eternally stressed semanticist (cqs) wrote,
eternally stressed semanticist
cqs

The intensionality of "alleged"

"Alleged" is well-known in semantics as a word that introduces reference to possible worlds: just as a "former senator" isn't a senator (who is former), but rather someone who at a prior time was a senator, an "alleged criminal" is someone who isn't (necessarily) an actual criminal, but merely someone who, in the worlds compatible with what the alleger belives, is a criminal.

Which makes the following sub-header from the front page of boston.com particularly odd:

A witness saw Christopher Piantedosi allegedly stab his ex-girlfriend in their daughter's room via a videochat on an iPad.

It's sensible to say that Piantedosi allegedly stabbed his ex-girlfriend; it means that, according to police, Piantedosi stabbed his ex-girlfriend. But I'm not at all sure what it would mean for someone to see Piantedosi allegedly stab someone. (She saw the police allege that he stabbed her?) Perhaps this witness can see into possible worlds, in which case we really need to get her into a lab to do some experimental semantics.
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