Veridicality

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In linguistics, veridicality is a semantic or grammatical assertion of the truth of an utterance. For example, the statement "Paul saw a snake" asserts the truthfulness of the claim, while "Paul did see a snake" is an even stronger assertion. Negation is veridical, though of opposite polarity, sometimes called antiveridical: "Paul didn't see a snake" asserts that the statement "Paul saw a snake" is false. In English, non-indicative moods are frequently used in a nonveridical sense: "Paul may have seen a snake" and "Paul would have seen a snake" do not assert that Paul actually saw a snake (and the second implies that he did not), though "Paul would indeed have seen a snake" is veridical, and some languages have separate veridical conditional moods for such cases.

Veridicality in semantic theory[edit]

The formal definition of veridicality views the context as a propositional operator.

  1. A propositional operator F is veridical iff Fp entails p: Fpp; otherwise F is nonveridical.
  2. Additionally, a nonveridical operator F is antiveridical iff Fp entails not p: Fp → ¬p.

For temporal and aspectual operators, the definition of veridicality is somewhat more complex:

  • For operators relative to instants of time: Let F be a temporal or aspectual operator, and t an instant of time.
    1. F is veridical iff for Fp to be true at time t, p must be true at a (contextually relevant) time t′t; otherwise F is nonveridical.
    2. A nonveridical operator F is antiveridical iff for Fp to be true at time t, ¬p must be true at a (contextually relevant) time t′t.
  • For operators relative to intervals of time: Let F be a temporal or aspectual operator, and t an interval of time.
    1. F is veridical iff for Fp to be true of t, p must be true of all (contextually relevant) t′t; otherwise F is nonveridical.
    2. A nonveridical operator F is antiveridical iff for Fp to be true of t, ¬p must be true of all (contextually relevant) t′t.

Analysis[edit]

Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya (Dr. Frank Morales, PhD) originated the term "Veridical Analysis" to suggest that a semantic argument needs to be both structurally sound and essentially true in order to be "consistent with the reality of the situation under question."[1] In his dissertation, he explains: "for general Indian logic, arguments must be sound (true) in addition to being valid. Propositional analysis is a method for determining whether x truth-claim is structurally valid within the context of formal logical principles. Veridical analysis seeks to know, additionally, whether x truth-claim corresponds with the truth of reality. E.G.: A) All Leprechauns are Deontologists; B) Matthew is a Leprechaun; C) Therefore Matthew is a Deontologist. While such a claim is structurally sound, it is also not true, given the generally accepted non-existence of leprechauns."

Although Dharma Pravartaka's work emphasizes mainly on studying metaphysical epistemology, this epistemological method can be applied to any field of truth-claiming. For example, a claim regarding notions arising from statistics:

Nation A has a population of one billion.
Nation B has a population of eight persons.
Nation A has twenty million criminals.
Nation B has one criminal.

Without the implementation of veridical analysis, one who overlooks the fact that nation A has a significantly larger population than nation B, may mistakenly conclude that nation A must be a very dangerous place, just by looking at the sheer number of criminals compared to the latter, (See also: Hasty generalization) rather than acknowledging the reality of the situation under question, namely that a nation very large in population will almost under all circumstances have more criminals than a nation which has the population of a large two-family house.

Nonveridical operators[edit]

Nonveridical operators typically license the use of polarity items, which in veridical contexts normally is ungrammatical:

* John saw any students. (The context is veridical.)
John didn't see any students. (The context is nonveridical.)

Downward entailment[edit]

All downward entailing contexts are nonveridical. Because of this, theories based on nonveridicality can be seen as extending those based on downward entailment, allowing to explain more cases of PI licensing.

Downward entailment predicts that polarity items will be licensed in the scope of negation, downward entailing quantifiers like few N, at most n N, no N, and the restriction of every:

No students saw anything.
John didn't see anything.
Few children saw anything.
Every student who saw anything should report to the police.

Non-monotone quantifiers[edit]

Quantifiers like exactly three students, nobody but John, and almost nobody are non-monotone (and thus not downward entailing) but nevertheless admit any:

 % Exactly three students saw anything.
Nobody but John saw anything.
Almost nobody saw anything.

Hardly and barely[edit]

Hardly and barely allow for any despite not being downward entailing.

John hardly talked to anybody. (Does not entail "John hardly talked to his mother".)
John barely studied anything. (Does not entail "John barely studied linguistics".)

Questions[edit]

Polarity items are quite frequent in questions, although questions are not monotone.

Did you see anything?

Although questions biased towards the negative answer, such as "Do you [even] give a damn about any books?" (tag questions based on negative sentences exhibit even more such bias), can sometimes be seen as downward entailing, this approach cannot account for the general case, such as the above example where the context is perfectly neutral. Neither can it explain why negative questions, which naturally tend to be biased, don't license negative polarity items.

In semantics which treats a question as the set of its true answers, the denotation of a polar question contains two possible answers:

[[Did you see John?]] = { you saw John ∨ you didn't see John }

Because disjunction pq entails neither p nor q, the context is nonveridical, which explains the admittance of any.

Future[edit]

Polarity items appear in future sentences.

John will buy any bottle of wine.
The children will leave as soon as they discover anything.

According to the formal definition of veridicality for temporal operators, future is nonveridical: that "John will buy a bottle of Merlot" is true now does not entail that "John buys a bottle of Merlot" is true at any instant up to and including now. On the other hand, past is veridical: that "John bought a bottle of Merlot" is true now entails that there is an instant preceding now at which "John buys a bottle of Merlot" is true.

Habitual aspect[edit]

Likewise, nonveridicality of the habitual aspect licenses polarity items.

He usually reads any book very carefully.

The habitual aspect is nonveridical because e.g., that "He is usually cheerful" is true over some interval of time does not entail that "He is cheerful" is true over every subinterval of that. This is in contrast to e.g., the progressive aspect, which is veridical and prohibits negative polarity items.

Generic sentences[edit]

Non-monotone generic sentences accept polarity items.

Any cat hunts mice.

Modal verbs[edit]

Modal verbs create generally good environments for polarity items:

John may talk to anybody.
Any minors must be accompanied by their parents.
The committee can give the job to any candidate.

Such contexts are nonveridical despite being non-monotone and sometimes even upward entailing ("John must tango" entails "John must dance").

Imperatives[edit]

imperatives are roughly parallel to modal verbs and intensional contexts in general.

Take any apple. (cf. "You may/must take any apple", "I want you to take any apple".)

Protasis of conditionals[edit]

Protasis of conditionals is one of the most common environments for polarity items.

If you sleep with anybody, I'll kill you.

Directive intensional verbs[edit]

Polarity items are licensed with directive propositional attitudes but not with epistemic ones.

John would like to invite any student.
John asked us to invite any student.
* John believes that we invited any student.
* John dreamt that we invited any student.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya (2010). The Vedic Way of Knowing God. Dharma Sun Media. p. 25. Retrieved 7 September 2014.