Corien Bary: Present tense in speech reports - tracking other people’s beliefs

This talk is about the occurrence of present tense verbs in the complement of past tense speech verbs.

Open book.

"Present tense in speech reports: tracking other people’s beliefs" is a joint work with Daniel Altshuler, Kristen Syrett and Peter de Swart. This talk is about the occurrence of present tense verbs in the complement of past tense speech verbs, as for example in (1):

(1) John said that Mary is pregnant.

When can we use such sentences?

The question Corien Bary want to address is one that has already received a lot of attention in the literature: when can we use such sentences?

In addressing this question, the key intuition, going back to Carlota Smith’s work in the seventies, has been that such sentences make reference to two times. Hence the name double access used to describe the interpretation of (1). 

Intuitively, the two relevant times are the time of John’s attitude and the actual utterance time, i.e. the time of utterance of the report in (1). In this talk Bary will focus on the latter: what exactly has to hold at the utterance time for the present tense to be felicitous?

Two experiments

According to Ogihara (1995), the truth of the complement in (1) at the actual utterance time n (i.e. when (1) is uttered) is not a prerequisite for the use of an embedded present tense. What matters is the cause of the belief (the state that made John think that Mary is pregnant): the present tense can be used only if this cause still holds at the actual utterance time.

Bary will present two experiments which identify two additional factors that play a role: predicate type (short term versus long term properties) and who is aware of the falsity of the belief (i.e. whether the audience of the original utterance still believes that Mary is pregnant). Bary will also discuss the implications of these findings for the (use of the) notions of acquaintance relations (Abusch 1997, Ogihara 1995) or time concepts (Heim 1994) adhered to in the prevailing theories to explain Ogihara’s observation.


Published Oct. 24, 2017 10:47 AM - Last modified Nov. 15, 2017 11:03 AM