Higher order ignorance in Kipsigis epistemic indefinites
Madeline Bossi
January 2023

Epistemic indefinites are indefinite pronouns or determiners that convey speaker ignorance with respect to the witness to the indefinite. These ignorance effects come in two flavors cross-linguistically: strictly first order ignorance (the speaker doesn’t know which individual witnesses the indefinite) and higher order ignorance (the speaker is ignorant about some salient property of the witness, including identity). Dawson (2018) proposes that these different types of ignorance correlate with the scope of the epistemic indefinite and, by extension, its semantics; she suggests that higher order ignorance is tied to the choice functional nature of some epistemic indefinites, while strictly first order ignorance is tied to domain widening semantics. Here I draw on original field data to show that epistemic indefinites in Kipsigis (Kalenjin; Kenya) can convey higher order ignorance but don’t warrant a choice functional analysis. I offer a new type of domain widening account for Kipsigis, according to which the epistemic indefinite is only licensed when there’s variation in the salient properties that hold of the member(s) of the indefinite’s restrictor.
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Reference: lingbuzz/007083
(please use that when you cite this article)
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keywords: epistemic indefinites, domain widening, choice functions, ignorance effects, kipsigis, semantics
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