In linguistics, evidentiality is, broadly, the indication of the nature of evidence for a given statement; that is, whether evidence exists for the statement and if so what kind. An evidential (also verificational or validational) is the particular grammatical element (affix, clitic, or particle) that indicates evidentiality. Languages with only a single evidential have had terms such as mediative, médiatif, médiaphorique, and indirective used instead of evidential. Evidential is a meaning of nature and statement that is whether evidence exists for the statement and what kind of evidence exists.
1 Introduction 2 Types according to Aikhenvald
2.1 Indirectivity (type I) 2.2 Evidentiality (type II)
2.2.1 Typology of evidentiality systems
3 Evidentiality marking and other categories
3.1 Epistemic modality 3.2 Terminology
4 In English (not grammaticalized)
4.1 Possible exceptions
5 Western history of the concept 6 See also 7 References and further reading 8 References 9 External links
All languages have some means of specifying the source of information.
European languages (such as Germanic and Romance languages) often
indicate evidential-type information through modal verbs (Spanish:
deber de, Dutch: zouden, Danish: skulle, German: sollen) or other
lexical words (adverbials) (English: reportedly) or phrases (English:
it seems to me).
Some languages have a distinct grammatical category of evidentiality
that is required to be expressed at all times. The elements in
European languages indicating the information source are optional and
usually do not indicate evidentiality as their primary function —
thus they do not form a grammatical category. The obligatory elements
of grammatical evidentiality systems may be translated into English,
variously, as I hear that, I see that, I think that, as I hear, as I
can see, as far as I understand, they say, it is said, it seems, it
seems to me that, it looks like, it appears that, it turns out that,
alleged, stated, allegedly, reportedly, obviously, etc.
Alexandra Aikhenvald (2004) reports that about a quarter of the
world's languages have some type of grammatical evidentiality. She
also reports that, to her knowledge, no research has been conducted on
grammatical evidentiality in sign languages. A first preliminary study
on evidentiality in sign language has been conducted by Laura Mazzoni
on LIS (Italian Sign Language).
Many languages with grammatical evidentiality mark evidentiality
independently from tense-aspect or epistemic modality (which is the
speaker's evaluation of the information, i.e. whether it is reliable,
Evidentials in Eastern Pomo
Evidential type Example verb Gloss
nonvisual sensory pʰa·békʰ-ink’e "burned" [speaker felt the sensation]
inferential pʰa·bék-ine "must have burned" [speaker saw circumstantial evidence]
hearsay (reportative) pʰa·békʰ-·le "burned, they say" [speaker is reporting what was told]
direct knowledge pʰa·bék-a "burned" [speaker has direct evidence, probably visual]
The use of evidentiality has pragmatic implications in languages that do not mark evidentiality distinctly from epistemic modality. For example, a person who makes a false statement qualified as a belief may be considered mistaken; a person who makes a false statement qualified as a personally observed fact will probably be considered to have lied. In some languages, evidential markers also serve other purposes, such as indicating the speaker's attitude to, or belief in, the statement. Usually a direct evidential marker may serve to indicate that the speaker is certain about the event stated. Using an indirect evidential marker, such as one for hearsay or reported information, may indicate that the speaker is uncertain about the statement, or doesn't want to take responsibility for its truth. A "hearsay" evidential may then have the undertone of "that's what they say; whether or not it's true is nothing I can take responsibility for". In other languages, this is not the case. Therefore one should distinguish between such evidential markers that only mark source of knowledge, and such evidential markers that serve other functions, such as marking epistemic modality. Evidentials can be used to ‘deflect culpability’ in a statement. In his dissertation on Nanti, a Peruvian Amazonian language, Lev Michael refers to an example in which a young girl is accidentally burned, and a community member questions her mother about how it happened. Her mother uses the evidential marker ‘ka’ which translates to ‘presumably,’ to deflect responsibility for the girl’s mistake. Some languages are borderline cases. For example, French is mostly like English in not having grammatical evidentiality, but does have some ability to express it via inflection. By using a mood called the conditional (which has three uses: conditions, future-in-the-past, and hearsay), journalistic French frequently makes a distinction between Il a reconnu sa culpabilité and Il aurait reconnu sa culpabilité (both "He has admitted his guilt"), but with an implication of certainty with the first, and the idea of "reportedly" with the second; the same happens in Spanish: Él ha reconocido su culpa vs. Él habría reconocido su culpa. Types according to Aikhenvald Following the typology of Aikhenvald (2004, 2006), there are two broad types of evidential marking:
indirectivity marking ("type I") evidential marking ("type II")
The first type (indirectivity) indicates whether evidence exists for a
given statement, but does not specify what kind of evidence. The
second type (evidentiality proper) specifies the kind of evidence
(such as whether the evidence is visual, reported, or inferred).
Indirectivity (type I)
Indirectivity (also known as inferentiality) systems are common in
Uralic and Turkic languages. These languages indicate whether evidence
exists for a given source of information—thus, they contrast direct
information (reported directly) and indirect information (reported
indirectly, focusing on its reception by the speaker/recipient).
Unlike the other evidential "type II" systems, indirectivity marking
does not indicate information about the source of knowledge: it is
irrelevant whether the information results from hearsay, inference, or
perception (however, some
gel-di "came" gel-miş "obviously came, came (as far as understood)"
(Johanson 2003: 275)
In the first word geldi, the unmarked suffix -di indicates past tense. In the second word gelmiş, the suffix -miş also indicates past tense but indirectly. It may be translated into English with the added words obviously, apparently or as far as I understand. The direct past tense marker -di is unmarked (or neutral) in the sense that whether or not evidence exists supporting the statement is not specified. Evidentiality (type II) The other broad type of evidentiality systems ("type II") specifies the nature of the evidence supporting a statement. These kinds of evidence can be divided into such criteria as:
Witness vs. nonwitness Firsthand vs. secondhand vs. thirdhand Sensory
Visual vs. nonvisual (i.e. auditory, olfactory, etc.)
A witness evidential indicates that the information source was
obtained through direct observation by the speaker. Usually this is
from visual observation (eyewitness), but some languages also mark
information directly heard with information directly seen. A witness
evidential is usually contrasted with a nonwitness evidential which
indicates that the information was not witnessed personally but was
obtained through a secondhand source or was inferred by the speaker.
A secondhand evidential is used to mark any information that was not
personally observed or experienced by the speaker. This may include
inferences or reported information. This type of evidential may be
contrasted with an evidential that indicates any other kind of source.
A few languages distinguish between secondhand and thirdhand
Sensory evidentials can often be divided into different types. Some
languages mark visual evidence differently from nonvisual evidence
that is heard, smelled, or felt. The
information inferred by direct physical evidence, information inferred by general knowledge, information inferred/assumed because of speaker's experience with similar situations, past deferred realization.
In many cases, different inferential evidentials also indicate epistemic modality, such as uncertainty or probability (see epistemic modality below). For example, one evidential may indicate that the information is inferred but of uncertain validity, while another indicates that the information is inferred but unlikely to be true. Reportative evidentials indicate that the information was reported to the speaker by another person. A few languages distinguish between hearsay evidentials and quotative evidentials. Hearsay indicates reported information that may or may not be accurate. A quotative indicates the information is accurate and not open to interpretation (i.e., is a direct quotation). An example of a reportative from Shipibo (-ronki):
Aronkiai. a-ronki-ai do-REPRT-INCOMPL "It is said that she will do it." / "She says that she will do it." (Valenzuela 2003:39)
Typology of evidentiality systems The following is a brief survey of evidential systems found in the languages of the world as identified in Aikhenvald (2004). Some languages only have two evidential markers while others may have six or more. The system types are organized by the number of evidentials found in the language. For example, a two-term system (A) will have two different evidential markers; a three-term system (B) will have three different evidentials. The systems are further divided by the type of evidentiality that is indicated (e.g., A1, A2, A3, etc.). Languages that exemplify each type are listed in parentheses. The most common system found is the A3 type. Two-term systems:
A1. witness, nonwitness (e.g., Jarawara, Yukaghir languages, Mỹky, Godoberi, Kalasha-mun, Khowar, Yanam) A2. nonfirsthand, everything else (e.g., Abkhaz, Mansi, Khanty, Nenets, Enets, Selkup, Northeast Caucasian languages) A3. reported, everything else (e.g., Turkic languages, Enga, Tauya, Lezgian, Kham, Estonian, Livonian, Tibeto-Burman languages, several South American languages)
B1. visual sensory, inferential, reportative (e.g., Aymara, Shastan languages, Qiang languages, Maidu, most of Quechuan languages, Northern Embera languages) B2. visual sensory, nonvisual sensory, inferential (e.g., Washo) B3. nonvisual sensory, inferential, reportative (e.g., Retuarã, Northern Pomo) B4. witness(direct), nonwitness(indirect), inferential, reportative (e.g., Tsezic and Dagestanian languages)
C1. visual sensory, nonvisual sensory, inferential, reportative (e.g., Tariana, Xamatauteri, Eastern Pomo, East Tucanoan languages) C2. visual sensory, inferential #1, inferential #2, reportative (e.g., Tsafiki, Pawnee, Ancash Quechua) C3. nonvisual sensory, inferential #1, inferential #2, reportative (e.g., Wintu) C4. visual sensory, inferential, reportative #1, reportative #2 (e.g., Southeastern Tepehuan) C5. witness (non-subjective, non-renarrative), inferential (subjective, non-renarrative), renarrative (non-subjective, renarrative), dubitative (subjective, renarrative) (e.g., Bulgarian)
Five-plus term systems:
visual sensory, nonvisual sensory, inferential, reportative, assumed (e.g., Tuyuca, Tucano) witness, inferential, reportative, assumed, "internal support" (e.g., Nambikwaran languages) visual sensory, nonvisual sensory, inferential, reported, heard from known source, direct participation (e.g., Fasu) nonvisual sensory, inferential #1, inferential #2, inferential #3, reportative (e.g., Western Apache) inferential, anticipation, performative, deduction, induction, hearsay, direct observation, opinion, assumed, "to know by culture", "to know by internal" (Lojban)
Evidentiality marking and other categories
Evidential systems in many languages are often marked simultaneously
with other linguistic categories. For example, according to Aikhenvald
a given language may use the same element to mark both evidentiality
and mirativity (i.e. unexpected information). She claims that this is
the case of
evidentiality with mirativity evidentiality with tense-aspect evidentiality with modality (this is discussed in the next section below)
In addition to the interactions with tense, modality, and mirativity, the usage of evidentials in some languages may also depend on the clause type, discourse structure, and/or linguistic genre. However, despite the intersection of evidentiality systems with other semantic or pragmatic systems (through grammatical categories), Aikhenvald believes that several languages do mark evidentiality without any grammatical connection to these other semantic/pragmatic systems. More explicitly stated, she believes that there are modal systems which do not express evidentiality and evidential systems which do not express modality. Likewise, there are mirative systems which do not express evidentiality and evidential systems which do not express mirativity. Epistemic modality Evidentiality is often considered to be a sub-type of epistemic modality (see, for example, Palmer 1986, Kiefer 1994). Other linguists consider evidentiality (marking the source of information in a statement) to be distinct from epistemic modality (marking the degree of confidence in a statement). An English example:
I see that he is coming. (evidential) I know that he is coming. (epistemic)
For instance, de Haan (1999, 2001, 2005) states that evidentiality
asserts evidence while epistemic modality evaluates evidence and that
evidentiality is more akin to a deictic category marking the
relationship between speakers and events/actions (like the way
demonstratives mark the relationship between speakers and objects, see
also Joseph 2003). Aikhenvald (2003) finds that evidentials may
indicate a speaker's attitude about the validity of a statement but
this is not a required feature of evidentials. Additionally, she finds
that evidential-marking may co-occur with epistemic-marking, but it
may also co-occur with aspectual/tense or mirative marking.
Considering evidentiality as a type of epistemic modality may only be
the result of analyzing non-European languages in terms of the systems
of modality found in European languages. For example, the modal verbs
I am hungry. Bob is hungry.
We are unlikely to say the second unless someone (perhaps Bob himself) has told us that Bob is hungry. (We might still say it for someone incapable of speaking for himself, such as a baby or a pet.) If we are simply assuming that Bob is hungry based on the way he looks or acts, we are more likely to say something like:
Bob looks hungry. Bob seems hungry. Bob would be hungry by now. Bob must be hungry by now.
Here, the fact that we are relying on sensory evidence, rather than direct experience, is conveyed by our use of the word look or seem. Another situation in which the evidential modality is expressed in English is in certain kinds of predictions, namely those based on the evidence at hand. Amongst EFL teachers, these are usually referred to as "predictions with evidence". Examples:
Look at those clouds! It's going to rain! (Compare "It will rain!").
The suffix "ish" can be considered to be a grammaticalized marker of
Western history of the concept
The notion of evidentiality as obligatory grammatical information was
first made apparent in 1911 by
"EnEns/Es evidential is a tentative label for the verbal category which takes into account three events — a narrated event (En), a speech event (Es), and a narrated speech event (Ens). The speaker reports an event on the basis of someone else's report (quotative, i.e. hearsay evidence), of a dream (revelative evidence), of a guess (presumptive evidence) or of his own previous experience (memory evidence)."
Jakobson also was the first to clearly separate evidentiality from grammatical mood. By the middle of the 1960s, evidential and evidentiality were established terms in linguistic literature. Systems of evidentiality have received focused linguistic attention only relatively recently. The first major work to examine evidentiality cross-linguistically is Chafe & Nichols (1986). A more recent typological comparison is Aikhenvald (2004). See also
References and further reading
This article's further reading may not follow's content policies or guidelines. Please improve this article by removing less relevant or redundant publications with the same point of view; or by incorporating the relevant publications into the body of the article through appropriate citations. (August 2013) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
Aikhenvald, Alexandra Y. (2003).
Evidentiality in typological
perspective. In A. Y. Aikhenvald & R. M. W. Dixon (Eds.)
Aikhenvald, Alexandra Y. (2004). Evidentiality. Oxford: Oxford
University Press. ISBN 0-19-926388-4.
Aikhenvald, Alexandra Y.; & Dixon, R. M. W. (1998). Evidentials
and areal typology: A case-study from Amazonia. Language Sciences, 20,
Aikhenvald, Alexandra Y.; & Dixon, R. M. W. (Eds.). (2003).
Studies in evidentiality. Typological studies in language (Vol. 54).
Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company. ISBN 90-272-2962-7;
Aikhenvald, Alexandra Y.; & Dixon, R. M. W. (Eds.). (2014) The
Grammar of Knowledge: A Cross-Linguistic Typology. Oxford University
Press. ISBN 978-0-19-870131-6
Blakemore, D. (1994).
Language & Power (Evidentiality) Ferdinand de Haan's research on evidentiality
Evidentiality bibliography world map of the language distribution of evidentiality
Semantics: Modality and Evidentiality SIL:What is evidentiality?
SIL:What is a quotative evidential? SIL:What is a sensory evidential? SIL:What is a visual evidential? SIL:What is a nonvisual evidential? SIL:What is an auditory evidential?
SIL:What is epistemic modality? Evidentiality in Dena’ina Athabascan review of Aikhenvald & Dixon (2003) (Linguist List) review of Aikhenvald (2004)[permanent dead link] (Linguist List)
v t e
Linguistic modalities and grammatical moods
Realis (what is)
Indicative/declarative Aggressive Energetic Evidential (Sensory) Generic/gnomic Mirative
Deontic (what should be)
Benedictive Commissive (promises, threats) Directive (commands, requests, requirements) Deliberative Hortative (+ subtypes) Imperative Jussive Necessitative Permissive Precative Prohibitive Propositive Volitive (hopes, wishes, fears) Desiderative Imprecative Optative
Epistemic (what may be)
(inferences, possibilities, questions, etc.) Alethic Assumptive Deductive Dubitative Hypothetical Inferential/renarrative/oblique Interrogative Potential Speculative Subjunctive
Dependent circumstances (what would be)