Article published in:Certainty-uncertainty – and the Attitudinal Space in Between
Edited by Sibilla Cantarini, Werner Abraham and Elisabeth Leiss
[Studies in Language Companion Series 165] 2014
► pp. 47–62
Modes of modality in an Un-Cartesian framework
The central aim of this paper is to show that Certainty as encoded by the linguistic means of epistemicity and evidentiality differs in essential ways form Certainty in metalinguistic terms (Objectivity). The paper starts with a presentation of the building blocks of the epistemic and evidential functions of the modal verbs in German. In such fully grammaticalized modal verb systems as in German, we find that the speaker is split into Source (of evidence) and Assessment (of evidence). In declaratives that are modalized by the epistemic/evidential use of modal verbs, utmost Certainty is achieved whenever the speaker’s mind is the source of evidence. When we take a close look at the linguistic means of encoding certainty, we have to state the paradox that the more subjectivity is involved, the more Certainty is achieved. This differs completely from the common-sense notion of Certainty, which is closely linked to objectivity. We find a way out of this dilemma when we take into account the difference between experience and knowledge. Epistemicity and evidentiality, as encoded by linguistic means, are based on subjective experience, whereas the notion of objective certainty is based on intersubjectivized knowledge. In contrast to experience, which is processed and stored by Episodic Memory, knowledge is processed by Semantic Memory. With respect to these different subgroups of Long-Term Memory, two neuropsychologically based qualities of Certainty are proposed.
Published online: 14 November 2014