epistemic modality and evidentiality inbrazilianportuguese

MARTA BEGONA CARRETERO LAPEYRE mcarrete at filol.ucm.es
Mon Sep 1 11:04:29 UTC 2008

Dear Juliano D. Antonio and all Funknetters,
My view of the relationship between epistemic modality and evidentiality is that they are two different conceptual categories. Both concern the reliability of the information: epistemic modality covers the degree of certainty about an SoA being or becoming true, and evidentiality covers the nature (kind and source) of the evidence for or against the truth of an SoA. In spite of being different conceptual categories, there is a high degree of overlap in the linguistic expression of both, in that there are many words and expressions whose meaning points to the degree of certainty as well as to the evidence on which it is based. For instance, this is the case of OBVIOUSLY, which expresses a high degree of certainty (epistemic) and that this certainty is based on accessible evidence to the speaker/writer as well as to others (evidentiality), so that it can be said that OBVIOUSLY is both epistemic and evidential. CERTAINLY shares the epistemic meaning with OBVIOUSLY, but not the evidential meaning. The epistemic modals WILL and MUST, for instance in That will be the milkman (old example!) or That must be the milkman said after hearing the doorbell, are similar in degree of certainty (high probability), but differ in the kind of evidence in which this high probability is based: common-sense or repeated experience in the case of WILL (e.g. the milkman rings every day at the same time), and more immediate evidence in the case of MUST (e.g. the sight of bottles of milk at your neighbour’s door). So, I would also say that both modal auxiliaries are epistemic as well as evidential expressions. 
>>From all this, it is easy to infer that I don’t believe that there is a drastic separation of the linguistic expression of epistemic modality and of evidentiality. Actually, I argue that there is an epistemic modality-evidentiality continuum. There are some cases, though, in which separation of both categories might be advisable for practical purposes, as in the design of pedagogic material or of a model for stylistic analysis of texts. In these cases, it has to be decided whether the evidential or the epistemic component is stronger, in order to assign different expressions to one category or the other. 
I would consider I THINK in examples like yours (‘I think that mentally disabled people go through a lot of prejudice’) as epistemic in the broad sense of the term (I interpret it as an expression of opinion, not of probability as it would be in ‘I think he is abroad now’). To me, the fact that a given expression presents an inference of the speaker is no reason for considering it as evidential. In fact, although I admit I have to go deeper into the issue, I’m not happy with the category of ‘inferential evidentiality’, as described in Fitneva (2001, Journal of Pragmatics) and many other works, since sensory evidence is not involved in the same way as in the other categories of evidentiality (visual, hearsay, etc.). I believe that both I think he is abroad and He is probably abroad involve the making of an inference by the speaker, even though only the first is usually considered as evidential. Therefore, in my view I THINK (as well as PROBABLY) are epistemic, since they expresses degree of certainty (or opinion), but not evidential, since they do not point to the source or kind of evidence on which the degree of certainty is based. 
Hope I haven’t been too messy. I would welcome discussion of these issues. 
Marta Carretero

----- Mensaje original -----
De: Juliano Desiderato Antonio <jdantonio at uem.br>
Fecha: Sábado, Agosto 30, 2008 2:07
Asunto: [FUNKNET] epistemic modality and evidentiality in brazilianportuguese
A: funknet at mailman.rice.edu

> Hi all.
> I have a doubt about items like "eu acho que..." (I think 
> that...), "é óbvio que..." (it's obvious that...". It seems to 
> me that these items are markers of epistemic modality, but there 
> are papers which treat them as evidentiality markers because 
> they might present an inference of the speaker.
> . é óbvio que não tem colesterol,
> . porque é de origem vegetal.
> (... it's obvious that it does not contain cholesterol
> . because it comes from plant.)
> . eu acho que o deficiente mental sofre muito preconceito,
> (... I think that mentally disabled people go through a lot of 
> prejudice)
> I'd like to know if it is possible to consider these items only 
> epistemic modality markers.
> Thanks.
> Juliano
> -- 
> Esta mensagem foi verificada pelo sistema de antiv??us e
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Marta Carretero 
Departamento de Filología Inglesa I 
Facultad de Filología 
Universidad Complutense de Madrid

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