A Commitment-based Analysis of ‘Believe’ as an Implicature Trigger
Abstract: The distribution of believe as a propositional attitude verb exhibits a complicated picture, which calls for a reasonable description of its strength. The observations that believe is typically used as a device for hedging but on other occasions does not allow unsureness motivate my proposal that the hedging sense of believe is realized by a generalized conversational implicature. Upon further examination, I argue that the implicature in question originates from scalar pair <believe, know> that is brought about by a scale of levels of commitment to the truth of the complement. Using Lauer’s (2017) propositional language, I compositionally derive that know induces full assertoric commitment to the truth of its complement while believe induces a level of commitment to the truth of its complement that is lower than full assertoric commitment. This commitment-based analysis provides a plausible characterization of the strength of believe as it delivers desired predictions about the distribution of the predicate.
Keywords: belief, knowledge, assertion, commitment, conversational implicature.