Epistemics and attitudes

Pranav Anand, Valentine Hacquard


This paper investigates the distribution of epistemic modals in attitude contexts in three Romance languages, as well as their potential interaction with mood selection. We show that epistemics can appear in complements of attitudes of acceptance (Stalnaker 1984), but not desideratives or directives; in addition, emotive doxastics (hope, fear) and dubitatives (doubt) permit epistemic possibility modals, but not their necessity counterparts. We argue that the embedding differences across attitudes indicate that epistemics are sensitive to the type of attitude an attitude predicate reports. We show that this sensitivity can be derived by adopting two types of proposals from the literature on epistemic modality and on attitude verbs: First, we assume that epistemics do not target knowledge uniformly, but rather quantify over an information state determined by the content of the embedding attitude (Hacquard 2006, 2010, Yalcin 2007). In turn, we adopt a fundamental split in the semantics of attitude verbs between ‘representational’ and ‘non-representational’ attitudes (Bolinger 1968): representational attitudes quantify over an information state (e.g., a set of beliefs for believe), which, we argue, epistemic modals can be anaphoric to. Non-representational attitudes do not quantify over an information state; instead, they combine with their complement via a comparison with contextually-provided alternatives using a logic of preference (cf. Bolinger 1968, Stalnaker 1984, Farkas 1985, Heim 1992, Villalta 2000, 2008). Finally, we argue that emotive doxastics and dubitatives have a hybrid semantics, which combines a representational component (responsible for licensing epistemic possibility modals), and a preference component (responsible for disallowing epistemic necessity modals).


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epistemics, modals, attitudes

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3765/sp.6.8

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

ISSN: 1937-8912

Journal doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.3765/sp