First Saying, then Believing: The Pragmatic Roots of Folk Psychology
Bart Geurts (University of Nijmegen)
Thursday, 30th January 2020
Historical linguistics has revealed several pathways of language change that may guide our understanding of the evolution of mental-state attribution. In particular, it has been established that verbs of saying are often exapted for attributing a variety of mental states, including beliefs and intentions. For example, there are quite a few languages in which the literal translation of, ‘Boris said, “I will win the elections”,’ may be used not only as a speech report, but also to convey that Boris thinks that he will win the elections or intends to win the elections. The objective of this paper is to analyse the pragmatic shifts underlying this pathway, and thus present the first articulate account of the evolution of belief/intention attribution.