June 30, 2006

Evidentials Everywhere

Part of the reason I mentioned this is because it brings out another evidential: "doubtless." It would have been odd to say

Charlie Haden's composition "Out of Focus" (a duo with Don Cherry on The Golden Number) is based on a quote from his opening solo on Ornette Coleman's "Focus in Sanity." Which is doubtless why it's called that

if I had read an explanation, by Haden, of the origin of the title. I'm tempted to say "I don't know where the title comes from."

In fact I think it would be odd to say this if I had read an explanation by someone else of the origin; and I think it would be odd for you to say that, now that you've read my admittedly speculative explanation of the origin. (Unless, perhaps, you consider the title independently and come to the same conclusion.) Which seems to mean that 'doubtless' patterns with 'must' and not with 'apparently'.

In the paper I gave at the epistemic modals conference I gave an (admittedly weak) argument that my account of 'must' might help explain its evidentiality. Should I be worried that there are evidentials popping up everywhere, and that a better account of evidentiality would explain them all in concert? Not necessarily. The other evidentials involve explicit epistemic terms: 'doubt', 'appear', 'clear'. So there's some reason to think that 'must' might get one kind of explanation and the others another kind (with 'doubtless' at least I suspect it's Gricean). Or at least we need a story about why 'must' would behave like an explicitly epistemic term; perhaps 'appear' and 'clear' refer to the kind of evidence involved, while 'must' and 'doubtless' refer to levels of certainty.

Posted by Matt Weiner at June 30, 2006 06:08 AM