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Conference Information

Full Title: Rethinking Evidentiality

Location: Zurich, Switzerland
Start Date: 10-Sep-2017 - 13-Sep-2017
Contact: Manuel Widmer
Meeting Email: click here to access email
Meeting Description: Ever since evidentiality became a topic of interest in mainstream linguistics in the early nineteen eighties, a vast number of cross-linguistic and language-specific studies have considerably enhanced our understanding of the phenomenon. They have given rise to the widely accepted standard definition of evidentiality as a grammatical category that specifies the information source on which a statement is based. At the same time, this progress has led to new questions.

One of the most fundamental issues that remains unresolved is the question of how we can diagnose and identify an evidential as such. In both typological and descriptive studies, morphemes are sometimes referred to as ''evidentials'' without reflecting on whether this is the most adequate functional characterization. This issue has been touched upon in some recent studies that question the analysis of certain bona fide ''evidential'' subcategories as true evidentials. For example, Bruil (2014, 2015) has argued that reportative markers do not primarily mark information source, but rather signal a shift in epistemic authority. In the same vein, Widmer (2016, forthcoming) has argued that egophoricity (a.k.a. ''participatory evidence''), does not specify one's source of information but the quality of one's knowledge as ''exclusive / personal'' or ''non-exclusive / impersonal''. This has important implications for the typological classification of evidentiality (see Plungian 2010; San Roque & Loughnane 2012; Hengeveld & Dall'Aglio Hattnher 2015 for some recent proposals).

The issue of diagnosing evidential semantics is directly linked to the question of which methodology should best be used to study and evidential categories. Within functional linguistics scholars have argued for the use of natural discourse including conversations (Aikhenvald 2004) and the use of techniques from discourse analysis (Gipper 2011). Within formal semantics, scholars have argued for elaborate elicitation methods that help to determine the felicity of the use of evidentials in specific contexts (see Faller 2002; Matthewson et al. 2007; Waldie et al. 2009; Peterson 2010; Murray 2010; Déchaine 2012).

In this workshop, we would like to bring together scholars working on evidentiality from empirical, methodological, and / or theoretical perspectives in order to discuss the question of how evidentials can be identified and classified. The aim is to discuss how these different approaches can feed each other in our understanding of evidentiality. We are especially interested in the following questions (but potential contributors should not feel restricted by them):

(1) What diagnostics / tests can we use to identify and study evidentials in the languages of the world?
(2) Is it possible to describe evidential distinctions by reference to other semantic concepts, e.g. “event situation” vs. “learning time” (Klose 2014)?
(3) Are there other notions that are necessary to adequately describe complex evidentiality systems, e.g. ''epistemic authority'' (Bruil 2014, 2015), ''perspective'' (Bergqvist in press)?
(4) Are there morphosyntactic and / or semantic criteria that allow us to group evidentials into cross-linguistically coherent subsystems, e.g. ''representational'' vs. ''interpersonal'' (Hengeveld & Dall'Aglio Hattnher 2015)?
(5) To which extent is it justified to think of evidentiality as a network of independent epistemic categories that all gravitate towards the notion of ''information source''?
Linguistic Subfield: Discourse Analysis; Language Documentation; Pragmatics; Semantics; Typology
LL Issue: 27.3967

This is a session of the following meeting:
50th Meeting of the Societas Linguistica Europaea

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