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Person and knowledge: from participant-role to epistemic marking

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Henrik Bergqvist, University of Stockholm, Sweden

Seppo Kittilä, University of Helsinki, Finland



Person and epistemicity is a topic of investigation which has received relatively little attention from a descriptive-typological perspective (but see Bickel 2008; Bickel & Nichols 2007; Tournadre 1996, 2008). Although the notion of egophoricity (a.k.a. conjunct/disjunct) is receiving increasing attention of late (e.g. Creissels 2008, 2009; Floyd et al. forthcoming), the intersection between argument identity (person) and attribution of knowledge/epistemic authority remains to be explored both conceptually and grammatically. The effect that changes to subject person have on the semantics of evidentials (as an instantiation of epistemic marking) has been noted, but largely viewed as a peripheral, pragmatic influence in the analysis of evidential forms (see Curnow 2002b, 2003). These pragmatically dependent readings may, however, become encoded in some languages, resulting in what has been called “participatory” (San Roque & Loughnane 2012) and “performative” evidentials (Oswalt 1986). The functional overlap between such evidential forms and egophoric marking is evident in Tibetan (Tournadre 2008) and Barbacoan languages (Dickinson 2000; Curnow 2002a), although it may be premature to draw any conclusions as to their (inter-)categorical status. A focus of this special issue lies in how ‘person’ as “participant-role” (e.g., the speaker and addressee as agents, beneficiaries, etc.) relates to certain forms of epistemic marking that target the perception, involvement, participation, and attitudes of the speech participants. It explores the relationship between semantic and pragmatic meaning in the development of (nominative) subject markers into egophoric markers and datives into attitude holders/affected experiencers, which in some languages may be regarded as a form of epistemic marking (Bergqvist & Kittilä 2015). This exploration crucially turns on instantiations of ‘person’ and ‘epistemicity’ as related species of “shifters” in language (Jespersen 1922). As pointed out by Jakobson (1990 [1957]), the referential properties of certain categories typically associated with the verb, e.g. person, mood, and evidentiality, crucially draw on aspects of both the speech situation (speech event) and the clause (narrated event). This dichotomy allows for an exploration of the intersection between semantics and pragmatics and is key to charting the role of the context in grammar.

The special issue comprises five papers that discuss the topics listed above from typological and descriptive perspectives. The papers of this volume are the following:

  1. Henrik Bergqvist and Seppo Kittilä: Person and knowledge: Introduction 
  2. Marius Zemp: Epistemic factuality
  3. Manuel Widmer & Fernando Zúniga: Towards a typology of egophoricity in Tibeto-Burman
  4. Eva Schultze-Berndt: Shared vs. primary epistemic authority in Jaminjung/Ngaliwurru
  5. Dominique Knuchel & Henrik Bergqvist: Variation in egophoric marking: towards a definition
Aikhenvald, Y. Alexandra. 2004. Evidentiality. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Bergqvist Henrik & Seppo Kittilä. 2015. Non-selected participants as epistemic marking. Presentation at SLE 2015 in Leiden.
Bickel, Baltazar & Johanna Nichols. 2007. Inflectional Morphology. In Timothy Shopen (ed.), Language Typology and Syntactic Description: vol 3 Grammatical Categories and the Lexicon. Pp. 169-240, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 
Bickel, Baltazar. 2008. Verb agreement and epistemic marking: a typological journey from the Himalayas to the Caucasus. In Huber, B., M. Volkhart, & P. Wildmer (eds.) Chomolangma, Demawend und Kasbek: Festschrift für Roland Bielmeier zu seinem 65 Geburtstag. 1-14. Halle:IITBS. 
Chafe, Wallace. 1986. Evidentiality in English conversation and academic writing. In: Chafe, Wallace and Nichols, Johanna (eds), Evidentiality: The linguistic coding of epistemology. Pp. 261–272, Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
Creissels,  Denis. 2008. Person variation in Akhvakh verb morphology: functional motivation and origin of an uncommon pattern. STUF, Berlin 61: 4, 309-325. 
Creissels, Denis. 2009. Language documentation and verb inflection typology: the case of Northern Akhvakh (Nakh-Daghestanian). Handout at Chronos 9, Paris October 2-4 2009.
Curnow, J. Timothy. 2002a. Conjunct/disjunct marking in Awa Pit. Linguistics 40 (3): 611-627.
Curnow, J. Timothy. 2002b. Types of interaction between evidentials and first-person subjects. Anthropological Linguistics 44 (2): 178-196.
Curnow, J. Timothy. 2003. Nonvolitionality expressed through evidentials. Studies in Language 27(1): 39-59.
DeLancey, Scott. 1992. The historical status of the conjunct/disjunct pattern in Tibeto-Burman. Acta Linguistica Hafniensia 25: 39-62.
Dickinson, Connie. 2000. Mirativity in Tsafiki. Studies in Language 24 (2): 379-421.
Floyd, Simeon, Elisabeth Norcliffe, and Lila San Roque (eds.). forthcoming. Egophoricity. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Hale, Austin. 1980. Person markers: finite conjunct and disjunct forms in Newari. In Trail R. (ed.) Papers in Southeast Asian Linguistics 7. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics. 95-106.
Jakobson, Roman. 1990. [1957] Shifters and verbal categories. In Linda R. Waugh and Monique Monville-Burston (eds), On language. Pp. 386-392, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.
Jespersen, Otto. 1922. Language; its nature, development and origin. London: G. Allen & Unwin, ltd.
Oswalt, Robert L. 1986 The Evidential System of Kashaya. In Chafe and Nichols (Eds.) Evidentiality: the linguistic coding of epistemology. Pp. 29-45, Norwood N.J.:Ablex Pub.
San Roque, Lila, & Robyn Loughnane. 2012. The New Guinea Highlands evidentiality area. Linguistic Typology 16, 111-167.
Tournadre, Nicholas. 1996. Comparaison des systemes médiatifs de quatre dialectes tibétains (tibétain central, ladakhi, dzongkha et amdo). In Z. Guentchéva, (Ed.), L'énonciation médiatisée. pp. 195–213, Peeters: Paris. 
Tournadre, Nicolas. 2008. Arguments against the Concept of ‘Conjunct’/‘Disjunct’ in Tibetan. In Huber, B., M. Volkhart, & P. Wildmer (eds.) Chomolangma, Demawend und Kasbek: Festschrift für Roland Bielmeier zu seinem 65 Geburtstag. Pp. 281–308, Halle: IITBS. 


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