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Roberta Colonna Dahlman

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Research

I wrote a compilation thesis, "Studies on Factivity, Complementation, and Propositional Attitudes", consisting of 7 papers.The main topics of my research are: subordinators and embedded clauses, presupposition, knowledge attributions and factivity, language attrition.
I started my research looking into the double complementation system in my own Southern Italian dialect, Gallipolino. The aim was to explore some finite constructions introduced by two different subordinators and to offer a deeper view into the semantics of matrix predicates of propositional attitude.
I am currently working on knowledge attributions and the implication of factivity. I refer to data in Italian and English. It is traditionally claimed that when a speaker utters a sentence like “John knows that Mary speaks Italian”, then, apart from asserting that John knows something, she is also presupposing that it is true that Mary speaks Italian. In this sense, a verb like KNOW is considered to be a factive predicate. However, in some recent works, it has been shown that there are non-factive uses of ‘knows’ in ordinary language. This fact is confirmed by Italian data: depending on context, Italian ‘sa’ (eng.: ‘knows’) can occur as factive or non-factive predicate. My hypothesis is that ‘knows’ and ‘sa’ have two different meanings—they are ambiguous items. In my dissertation, I explored how the polysemy of ‘sa’ affects the syntax.

In most recent work, I have tested the ambiguity hypothesis of sapere ‘know’ experimentally in a study carried out together with Joost van de Weijer (Lund University). Given existing evidence in favour of the hypothesis that Italian sapere ‘know’ is semantically ambiguous between a factive and a non-factive sense, during a postdoc period at Stockholm University (September 2017-January 2020), I have investigated whether there are reasons to assume that sapere’s counterparts in other languages also display this semantic ambiguity. 

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