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Evidentials as epistemic modals

Evidence from St'át'imcets

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This paper argues that evidential clitics in St'át'imcets (a.k.a. Lillooet; Northern Interior Salish) must be analyzed as epistemic modals. We apply a range of tests which distinguish the modal analysis from the main alternative contender (an illocutionary operator analysis, as in Faller 2002), and show that the St'át'imcets evidentials obey the predictions of a modal analysis. Our results support the growing body of evidence that the functions of encoding information source and epistemic modality are not necessarily distinct. The St'át'imcets data further provide a novel argument against the claim that evidentiality and epistemic modality are separate categories. Many authors argue that evidentials differ from modals in that the former do not encode speaker certainty (see, e.g., de Haan 1999; Aikhenvald 2004). We argue that modals are also not required to encode speaker certainty; we provide evidence from St'át'imcets that marking quantificational strength is not an intrinsic property of modal elements.
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Keywords: EPISTEMIC MODALITY; EVIDENTIALITY; SALISH

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2007

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