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Semantic and pragmatic aspects of epistemic modality in the Italian language system: behavioral and neural correlates

Projekter: ProjektForskning

  • Afdeling for Italiensk
  • Laboratorio di Linguistica, Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa, Italy
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The project is investigating on linguistic expressions that convey epistemic modality and especially on its scalar nature. It focuses on both semantic and pragmatic aspects, such as interpretative mechanisms giving rise to different outcomes both text internally and related to the communicative and operational context (i.e. decision making).

The linguistic expressions analyzed to date are:

1) copulative constructions along the literal-non literal continuum, which can be seen as reflecting different degrees of epistemic force (going from “literally true” to “literally false”): This lawyer is a civil lawyer (categorization) > This lawyer seems an intern (categorization with a reserve) > This lawyer seems an actor (comparison) > This lawyer is a shark (metaphor).

2) adjectival predicates with subject clauses conveying different degrees of probability in judgments like the following: it is certain>probable>possible>improbable>impossible that the virus will spread at wide range.

These two types of linguistic expressions have so far been tested psycholinguistically, i.e. measuring behavioural responses in different tasks. As a global result, different degrees of epistemicity yield in fact different behaviors in Italian speakers, which encourage further investigation on the underlying mechanisms supporting epistemic judgment and processing.

In a later phase of the project, the investigation will address the neural correlates of the epistemic domain, by employing EEG and fMRI.
Effektiv start/slut dato01/01/2007 → …


  • epistemic modality, Italian, psycholinguistics, neurolinguistics



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