Third International Conference on Spoken Language Processing (ICSLP 94)

Yokohama, Japan
September 18-22, 1994

Extra Propositional Focus and Belief Revision

Beth Ann Hockey

Department of Linguistics, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA USA

This paper addresses the problem of accented occurrences of the verb believe that cannot be accounted for as instances of focus by either semantic or pragmatic accounts. In the natural interpretation of these accented believe utterances, the embedded sentence expresses the main proposition while the believe serves to reduce the speaker's accountability. I present an account of these problematic utterances which captures the accountability aspect of the interpretation and explains both similarities and differences between these cases and other instances of focus. Speaker accountability is modeled by ease of abandonment of a proposition within a belief revision system. I propose that the function of accented believe is to explicitly mark a proposition as more easily abandoned than the contextually determined default. Differences between accented believe and other instances of focus are accounted for by believe being external to the main proposition.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Hockey, Beth Ann (1994): "Extra propositional focus and belief revision", In ICSLP-1994, 947-950.