LINGUIST List 14.1664

Thu Jun 12 2003

Review: Typology: Aikhenvald & Dixon, ed. (2003)

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  1. Elena Bashir, Studies in Evidentiality

Message 1: Studies in Evidentiality

Date: Thu, 12 Jun 2003 14:23:28 +0000
From: Elena Bashir <>
Subject: Studies in Evidentiality

Aikhenvald, Alexandra Y. and R. M. W. Dixon, ed. (2003) Studies in
Evidentiality, John Benjamins Publishing Company, Typological Studies
in Language, 54.

Announced at

Elena Bashir, The University of Chicago


This book consists of revised versions of papers presented at the
International Workshop on Evidentiality held at La Trobe University,
6- 11 August 2001. Resulting from coordinated efforts to explore a
common set of issues, the chapters in the volume have similar
structure and content, insofar as is appropriate for the disparate
languages involved. This approach will facilitate use of the volume
for comparative and typological research. The purpose of the workshop
and publication is to present data-rich analytic descriptions of the
evidential systems and evidential strategies of a range of languages
and families. The intended audience is a wide range of linguists--
historical, areal, typological and field researchers.

The book opens with a programmatic chapter on evidentiality in
typological perspective, by Aikhenvald, which aims to ''elaborate
definitive cross-linguistic parameters of variation and a unified
typological framework for evidentiality (p. 2)''. Aikhenvald divides
evidentiality systems into two broad types, which: (I) state that a
source of evidence exists, but do not specify it; or (II) specify the
source of evidence. This parameter is related to the markedness
status of the direct or the inferential (cf. indirect) category. In
the Balkans (Ch. 8) and in Turkic (Ch. 12), the inferential is the
marked category. This basic distinction having been made, several
subtypes of two-term, three-term, four-term, and five-or-more term
systems are identified, and examples of each given. For example,
Tariana (described in Chapter 6 of this volume), has a four-term
system, including specification for VISUAL (DIRECT), NONVISUAL

Topics discussed in the introductory chapter include: the types of
markedness, both formal and functional, involved in evidential
systems; the category-status of evidentials particularly with respect
to languages in which the coding of evidentiality is distributed
(scattered) among different systems of the language; semantic
complexities and (pragmatic) extensions of evidential semantics;
correlations with other grammatical categories; evidentiality
strategies and their grammaticalization; historical sources of
evidentiality; and the relation of evidentiality and cultural
attitudes. In general, each of the chapters concerned with a specific
language deals with these issues as they are manifested in the
language under consideration.

The following languages or families are dealt with in separate
chapters: Shipibo-Konibo, with a comparative overview of the category
in Panoan (Ch. 2, Pilar M. Valenzuela); Qiang (Ch. 3, Randy J.
LaPolla); Western Apache [Athabaskan] (Ch. 4, Willem J. de Reuse);
Eastern Pomo with a comparative survey of the category in other Pomoan
languages (Ch. 5, Sally McLendon); Tariana (Ch. 6, Alexandra Y.
Aikhenvald); Jarawara (Ch. 7, R.M.W. Dixon); Balkans with special
attention to Macedonian and Albanian (Ch. 8, Victor A. Friedman);
Yukaghir (Ch. 9, Elena Maslova); My~ky (Ch. 10, Ruth Monserrat and
R.M.W. Dixon; Abkhaz (Ch. 11, Viacheslav Chirikba); Turkic (Ch. 12,
Lars Johanson); and West Greenlandic (Ch. 13, Michael Fortescue.

The final chapter, written by Brian Joseph, provides a thematic
overview of the book and offers suggestions for further research. It
focuses on the semantics of evidentiality and its extensions, its
categorial status in particular languages; the origins of
evidentiality and its fate in contact situations; and the methodology
employed in studying it.

Three differing views of evidentiality emerge in the chapters of
various authors: evidentiality as a sub- category of epistemic
modality; evidentiality as primarily concerned with the reception and
assimilation of information and indications of its source;
evidentiality as indirectivity. Joseph introduces some additional
concepts as potential ways of looking at evidentiality: he suggests
analyzing it as a deixis-like category, and also draws structural and
situational parallels between the semantics of evidentiality in the
verbal system and that of diminutivity with nominals.

With regard to the categorial status of evidentiality, Joseph stresses
that evidential *systems* must be distinguished from evidential
*strategies*. He proposes the notion of ''constellation'' as a way to
define the category of evidentiality. The concept of
''constellation'' bears similarities to ''family resemblance''
categories or to fuzzy categories, or to Lakoff's radial
categories. According to Joseph, the ''constellation'' is located in
the union rather than the intersection of the elements or processes in
question (p. 312). Such a categorial structure is suited to deal with
distributed or ''scattered'' evidential systems. With regard to the
origins of evidential morphology, Joseph stresses that it cannot be
assumed that all such markers necessarily originate in independent
lexical items (p. 317). Some promising questions for further research
include the following. Given that in contact situations between E
(morphological evidentiality encoding) and N (non-E) languages,
evidentiality can either spread from an E to an N language or be
weakened in the E language, and that there are no purely structural
determinants of contact outcomes, what variables interact to influence
what happens in such situations? Why does evidentiality develop in
language X but not in language Y? Is the size of the speech community
related to the development and/or retention of evidentiality? Given
that distancing, temporal and cognitive, is clearly important in
understanding evidentiality, is physical distance also correlated with
the category? One promising line of inquiry concerns how artifacts or
activities resulting from modern technology are treated in the
evidential system. The chapters on Tariana (6) and Qiang (3) present
data relevant to this newly possible line of inquiry. This reviewer
would like to add the further question: does the physical/natural
environment play a part in the elaboration of systems specifying the
sensory modality of reception?

The concept of ''indirectivity'' (Chapter 12, Turkic) perhaps needs
some elaboration. The term is used (mainly in Europe) to cover the
concepts of ''hearsay'', ''inferential'' and other names for the
non-direct member of a two-valued opposition. The unique force of the
term ''indirectivity'' is its focus on the two-layered structure of
information in an ''indirect'' utterance. The narrated event is not
stated directly, but indirectly, i.e. by reference to its reception by
a conscious recipient. In this reviewer's opinion, this is a valuable
way of viewing inferentiality. It raises the possibility of
considering evidentiality/inferentiality as a metalinguistic category,
with the further developments that such a line of thought might have.


This book is a major publication in the rapidly expanding field of
evidentiality studies. It will join the sequence of books like Chafe
and Nichols (1986), Guentcheva (1996), and Johanson, L. and Utas, B.
(2000) as an essential resource for linguists interested in
evidentiality studies, and should certainly find itself on the shelves
of university libraries. Its new contribution is that it attempts to
introduce a typological framework within which the data from various
languages can be fit. The individual chapters are rich in data and
language-specific interpretive analysis. It is recommended without


Chafe, Wallace and Nichols, J. (eds.) 1986. Evidentiality: the
linguistic coding of epistemology.

Guentcheva, Z. (ed.) 1996. L'Enonciation mediatisee. Louvain-Paris:
Editions Peeters.

Johanson, L. and Utas, B. (eds.) 2000. Evidentials. Turkic, Iranian
and neighbouring languages. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.


Elena Bashir works on languages of Pakistan, particularly Khowar,
Kalasha, Burushaski, and Wakhi. Her dissertation (Michigan, 1988) is
an areal and typological study of Kalasha, including substantial
material on Khowar. She is continuing work on a reference grammar of
Khowar, which will include a grammar proper, collection of texts, and
a glossary. She has published on inferentiality in Kalasha and Khowar
(Dardic, Indo-Aryan). At present, she teaches Urdu at the University
of Chicago.
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