Truthful resolutions: A new perspective on false-answer sensitivity

Nadine Theiler, Floris Roelofsen, Maria Aloni


Responsive verbs like know embed both declarative and interrogative complements. Standard accounts of such verbs are reductive: they assume that whether an individual stands in a knowledge-wh relation to a question is determined by whether she stands in a knowledge-that relation to some answer to the question. George (2013) observed that knowledge-wh, however, not only depends on knowledge-that but also on false belief---a fact that reductive accounts can't capture.

We develop an account that is not reductive but uniform: it assumes a single entry for interrogative-embedding and declarative-embedding uses of a responsive verb. The key insight that allows us to capture the false-belief dependency of knowledge-wh is that verbs like know are sensitive to both true and false answers to the embedded question. Formally, this is achieved through a novel, fine-grained way of representing the meaning of a clausal complement in terms of so-called truthful resolutions. The resulting analysis gives us a unifying perspective, under which false-answer sensitivity comes out as a general characteristic common to all levels of exhaustivity.

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