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Evidentials: Some Preliminary Considerations

Dr. James Higginbotham

Tuesday, May 03, 2005, 01:00pm - 02:00pm

University of Southern California, School of Philosophy

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The now large, and growing, literature on evidentials relies in considerable measure upon arduous and accurate fieldwork, undertaken from different points of view, and aiming at classification of evidentials in the varieties of languages in which they occur.� At the same time, one is free to conjecture evidentials of one sort or another in more familiar languages, and there is some controversy over how to formulate a cross-linguistic concept out of the raw material. In this presentation, I will note a number of distinctions that seem to me essential to concept formation in this area.� Some of these distinctions are noted here and there in the literature, but relatively neglected in much of it.� In many cases, crucial data (often very hard to elicit, even if envisaged) are lacking.� Many points can be illustrated in any language, English included.� I will consider at least the following:

A.� Do the complements of evidentials refer to (or quantify over) propositions, or events?

B.� Some evidentials cannot be embedded, while others can: what does this tell us about their meanings?

C.� In assertion, evidentials might be taken as heads, in effect the main predicates of what is asserted (compare English: "I know of my own knowledge that John is happy").� But they might actually amount to side remarks, as in the English ("I guess (?that) John is happy").� Which are they, and when?

D.� There appears to be a divergence between evidentials that have to do with strength of evidence, as opposed to those that make reference to source of information.� The two notions will inevitably be hard to disentangle in some cases; how should we separate them?

E.� To what extent are evidentials like parentheticals?� The embeddability of parentheticals clearly depends upon the host V; how does it work with (certain) evidentials?

F.� How do evidentials behave in mathematical, or generic (e.g., "Dogs bark") contexts?

Dr. James Higginbotham