June 21, 2006

"Apparently" Is Evidential

Sometime since the last post I had the following insight (truth not guaranteed): "apparently" is evidential. It at least seems odd, in most circumstances, to stand outside in heavy rain and say "Apparently, it's raining." Nor can I say "Apparently, I'm in Canberra" when I know my location as securely as I usually know my location. (Up to the level of the city, since below that level I often don't know it securely at all.)

But unlike "must," "apparently" is permissible in cases of testimony. If Alice tells me on the phone that she's on her way to the party, I can't comfortably say "Alice must be on her way to the party." But I can often say "Alice is apparently on her way to the party."

And some cases of observation do seem to allow "apparently"; if I've got lost, and I look up at the street signs and they say 48th and Knoxville, I can say "Apparently I'm at 48th and Knoxville." But if I am tremendously familiar with the intersection it would be odd to say that. Because it would be underinformative? That doesn't obviously work if, as I suggest in comments to the last post, "apparently" as an adsentence is factive.

Posted by Matt Weiner at June 21, 2006 02:39 AM

You're right. Check out Roumyana Izvorski's (now Pancheva) paper on the evidential perfect in Bulgarian, where she draws numerous parallels to "apparently".

Posted by: Kai von Fintel at June 21, 2006 05:02 AM

I'm probably missing something, but help me out.

Suppose that we're conversing about philosophical matters. We're talking about your area of specialty, and I'm giving a reasonably good argument. You're familiar with many ways the argument has been formulated in the past. But instead of confirming the fact that I'm giving a good argument, you say, "apparently, I misunderstand you"?

Isn't the word "apparently" being used here like the raining case? Understanding is a case of testimony where the word "apparently" does not function similar to the cases you have cited. Familiarity with the argument I'm giving actually provokes you to use the word "apparently." Doesn't it?

Posted by: Joe at June 22, 2006 09:32 PM

Joe, I don't understand your case. Why would I say "I misunderstand you"?

I think that familiarity with the argument isn't what would be at issue with understanding, anyway; it would be familiarity with what you're saying. So it would be OK to say to someone else "Apparently, Joe agrees with this argument that I've heard many times before." But if you were telling me this for the hundredth time, it would be weird to say "Apparently, Joe agrees with this argument, as he's told me many times before."

Posted by: Matt Weiner at June 25, 2006 08:02 PM

Hey Matt,

Thanks for the response to my comment. I'm afraid it didn't make much sense.

WRT the "misunderstanding" quotation, I think I'm assuming that you're using it as a rhetorical device in the example I've given. Ultimately, I don't think the example is relevant to your discussion.

WRT the second issue, I wonder where the weirdness comes from? Doesn't there seem to be two different sources of confusion? (1) It could be the ambiguity associated with what adverbs modify. (2) It could be the fact that if I've told you several times that I agree with argument x, then there should be no question about whether I agree with the argument or not. Are there other things that make the quotation "weird"?

Posted by: Joe at June 26, 2006 04:38 PM

"Apparently, Joe agrees with this argument, as he's told me many times before."

Is this really that weird if we think of the speaker as incredulous? It seems I've heard "apparently" used quite a bit as mark of incredulity. Used in this fashion it's sometimes rhetorical shorthand for something like, "Person X reports believing P, but P is clearly an unattractive position." Alternative conjunctions include; but P is crazy; but why believe P; but we all know P is false.

Posted by: Matthew at June 27, 2006 07:23 AM