We are happy to announce a talk by Todor Koev (University of Konstanz) at the Semantics Colloquium.

Please register beforehand (s.walter@em.uni-frankfurt.de) to receive the access data to zoom on Thursday shortly before the talk starts.

Title: “Believe” as Gradable, Strong, and Subjective

Date: July 1

Time: 4 pm – 6 pm ct


The verb “believe” is standardly analyzed as a universal quantifier over possibilities, i.e. as stating that the prejacent is true across all the attitude holder’s doxastic alternatives (Hintikka 1969). This semantics (i) fails to capture the fact that “believe” is a gradable predicate (cf. “partially believe”, “fully believe”, etc.) and (ii) does not predict the intuition that “believe” implies some sort of weakness on the part of the attitude holder towards the prejacent proposition (cf. “I believe Kim is on vacation” vs. “I know Kim is on vacation”). In order to remedy the gradability problem, I propose a gradable semantics for “believe” within the framework developed

for gradable adjectives (Cresswell 1976; Kennedy & McNally 2005; a.m.o.). As for the modal strength problem, I claim that “believe” has the hallmarks of a strong force modal (contra Hawthorne et al. 2016) but conveys a subjective modal content, where the latter part of the claim builds on the distinction between subjective vs. objective epistemic modality (Lyons 1977; Portner 2009; a.o.). Among other things, I demonstrate how this distinction can be fruitfully exploited to account for hedging sentences like “I believe the Patriots will win, but I’m not sure” without jeopardizing the strong modal force of “believe”.