Department of Linguistics
University of Chicago
Assertion, Expression, Experience
Christopher Kennedy and Malte Willer
This paper focusses on two cross-linguistically robust interpretive and distributional characteristics of subjective predicates that have resisted a comprehensive analysis: subjective predicates introduce experiential evidential requirements, and they differ from objective predicates in their distribution under certain types of propositional attitude verbs. The goal of this paper is to argue that these features can be derived in a uniform way, without introducing special kinds of meanings or interpretive operations for subjective predicates, and within a broadly truth-conditional approach to semantic content, given a view of subjective language as an essentially pragmatic, context-sensitive phenomenon. Specifically, we propose that what renders an issue subjective in discourse is speakers’ awareness of counterstances: alternative information states that reflect conflicting decisions as to how semantic underdetermination is resolved in context. We show how a characterization of subjective predicates as counterstance contingent expressions not only derives their distributional properties, but also explains why their use comes with distinct evidential requirements.