Veridicality

In linguistics, veridicality (from Latin “truthfully said”) is a semantic or grammatical assertion of the truth of an utterance.

“Veridical” redirects here. For the type of paradox, see Veridical paradox.
This article includes a list of general references, but it remains largely unverified because it lacks sufficient corresponding inline citations. (February 2012)

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Merriam-Webster defines “veridical” as truthful, veracious and non illusory. It stems from the Latin “veridicus”, composed of Latin verus, meaning “true”, and dicere, which means “to say”. 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.

The formal definition of veridicality views the context as a propositional operator (Giannakidou 1998).

  1. A propositional operator F is veridicaliffFp entails p, that is, Fpp; otherwise F is nonveridical.
  2. Additionally, a nonveridical operator F is antiveridical iff Fp entails not p, that is, 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 tt; 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 tt.
  • 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) tt; 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) tt.

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 or irrealis 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. “Paul would indeed have seen a snake” is veridical, and some languages have separate veridical conditional moods for such cases.[citation needed]

Nonveridicality has been proposed to be behind the licensing of polarity items such as the English words any and ever, as an alternative to the influential downward entailment theory (see below) proposed by Ladusaw (1980). Anastasia Giannakidou (1998) argued that various polarity phenomena observed in language are manifestations of the dependency of polarity items to the (non)veridicality of the context of appearance. The (non)veridical dependency may be positive (licensing), or negative (anti-licensing), and arises from the sensitivity semantics of polarity items. Across languages, different polarity items may show sensitivity to veridicality, anti-veridicality, or non-veridicality.

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

* Mary saw any students. (The context is veridical.)
Mary didn’t see any students. (The context is nonveridical.)

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