Acquaintance and evidence in appearance language

Linguistics and Philosophy 46:1-29 (2023)
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Assertions about appearances license inferences about the speaker's perceptual experience. For instance, if I assert, 'Tom looks like he's cooking', you will infer both that I am visually acquainted with Tom (what I call the "individual acquaintance inference"), and that I am visually acquainted with evidence that Tom is cooking (what I call the "evidential acquaintance inference"). By contrast, if I assert, 'It looks like Tom is cooking', only the latter inference is licensed. I develop an account of the acquaintance inferences of appearance assertions building on two main previous lines of research: first, the copy raising literature, which has aimed to account for individual acquaintance inferences through the "perceptual source" semantic role; second, the subjectivity literature, which has focused on the status of acquaintance inferences with predicates of personal taste, but hasn't given much attention to the added complexities introduced by appearance language. I begin by developing what I take to be the most empirically-sound version of a perceptual source analysis. I then show how its insights can be maintained, while however taking anything about perception out of the truth conditions of appearance sentences. This, together with the assumption that appearance assertions express experiential attitudes, allows us to capture the acquaintance inferences of bare appearance assertions without making incorrect predictions about the behavior of appearance verbs in embedded environments.

Author's Profile

Rachel Etta Rudolph
Auburn University


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