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Epistemic modality and evidentiality in Gitksan at the semantics-pragmatics interface Peterson, Tyler Roy Gösta


This dissertation provides an empirically driven, theoretically informed investigation of how speakers of Gitksan, a Tsimshianic language spoken in the northwest coast of Canada, express knowledge about the world around them. There are three main goals that motivate this investigation: The first is to provide the first detailed description of the evidential and modal system in Gitksan. The second is to provide a formal semantic and pragmatic account of this system that adequately explains the meanings of the modals and evidentials, as well as how they are used in discourse. The third goal is to examine the specific properties the Gitksan evidential/modal system brings to bear on current theories of semantics and pragmatics, as well as the consequences this analysis has on the study of modality and evidentiality cross-linguistically. In addition to documenting the evidential and modal meanings in Gitksan, I work through a variety of theoretical tools designed to determine what level of meaning the individual evidentials in Gitksan operate on. The current state of research into the connection between evidentiality and epistemic modality has identified two different types of evidentials defined by the level of meaning they operate on: propositional and illocutionary evidentials. These two types correspond to a distinction between modal evidentials and non-modal evidentials respectively. I show that Gitksan has both modal and non-evidentials. This leads to an analysis where the Gitksan modal evidentials are treated as a specialized type of epistemic modals, and the non-modal evidentials are sentential force specifiers. I also identify various features of the evidential system that bring specific issues to bear upon current theories of the semantics and pragmatics of modality. This has four outcomes: first, I present a novel analysis of variable modal force in modals with fixed quantification. Secondly, I discuss the effect of modal evidentials in Conjectural Questions. Thirdly, I analyze how modal and non-modal evidentials interact in discourse contexts in implicating a speaker’s attitude towards the evidence they have for a proposition. And fourthly, I develop the first formal analysis of mirativity and non-literal uses of evidentials, analyzing them both as cases of conversational implicature.

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