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Abstract

This dissertation offers a treatment of experiential predicates -- those predicates true of an individual just in case it is disposed to stimulate an experience of a certain sort -- and demonstrates how their experiential semantics, in concert with other semantic and pragmatic mechanisms, give rise to a certain kind of linguistic subjectivity. In particular, speakers tend to evaluate these predicates autocentrically, or with respect to their own experiential dispositions, despite their apparently not encoding reference to an experiencer in their semantic content. I characterize experiential predicates as a cross-categorial semantic natural class, which arises compositionally out of (i) a basic lexical semantics encoding a type of experience, combined with (ii) the generic quantification that accompanies individual-level predicates in imperfective aspectual environments. I then demonstrate how this experiential semantics systematically gives rise to a lack of coordination in speaker behavior across the population: (i) the felicity conditions on generic quantification, which specify which situations 'count' for the satisfaction of a generic predicate, are for experiential predicates (ii) constrained by independently-attested norms on direct evidence, according to which speakers are obligated to take themselves to be accurate perceivers of a certain sort. The result is that speakers typically take the conditions under which an individual is generically disposed to stimulate a certain experience simpliciter to be the same as the conditions under which it is generically disposed to stimulate that experience with they themselves as experiencer. The result is a certain kind of 'strong subjectivity,' by which not only do the linguistic conventions not fix how a predicate is to be applied in virtue of `the way the world is' across the speaker population, but they further 'force' speakers to diverge in their truth-conditional behavior by convention, according as their experiential dispositions differ. This allows the language additional expressive power, by which speakers can use truth-conditional material to express opinions. This is taken to be a model of linguistic subjectivity generally, as a metasemantic phenomenon to which non-hyperintensional grammars are blind.

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