Evidential meaning of English clause-embedding verbs
English clause-embedding verbs can be used in the evidential meaning (Simons, 2007; Murray, 2017), modulating the degree to which the speaker is committed to the truth of the proposition in the embedded clause. For example, an utterance like “I think the movie starts at 4” can signal that the speaker is uncertain whether the proposition the movie starts at 4 is true, and would like to attenuate their claim. Previous research has provided detailed accounts of lexical and contextual features that give rise to evidential meanings — however, less is known about how widespread these uses are, whether they are part of the verb’s lexical meaning, or emerge under certain pragmatic conditions. In this study, we addressed these questions by conducting two large-scale acceptability judgment experiments. In line with the observations in literature (Simons, 2007), we found that non-factive clause-embedding verbs are the most acceptable in evidential contexts. We also found, however, that even highly factive verbs can be acceptable as evidentials under favorable pragmatic conditions.