Attitude reports, events, and partial models


Authors
Friederike Moltmann
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique
Abstract
Clausal complements of different kinds of attitude verbs such as believe, doubt, be surprised, wonder, say, and whisper behave differently semantically in a number of respects. For example, they differ in the inference patterns they display. This paper develops a semantic account of clausal complements using partial logic which accounts for such semantic differences on the basis of a uniform meaning of clauses. It focuses on explaining the heterogeneous inference patterns associated with different kinds of attitude verbs, but it contributes also to explaining differences among clausal complements of attitude verbs regarding the possibility of de re reference, anaphora support, presupposition satisfaction, and the distribution of subjunctive in certain languages. Moreover, it gives a new account of factivity. The point of departure of this paper is the general observation that the failure of inferences from attitude reports is relative in that it depends both on the general type of attitude and on the particular instance of the attitude described. Thus, from John is surprised that P and Q one cannot infer John is surprised that P and John is surprised that Q, though this is possible with believe. Conversely, one can infer from John believes that P and John believes that Q, to John believes that P and Q, but only as long as the same belief state of John is involved. In order to capture this dependency of inferences from attitude reports on a particular mental state or act, I propose an account on which clausal complements of attitude verbs (as well as independent sentences) characterize the intentional state or act described by the attitude verb in question, rather than referring to independent propositions. The semantic account of attitude reports of this paper can hence be called an 'event-based account' of clauses. Formally, the denotation of any sentence, both independent and embedded, is construed as a function mapping an intentional state or act to a function from situations (which form the content of the state or act) to truth values..
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