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?

1 Answer 1


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.

  • Thank you. In your example, are "doubt" and "guess" interchangeable?
    – JJJohn
    Commented Feb 24, 2020 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
    Commented Feb 25, 2020 at 13:39

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