Events

Since Hintikka (1969), attitudes of belief and desire (Alice thinks it will rain, Alice wants it to rain) have been fruitfully analyzed as modal statements. Authors subsequent to Hintikka have argued on the basis of data from English and related languages that all modal meaning characteristic of attitudes is ‘bundled’ into the entries of attitude verbs (e.g. think, wish, want). Attitude verbs are analyzed as universal modals quantifying over worlds consistent with, e.g., the attitude holder’s beliefs or desires.

In this talk, I show that when we broaden our investigation to a more typologically diverse set of languages, we call into question the crosslinguistic applicability of this standard ‘bundled’ account. Navajo (Athabaskan) attitudes of belief and desire all contain the same verb, nízin. The attitude expressed by a particular nízin-sentence is either correlated with the choice of embedded articles (1a,b) or is disambiguated by discourse context (1c).

(1a) Alice [nahodoołtííł sha'shin] nízin.

     Alice  it.will.rain probably  3S.ATT(ITUDE)

    ‘Alice thinks it will probably rain.’
(1b) Alice [nahodoołtííł laanaa] nízin.

     Alice  it.will.rain wishful 3S.ATT(ITUDE)

    ‘Alice wishes for it to rain.’
(1c) Alice [nahodoołtííł] nízin.

     Alice  it.will.rain  3S.ATT(ITUDE)

     i. ‘Alice thinks it will rain.’/ 
     ii. ‘Alice wants it will rain.'

Drawing on the results of original fieldwork, I demonstrate that nízin cannot be analyzed as a modal and, as such, defies analysis under the standard ‘bundled’ account. I argue that Navajo presents dramatic evidence for ‘decompositional’ theories (Kratzer 2006, 2013; Anand and Hacquard 2009; Moulton 2009), which argue that modality can be severed from (at least) certain English and German clause-embedding verbs, e.g. verbs of belief, perception (see), and communication (say).

I sever modality from the attitude verb nízin. I argue that nízin contributes just the meaning held in common by both beliefs and desires: nízin denotes situations of mental attitudes experienced by a mental attitude holder. All modal meaning characteristic of attitudes of belief and desire comes from modal operators in the clause embedded by nízin. These modal operators are overtly realized as particles in sentences like (1a,b).

The source of modality in particleless nízin-sentences like (1c) is less obvious. My analysis considers examples like (1c) in parallel with matrix sentences like (2). Both clauses in (2) contain future-marked verbs, but the first clause (underlined) expresses necessity relative to priorities held in the context while the second clause makes a prediction about the future:

(2) ’Atiin t’áá yá’adát’ééhígíí ’ádadoolníił, ’ákondi doo

    road   good.ones            there.be.FUT  but     NEG 

    ’ádadoolnííł da.

    there.be.FUT NEG

    Free translation: ‘There need to be new roads, but it 
    won’t happen.’

I propose that nízin-sentences expressing beliefs (1ci) and matrix assertions (second clause of (2)) both contain the same belief-oriented modal. Likewise, nízin-sentences expressing desire (1cii) and matrix sentences expressing obligation (first clause of (2)) both involve the same modal priority-oriented modal. I consider in particular the possibility that future morphology is itself the source of the priority (goal-, rule-, or desire-oriented) modality found in (2) and in (1cii).