Assertability conditions of epistemic (and fictional) attitudes and mood variation

Alda Mari


Italian is a well-known exception to the cross-linguistic generalization according to which `belief' predicates are indicative selectors across languages. We newly propose that languages that select the subjunctive with epistemic predicates allow us to see a systematic polysemy between what we call an expressive-`belief' (featuring only a doxastic dimension) and an inquisitive-`belief' (featuring both a doxastic and an epistemic dimension conveying doxastic certainty (in the assertion) and epistemic uncertainty (in the presupposition)).
We offer several previously unseen contrasts proving this distinction and offer a new analysis for mood choice cross-linguistically.  
We argue that the distinction between expressive and inquisitive attitudes is not an idiosyncrasy of non-factive epistemics. We provide novel data, showing that  fictional predicates (dream, imagine) license the subjunctive.  We explain the indicative/subjunctive alternation by again appealing to epistemic uncertainty and disentangling expressive from inquisitive-fictional meanings. We thus pave the way for a new typology of attitudes relying on this systematic polysemy and propose new criteria to explain mood distribution cross-linguistically.

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