An wiki page (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epistemic_modality) explains "epistemic modality" as

a sub-type of linguistic modality that deals with a speaker's evaluation/judgment of, degree of confidence in, or belief of the knowledge upon which a proposition is based.

It seems the word "epistemic" is related to "inference" or "prediction".

could someone give some simpler explanation about the meaning of "epistemic", difference between epistemic and predictive?


Merriam-Webster has a much simpler definition for "epistemic":

: of or relating to knowledge or knowing

I was not familiar with linguistic modalities, but after some reading I understand it refers to different ways for a speaker to convey their intentions beyond the definitive meaning of what they are saying.

An epistemic modality, then, is a way of speaking that conveys what the speaker knows about what they are saying. An example from the Wikipedia page is:

I doubt that it rained yesterday.

"Doubt" indicates the speaker's knowledge or judgement of the source of information.

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  • Thank you. In your example, are "doubt" and "guess" interchangeable? – JJJohn Feb 24 at 21:57
  • @JJJohn Not exactly. Another way to say it might be "I don't believe that it rained yesterday." "Doubt" implies that the speaker doesn't trust the source of information; "guess" implies that the speaker doesn't know the information at all (or knows very little). "I guess [that] it rained yesterday" would be another example of epistemic modality, though. – Jacob Feb 25 at 13:39

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