Did People in the Middle Ages Know that the Earth Was Flat?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The goal of this paper is to explore the presuppositionality of factive verbs, with special emphasis on the verbs know and regret. The hypothesis put forward here is that the factivity related to know and the factivity related to regret are two different phenomena, as the former is a semantic implication (an entailment) that is licensed by the conventional meaning of know, while the latter is a purely pragmatic phenomenon that arises conversationally. More specifically, it is argued that know is factive in the sense that it both entails and (pragmatically) presupposes p, while regret is factive in the sense that it only (pragmatically) presupposes p. In a recent article, Hazlett (2010) shows with authentic examples how know is used non-factively in ordinary language, and he observes in these examples, as he says, “a threat to Factivity”. I argue that non-factive uses of factive verbs, such as know and regret, far from being a threat to factivity, show that, on the one hand, know is ambiguous between a factive and a non-factive sense; on the other hand, in the case of regret, the presupposition of factivity has to be intended as a merely pragmatic implication which can be suspended by the speaker herself.


  • Roberta Colonna Dahlman
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • General Language Studies and Linguistics
  • Philosophy


  • Factivity, Know, Regret, Entailment, Pragmatic Presupposition, Presupposition cancellation, Ambiguity
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-152
JournalActa Analytica
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Jun
Publication categoryResearch