The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

LingLunch 2/24: Madeline Bossi (UC Berkeley)

Speaker: Madeline Bossi (UC Berkeley)

Date and time: Thursday February 24, 12:30-1:50pm

Location: 32-D461, https://mit.zoom.us/j/94474505971

Title: Negative bias and pragmatic reasoning in Kipsigis belief reports

Abstract: Much work has explored how belief reports of the form x V-att p function pragmatically not just as reports of x’s internal state, but as devices for indicating the status of p with respect to the Common Ground (CG). In addition to the well-studied case of factive verbs, which presuppose p, recent work has explored negatively biased belief verbs, which suggest that p cannot or should not be added to the CG (e.g. Kierstead 2013, Hsiao 2017, Anvari et al. 2019, Glass 2020). Drawing from original fieldwork, I show that the negatively biased belief verb pɑr ‘think’ in Kipsigis (Kalenjin; Kenya) is best modeled as contributing, in addition to its basic belief semantics, an instruction for CG management: p is not to be added to the CG. Together with context-sensitive pragmatic reasoning, this instruction explains the curious case of a verb that can be used both to suggest that p is false and to remind the addressee that p is true.