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Review of  Studies in Evidentiality

Reviewer: Elena Bashir
Book Title: Studies in Evidentiality
Book Author: Chia-jung Pan R. M. W. Dixon
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): Semantics
Subject Language(s): Apache, Western
Qiang, Northern
Pomo, Northern
Yukaghir, Northern
Language Family(ies): Turkic
Balkan Romani
Issue Number: 14.1664

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Date: Thu, 12 Jun 2003 06:08:46 -0700 (PDT)
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.

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
REPORTED information.

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.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER 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.