When Belief Ascriptions Are About More Than What Is on Someone Else's Mind

Mikkel Hansen, Esben Nedenskov Petersen, Arne Poulsen, Edith Salès-Wuillemin

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

The third-person belief ascription, "Marie believes that the contract is in the cabinet," may engender two interpretations: (1) It neutrally describes what is on Marie's mind; (2) it offers indirect evidence about reality, committing the speaker to the cabinet as the most likely location. The circumstances which lead to the evidential interpretation are at present not well documented in the case of belief verbs. In the case of belief-dependent verbs with and without embedding clause syntax, e.g., "Marie says that the contract is in the archive," and, "Marie is looking for the contract in the archive," it has been claimed that they eschew the evidential interpretation altogether. We explored the influence of the pragmatic context on the third-person, present tense and first-person, past tense use of the verbs, believe, say, and look for. In three experiments that manipulated the discourse context, 258 adults rated written vignettes. Regardless of the verb and the tense, when presented in discourse contexts without prior shared knowledge of the location of the object in question, the belief ascription was interpreted as indirect evidence. The results illuminate the border area between semantics and pragmatics, particularly regarding evidential uses of belief and belief-dependent verbs.
Original languageEnglish
JournalDiscourse Processes
Volume54
Issue number8
Pages (from-to)655-669
Number of pages15
ISSN0163-853X
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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interpretation
human being
pragmatics
discourse
syntax
evidence
Semantics
semantics
present
experiment
Verbs
Belief Ascription
Experiments
Evidentials
Discourse Context
Person

Cite this

Hansen, Mikkel ; Petersen, Esben Nedenskov ; Poulsen, Arne ; Salès-Wuillemin, Edith. / When Belief Ascriptions Are About More Than What Is on Someone Else's Mind. In: Discourse Processes. 2017 ; Vol. 54, No. 8. pp. 655-669.
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abstract = "The third-person belief ascription, {"}Marie believes that the contract is in the cabinet,{"} may engender two interpretations: (1) It neutrally describes what is on Marie's mind; (2) it offers indirect evidence about reality, committing the speaker to the cabinet as the most likely location. The circumstances which lead to the evidential interpretation are at present not well documented in the case of belief verbs. In the case of belief-dependent verbs with and without embedding clause syntax, e.g., {"}Marie says that the contract is in the archive,{"} and, {"}Marie is looking for the contract in the archive,{"} it has been claimed that they eschew the evidential interpretation altogether. We explored the influence of the pragmatic context on the third-person, present tense and first-person, past tense use of the verbs, believe, say, and look for. In three experiments that manipulated the discourse context, 258 adults rated written vignettes. Regardless of the verb and the tense, when presented in discourse contexts without prior shared knowledge of the location of the object in question, the belief ascription was interpreted as indirect evidence. The results illuminate the border area between semantics and pragmatics, particularly regarding evidential uses of belief and belief-dependent verbs.",
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When Belief Ascriptions Are About More Than What Is on Someone Else's Mind. / Hansen, Mikkel; Petersen, Esben Nedenskov; Poulsen, Arne; Salès-Wuillemin, Edith.

In: Discourse Processes, Vol. 54, No. 8, 2017, p. 655-669.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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N2 - The third-person belief ascription, "Marie believes that the contract is in the cabinet," may engender two interpretations: (1) It neutrally describes what is on Marie's mind; (2) it offers indirect evidence about reality, committing the speaker to the cabinet as the most likely location. The circumstances which lead to the evidential interpretation are at present not well documented in the case of belief verbs. In the case of belief-dependent verbs with and without embedding clause syntax, e.g., "Marie says that the contract is in the archive," and, "Marie is looking for the contract in the archive," it has been claimed that they eschew the evidential interpretation altogether. We explored the influence of the pragmatic context on the third-person, present tense and first-person, past tense use of the verbs, believe, say, and look for. In three experiments that manipulated the discourse context, 258 adults rated written vignettes. Regardless of the verb and the tense, when presented in discourse contexts without prior shared knowledge of the location of the object in question, the belief ascription was interpreted as indirect evidence. The results illuminate the border area between semantics and pragmatics, particularly regarding evidential uses of belief and belief-dependent verbs.

AB - The third-person belief ascription, "Marie believes that the contract is in the cabinet," may engender two interpretations: (1) It neutrally describes what is on Marie's mind; (2) it offers indirect evidence about reality, committing the speaker to the cabinet as the most likely location. The circumstances which lead to the evidential interpretation are at present not well documented in the case of belief verbs. In the case of belief-dependent verbs with and without embedding clause syntax, e.g., "Marie says that the contract is in the archive," and, "Marie is looking for the contract in the archive," it has been claimed that they eschew the evidential interpretation altogether. We explored the influence of the pragmatic context on the third-person, present tense and first-person, past tense use of the verbs, believe, say, and look for. In three experiments that manipulated the discourse context, 258 adults rated written vignettes. Regardless of the verb and the tense, when presented in discourse contexts without prior shared knowledge of the location of the object in question, the belief ascription was interpreted as indirect evidence. The results illuminate the border area between semantics and pragmatics, particularly regarding evidential uses of belief and belief-dependent verbs.

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