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Review of Linguistic Realization of Evidentiality in European Languages
EDITORS: Diewald, Gabriele and Smirnova, Elena TITLE: Linguistic Realization of Evidentiality in European Languages SERIES TITLE: Empirical Approaches to Language Typology [EALT] 49 PUBLISHER: De Gruyter Mouton YEAR: 2010
Karolien Janssens; Center for Grammar, Cognition and Typology; University of Antwerp
This collection of papers is based on presentations given at the workshop ''The linguistic realization of evidentiality in European languages'', held at the Annual Convention of the German Society of Linguistics in 2008. In their introduction, Gabriele Diewald and Elena Smirnova define evidentiality as: ''the explicit encoding of a source of information or knowledge (i.e. evidence) which the speaker claims to have made use of for producing the primary proposition of the utterance'' (p. 1). They point out two main issues which are addressed in this volume. First of all, the authors are all concerned with the definition of evidentiality in Aikhenvald 2004. Aikhenvald considers evidential markers to be grammatical markers and argues that European languages do not possess such evidentials. She acknowledges that European languages do exhibit evidential strategies, consisting of lexical expressions of evidentiality. In contrast, the authors in this book consider lexical evidentials as true evidentials and argue that ''grammatical systems develop'', and that ''grammaticalization implies by necessity that forms are not yet fully grammaticalized'' (p. 4). A few papers even call attention to grammatical evidentials in European languages. The second main issue is the relationship between evidentiality and epistemic modality. Evidentiality is regarded as a semantic-functional domain in its own right and not as a component of epistemic modality. These two issues obviously obscure the definition of evidentiality.
Types of verbal evidentiality marking: an overview, by Vladimir A. Plungian
In this paper, Plungian gives an overview of the history of evidentiality studies and of the main language areas in which evidentiality is expressed grammatically by means of verbs. He develops a taxonomy of evidential values and evidential systems which is based on typological research on these grammatical evidentials. The central oppositions in the taxonomy of evidential values are direct/indirect and personal/non-personal. The taxonomy is an enhancement of the ones established in Willett 1988 and Aikhenvald 2004. In addition, the author focuses on the position of evidentiality in the verbal system, with special attention to evidentiality in relation to person and modality. Plungian opts for a distinction between modalized and non-modalized evidential systems.
Hearsay in European languages: toward an integrative account of grammatical and lexical marking, by Björn Wiemer
Wiemer is concerned with markers of reportivity (hearsay), a subcategory of evidentiality. He divides the different morphological expressions of this subcategory into lexical and grammatical ones. Thus, he clearly disagrees with Aikhenvald's strict definition of evidentiality as a grammatical domain. On the grammar side, he places inflectional and agglutinated expressions of evidentiality, together with functional extensions of TAM paradigms. Auxiliaries and predicatives are placed in between grammar and lexicon. In this group, the modal auxiliaries of necessity constitute the area of merger between evidentiality and epistemic modality. On the side of the lexicon, he discusses the formal (scope) and pragmatic properties of particles, parentheticals, conjunctions and adpositions. The study of these forms reveals certain areal tendencies. The author also observes that many markers are not reportive units per se. Instead, they are characterized as expressing general indirect evidentiality. The paper concludes with the hypothesis that ''the lack of discrimination between these two domains, is the result of a slow transition from inferential to reportive meaning'' (p. 115).
Information source in Spanish and Basque: a parallel corpus study, by Asier Alcázar
Alcázar investigates evidentiality in a Spanish-to-Basque parallel corpus and argues that Basque possesses a grammatical evidential system and Spanish displays evidential strategies in the sense of Aikhenvald 2004. He claims that the Basque particle ''omen'' is a grammatical evidential on the basis of many features. An important property of ''omen'' is, for example, its frequent use. ''Omen'' becomes more and more obligatory in Basque and it is used when there is no evidential expression in the Spanish original. Furthermore, ''omen'' can express epistemic modality alongside evidentiality. Not every evidential particle in Basque can express epistemic modality. Thus, epistemic modality may or may not arise out of evidentiality. Another important observation is that ''omen'' is restricted to sentential scope. This property may lead translators to use other evidential expressions when the scope is not sentential or when it is ambiguous. In these circumstances, they can use adverbs or parentheticals. This makes Basque an example of a language in which lexical and grammatical evidential expressions work together.
Embedding evidentials in German, by Mathias Schenner
This paper has a formal semantic approach to evidentiality, and in particular, to evidentials in embedding. By defining evidentiality as a formally broad and a semantically narrow domain, Schenner does not agree with Aikhenvald's notion of evidentiality as a grammatical category and keeps evidentiality and epistemic modality strictly separate. Yet, he acknowledges that the two domains are related because ''information will have a high degree of subjective probability (epistemic modality) if it stems from a highly reliable source token (evidentiality), judged by the speaker'' (p. 160). The paper further focuses on the use of the German reportive evidential ''sollen'' in embedding. This exploration counters the argument that evidentials are unembeddable. It turns out that the type of predicate in the matrix clause has an influence on the type of meaning of embedded ''sollen''.
Embedding indirective (evidential) utterances in Turkish, by Hatice Coşkun
Like the previous author, Coşkun shows that evidentials do appear in subordinated clauses. They can appear in finite, but not in non-finite, subordinate clauses in Turkish. The evidential in finite subordinate clauses expresses indirectivity, but it does not specify whether the information source is reportive, inferential or perceptional. The source is determined by context. This is illustrated with the suffix/clitic ''-(y)mIş'', which is examined in different finite subordinated environments. The type of indirectivity depends on the type of subordination (adverbial or complement clause), the type of subordinating predicate or the type of complementizer. What is more, there is interaction between complementizer and other contextual elements (e.g. the (non-)factivity of the matrix verb). Finally, the discourse context affects the indirectivity of ''-(y)mIş'', and it can bring dubitative or emotional distance meanings to the fore. This is where epistemic modality comes into play.
Epistemic modality and evidentiality and their determination on a deictic basis: the case of Romance languages, by Gerda Haßler
In this paper, evidentiality is defined as a deictic category, against the background of previous research on evidentiality as an interactional phenomenon. Evidentials are deictic because reference to elements outside the linguistic context (source of information and speaker) is made. Evidential expressions come to exist dialogically, because the hearer or reader is ''a reference to the source of information'' (p. 239). Contrastively, epistemic modality ''monologically contributes the epistemic stance of the author'' (p. 239). Thus, deixis is a tool to distinguish evidentiality and epistemic modality. By studying evidential adverbs in Romance languages and the Spanish imperfect, Haßler describes the deictic sphere of evidentials. In addition, she focuses on the way in which evidentials evolve from the lexical meaning of 'direct visibility' to evidential functions (and vice versa) and on how they obtain more procedural meanings.
Evidentiality, polysemy, and verbs of perception in English and German, by Richard Jason Whitt
Whitt’s paper explores evidentiality in verbs of perception. These verbs can be divided into object-oriented verbs (grammatical subject is object of perception) and subject-oriented verbs (grammatical subject is perceiver). These two categories are limited to specific construction types. What is more, the former are often used evidentially with a variety of subjects whereas the latter only express evidentiality with first-person subject. The verbs also display polysemy. The author focuses on the English verb ''see'' and the German equivalent ''sehen''. He describes the most widely attested constructions in which these verbs appear and observes restrictions on their polysemy, depending on the type of construction.
Evidential markers in French scientific writing: the case of the French verb voir, by Francis Grossman and Agnès Tutin
In this paper, the evidentiality of the perceptive verb ''voir'' in a corpus of French scientific writing is analysed. The authors identify five main meanings of this verb and point out the prototypical structure for each of them. ''Voir'' as a statement marker expresses inference through simple observation. ''Voir'' can also be used as a reference marker to indicate intratextual and intertextual references. In addition to these two evidential uses of ''voir'', the verb often expresses non-evidentiality. It can be used in the sense of 'to examine' and it can express an opinion. These five senses are examined in a corpus compiled from writings in the field of economics and linguistics. In the linguistics corpus, the statement markers constitute the majority of the cases, while in economics texts, intertextual inferences take the lead. In these texts, the cognitive (reasoning) meaning of ''voir'' seems to be inextricably entwined with the evidential function.
An interactional approach to epistemic and evidential adverbs in Spanish conversation, by Bert Cornillie
Spanish epistemic and evidential adverbs in conversation are the topic of this paper. Some of these adverbs do more than express epistemic and evidential qualifications. For example, the epistemic adverbial phrase ''a lo mejor'' is often used to achieve alignment with the co-participant. It asks for a hypothesis to be confirmed or refuted. It can also express a confirmation of something that has already been said in the previous turn. According to the author, ''a lo mejor'' is an epistemic adverbial phrase with an inferential dimension (evidential). Pure epistemic adverbs, like ''quizá'', cannot acquire such a conversational dimension. In contrast, the evidential adverb ''evidentemente'' is involved in the on-line planning of the interaction, as it signals that the speaker wants to keep the turn to defend his/her idea. Cornillie argues that this proves that ''evidentemente'' involves inference from reasoning, not reasoning from sensorial, visual or auditive sources but reasoning as part of the discourse planning.
Revelative evidentiality in European languages: linguistic marking and its anthropological background, by Alexandra Kratschmer and Adriënne Heijnen
This paper shows how the study of a subcategory of evidentiality, revelative evidentiality, can benefit from the cooperation of linguistics and anthropology. Revelative evidentiality is a term used to refer to dream accounts. The authors look at bible extracts of the dreams in Joseph's story (Old Testament, Genesis 37-44) in different European languages through history. On the basis of these results, they present an overview of linguistic markers used to express revelative evidentiality. Expressions of epistemic modality seem to play an important role. The bible texts also reveal a diachronic development concerning the subject's participation in dreams, from experiencer of the dream in dative constructions to owner and eventually, to creator of the dream. This diachronic development is confirmed by a study of interviews of Icelandic, German and Italian native speakers. In addition, the authors note the importance of interactional approaches to evidentiality. All these observations find support in ethnographic data. The way in which languages express dreams linguistically is in line with the way the speakers of these languages conceive dreaming (as coming from an external, higher source or not).
This work is an important contribution to the study of evidentiality. It convincingly shows the necessity of studying evidentiality in European languages, thereby acknowledging the importance of lexical evidentials and the existence of grammatical evidentials in these languages. The volume encourages further research on evidentials. Especially the two general contributions of Vladimir Plungian and Björn Wiemer offer a good framework to analyze evidentials. All the papers taken together give a detailed picture of the complex semantic field of evidentiality. Epistemic modality and evidentiality are neatly separated from one another, and the specific connections between these two domains are described very clearly. The book offers interesting discussions about this strict distinction and refers to differing views in previous work on the subject (e.g. Chafe and Nichols 1986). Another important contribution is the focus on evidentiality from an interactional and a deictic point of view. These approaches offer useful tools to help define the notion itself and to discover extra-evidential meanings.
However, the quality of the contributions varies. Some observations are rather superfluous while others are not treated in sufficient detail. For example, the difference between the lexical meaning and the evidential function of a word is sometimes described only in a vague manner, which obscures the notion of evidentiality itself. The Spanish ''aparentemente'' is said to have a lexical meaning and an evidential function. But in my opinion, a lexical meaning can already display an evidential function. Furthermore, the discussion about perceptive verbs involves a circular argument. Object-oriented and subject-oriented verbs are connected to specific constructions. However, in the definitions of these two types of perceptive verbs, the constructions are already implicitly included. In subject-oriented verbs, the grammatical subject is the perceiver and, hence, these verbs appear in transitive constructions by definition ('I see the house burning'). In object-oriented perception verbs, the subject is the object of perception and, accordingly, this type appears in intransitive constructions ('Karen looks sick'). A general remark has to do with the definition of inferential evidentiality. The authors differ in their descriptions of this type of evidentiality, which may confuse the reader. For some, inferential evidentiality is ''pure reasoning on the basis of indirect evidence or personal experiences'' (p. 192) (how to understand this indirect evidence is not always clear) but, for others, the basis of this type of reasoning can involve the perception of traces or consequences of a previous event.
Furthermore, it would have been interesting if some authors had paid more attention to diachronic evolutions. Alexandra Kratschmer and Adriënne Heijnen do take a diachronic point of view in their linguistic and anthropological study, but the study of the relationship between epistemic modality and evidentiality too could benefit from this approach. Many authors hint at evolution in their papers by looking at the etymology of the word or by pointing at the relations between different meanings (and constructions). Björn Wiemer even points out the evidential extensions of perfects or TAM paradigms. However, a detailed historical examination is missing. This type of study might shed more light on semantic relations or on the conventionalization of extra-evidential (pragmatic) meanings.
The final remarks concern the lay-out. The book contains quite a few typographical errors and some tables lack legends, which makes the interpretation difficult. However, the overall structure of the book is very handy. The papers at the beginning give a general idea of the notion of evidentiality and the other papers provide a more detailed, language-specific perspective.
In sum, despite some unclear observations or unnecessary descriptions, this volume will certainly be useful to researchers in the field of evidentiality and modality. It covers previous research and points out new, interesting areas of research.
Aikhenvald, A. 2004. Evidentiality (Oxford Linguistics). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Chafe, W. and Nichols J. (eds.) 1986. Evidentiality: The Linguistic Coding of Epistemology (Advances in discourse processes XX). Norwood, New Jersey: Ablex.
Willet, Thomas L. 1988. A cross-linguistic survey of the grammaticalization of evidentiality. Studies in Language 12(1). 51-97.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Karolien Janssens is a PhD student in Linguistics, affiliated to the Center
for Grammar, Cognition and Typology of the University of Antwerp. Her
interests include grammaticalization, (inter)subjectification and modality,
with a focus on the diachronic development of the mental state predicates