LINGUIST List 7.1020

Sat Jul 13 1996

Sum: Propositional attitudes

Editor for this issue: Ann Dizdar <>


  1. Barbara Abbott, Sum: Propositional attitudes expressions

Message 1: Sum: Propositional attitudes expressions

Date: Fri, 12 Jul 1996 11:47:07 CDT
From: Barbara Abbott <>
Subject: Sum: Propositional attitudes expressions
A week or so ago I posted the following query:

>I would like to find out whether or not most languages have terms for
>propositional attitudes. These might be verbs like English 'think',
>'believe', 'want', 'know', 'hope', 'wish', etc., or expressions in
>other parts of speech that convey the same idea. What prompts me is
>the following remark in Chomsky's paper 'Language and Nature' (_Mind_,
>1995, p. 29): "Do people attribute beliefs if they speak languages
>that have no such term, the great majority, it appears?" Any data
>gratefully appreciated -- I'd be especially interested in hearing of
>languages that lack such terms.

Thanks to Pier Marco Bertinetto, Lucia Maria de Oliveira Camoes, Nancy
Frishberg, Sarah D. Kennelly, Bert Peeters, Johan Rooryck, and Dan
Sperber for their replies.

I didn't hear from anybody about any languages that lack propositional
attitude expressions. I did get some useful references though (in
addition to useful comments and suggestions):

- Rodney Needham, "Belief, Language and Experience", Blackwell 1972

This is a book that argues against the universality of a concept of
religious belief. The author isn't concerned with propositional
attitudes, or expresions for them, in general. In fact he mentions
the universality of a notion of intending, by way of contrast with
religious belief.

A couple of references arguing for the universality of some
propositional attitude concepts are:

- Cliff Goddard & Anna Wierzbicka (eds). 1994. *Semantic and lexical
universals*. Amsterdam. John Benjamins.

- Anna Wierzbicka. 1996. *Semantics: Primes and
Universals*. Oxford. Oxford University Press.

Thanks again to the responders.
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