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A New Outlook on Cognitive Factives

Pranav Anand
Natasha Korotkova
University of Utrecht
Wed January 17th 2024, 3:30pm
Margaret Jacks Hall, Greenberg Room (Room 126)

This talk is a focused investigation of English ‘coming-to-know’ verbs, such as "discover", "find out", "figure out", "learn", "notice" and "realize". Our main goal is to demonstrate that ‘coming-to-know’ verbs form a natural class that, apart from puzzles on presupposition projection, has escaped the attention of semanticists. Drawing on the literature on aspect and evidentiality, we argue that these verbs are culmination achievements that denote a change in doxastic state (from agnosticism to belief) and lexicalize the type of evidence that triggered that change. At least in English, there is no vanilla verb that would just mean ‘come-to-know’. This fact shows that a subset of factives belongs to a large group of semantically and syntactically heterogeneous expressions that are sensitive to evidential restrictions, and allows us to connect the growing body of work on fine-grained semantics for attitudes with research on evidence in language.