALT); North American ACL (NAACL); *SEM (Joint Conference on Lexical and Computational Semantics); Neural Information Processing Systems (NeurIPS); Experiments in Linguistic Meaning (ELM); BlackboxNLP; West Coast NLP (WeCNLP); International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML); COLING; Semantics and Philosophy in Europe (SPE); Amsterdam Colloquium; Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society; AACL-IJCNLP (Asia-Pacific ACL - International Joint Conference in NLP); Joint Conference on Language Evolution (JCoLE); Experimental approaches to language universals in structure and meaning; Approaches to implicature: rational choice and/or exhaustification; WeSSLLI (Web Summer School in Logic, Language and Information) Student Session; ACL Student Research Workshop


Regular participant in Pop-Up Mentoring Program (PUMP) for LSA events (e.g. SALT, NASSLLI)

Have also led mentoring sessions at EMNLP and ACL