Friday, November 18: Tamara Vardomskaya

Please join us this Friday as Tamara Vardomskaya from the Linguistics Department presents work on experiential predicates and illocutionary force.

Date and time: Friday, November 18, 11:00 a.m. – 12:50 p.m.

Location: Stuart 209 (Philosophy seminar room)

Title: Subjective find explained by experience and presentive force


This talk is a progress report on my work on the selection properties of the so-called “subjective-find”, used in phrases like “John finds this food delicious/this behavior weird/this explanation implausible” but not “?John finds these leaves green.” Since the work of Saebo (2009), many models of subjectivity have sought to explain what subjective-find is selecting for when it selects for subjective predicates. I argue that, contrary to a recent paper by Kennedy and Willer (2016) that invokes counterstance contingency to explain find and consider, the selection properties of find can be explained via two pragmatic concepts that are already well-known in the literature.
One is the presupposition of direct experience, already discussed by Stevenson (2007), Bylinina (2014), McNally and Stojanovic (2015) and Hirvonen (2014), among others. My work extends this explanation to embeddings of modal adjectives like “I find this plausible/impossible/likely”, which at first glance don’t seem to involve conventional experience and had not been discussed in previous literature.
The other is the notion of presentative illocutionary force, contrasted with assertative illocutionary force. Presentative force is used when a speaker wants to make other conversation participants aware that she commits to the truth of a certain proposition p, but refrains from asserting and thus moving to update the common ground with p, which would force others to either accept or reject the update. This was a distinction first proposed by Portner (2006) to explain Faller’s (2002) analysis of Quechua evidentials, and has since been used to analyze root indexical clauses in Plains Cree (Dechaine et al. 2014) and other discourse strategies. Most previous analyses of find and consider in English have not looked in detail at why it behaves as a presentative-force operator in discourse.
I argue that, given a cultural interpretation of the Gricean Maxim of Quantity to mean, “Make your contributions assertions if you can expect they would be accepted,” subjective predicates naturally overlap with those that both require direct experience to evaluate and those that a speaker would stay committed to even after they have been rejected from common ground update. I show that this does the work of counterstances and judge arguments, and additional mechanics are not necessary.

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