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Epistemic Modalities and Evidentiality in Cross-Linguistic Perspective

Ed. by Guentchéva, Zlatka

Series:Empirical Approaches to Language Typology [EALT] 59

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April 2018
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Epistemic modality and evidentiality in Romance: the Reportive Conditional

Kronning, Hans


In this article we study the Reportive Conditional (RC) in Romance, in French (1), Italian (2) and Spanish (3), using both unidirectional translation corpora and comparative corpora: (1) Kadhafi seraitRC malade ‘Gaddafi is reportedly ill’, (2) Gheddafi sarebbeRC malato, (3) Kadafi estariaRC enfermo. The Reportive Conditional (RC) is analysed as a bicategorial epistemic marker denoting reportive evidentiality and zero modalization (the refusal to epistemically endorse the mediated content of the utterance). The arguments for this analysis are in large measure derived from the RC’s discourse properties and functions as shown outside its mediation domain (the sequence conveying the mediated cognitive content), as well as outside and inside discourse frames opened by prepositional phrases of the type Selon X (‘According to X’). It is shown that the speaker’s epistemic attitude is variable (dubitative and non-dubitative), whereas the modal orientation inherent in the epistemic RC is invariably positive (towards ‘true’). It is further shown that this verb form is exploited rhetorically to establish ascending gradations: the epistemic distancing intensifies from a first discourse frame, in the Indicative, to a second one, in the RC. From a comparative point of view and even though the sets of epistemic uses of the Conditional are not identical in the different Romance languages, the Reportive Conditional seems to be semantically fairly equivalent in these languages, whereas the normative attitude towards the Reportive Conditional varies considerably from one language to the other, which entails differences in frequency among the Romance languages and among discourse genres within these languages. More specifically, it is shown that diaphasic (“situational”), diatopic (“geographic”) and diachronic aspects of variation are interdependent in the case of the Spanish RC.

Citation Information

Hans Kronning (2018). Epistemic modality and evidentiality in Romance: the Reportive Conditional. In Zlatka Guentchéva (Editor), Epistemic Modalities and Evidentiality in Cross-Linguistic Perspective (pp. 69–102). Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter. https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110572261-004

Book DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110572261

Online ISBN: 9783110572261

© 2018 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Munich/BostonGet Permission

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