Evidentiality and Modality in European Languages

Discourse-pragmatic perspectives

by Juana I. Marín-Arrese (Volume editor) Julia Lavid-López (Volume editor) Marta Carretero (Volume editor) Elena Domínguez Romero (Volume editor) Mª Victoria Martín de la Rosa (Volume editor) María Pérez Blanco (Volume editor)
©2016 Edited Collection 446 Pages
Series: Linguistic Insights, Volume 223


Evidentiality and Modality in European Languages focuses on discourse-pragmatic studies on the domains of evidentiality and epistemic modality, and also includes studies on deontic modality. The book presents ground-breaking research on the functions and the discourse-pragmatic variation of evidential expressions and modals in diverse discourses and genres, applying corpus-based methodologies. It offers unique features regarding content, usage and methodology, and comparative studies. The comparative viewpoint is addressed in contributions which provide a usage-based cross-linguistic account of the expression of evidentiality and modality in various European languages (English, French, Italian, Romanian and Spanish). The contributions are representative of the work on evidentiality and modality in European languages carried out in a substantial number of countries, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Romania, Spain and Sweden.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction (Juana I. Marín-Arrese / Julia Lavid-López / Marta Carretero / Elena Domínguez Romero / Mª Victoria Martín de la Rosa and María Pérez Blanco)
  • Section A. Evidentiality and Modality in European Languages
  • Reported Lies: Incredulous Evidentiality and Speaker’s Commitment (Meri Larjavaara)
  • "Presumptive" in Romanian Language, an Evidential and/or Epistemic Marker (Cecilia-Mihaela Popescu / Oana-Adriana Duţă)
  • The Future of Necessity in Spanish: Modality, Evidentiality and Deictic Projection at the Crossroads (Susana Rodríguez Rosique)
  • From Seeing to Reporting. Grammaticalization of Evidentiality in Spanish Constructions with "ver" (‘to see’) (Dorota Kotwica)
  • Experiential and Cognitive “See / Ver” Domain Overlap in English and Spanish Journalistic Discourse (Elena Domínguez Romero / Victoria Martín De La Rosa)
  • Reporting the Source of Information in the British and Spanish Press: A Taxonomy of Expressions (Lidia Mañoso Pacheco)
  • Is that What the President Said? (Celia Marqués Amorós)
  • Expressing Necessity in Spanish: the Case of "Deber" ‘Must’ and "Tener que" ‘Have to’ (Miriam Thegel)
  • The Covert Modality of “Letting” in the English Middle Construction (Pilar Guerrero)
  • Section B. Evidentiality and Modality in Discourses and Genres, and Corpus-based studies
  • Epistemicity in English and Spanish: an Annotation Proposal (Julia Lavid / Marta Carretero / Juan Rafael Zamorano)
  • Variation and Function of Modals in Linguistics and Engineering Research Papers in English (Francisco Alonso Almeida / María Luisa Carrió Pastor)
  • The Use of Modality in the Early Academic Article. The "Journal des Sçavans" and the "Philosophical Transactions", 1665–1700 (David Banks)
  • The Combination of Evidentiality and Epistemic Modality in Spanish. The Use of Probability Markers and Cognitive Verbs to Express Uncertainty (María José Barrios Sabador)
  • Gender Differences and Similarities in the use of Inferential Evidentiality in Spoken British English: A Corpus-Based Study (Erika Berglind Söderqvist)
  • Modal Adverbs and Discourse Context: the Case of "Doubtless, No Doubt," and "Undoubtedly" (Daisuke Suzuki / Takashi Fujiwara)
  • Notes on Contributors
  • Series Index

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This book offers a collection of original contributions to the study of modality and evidentiality from discourse, corpus, and multilingual perspectives. The original papers were presented at the International Conference on Evidentiality and Modality in European Languages (EMEL’14), held at Universidad Complutense of Madrid, 6–8 October 2014. This conference allowed participants to share ground-breaking work in these two areas, offering an encompassing panorama of the present state of the art as well as a plethora of insights and perspectives for future research.

The chapters included in the book have been organized around two main themes: a) studies focusing on a variety of expressions of evidentiality and modality, with special emphasis on their use as resources for stancetaking in languages such as French, Romanian, and Spanish, some of them in a contrastive perspective with English; b) corpus-based studies on the use and variation of evidentials and modals in different discourse domains and genres, and in less studied genres such as engineering or science popularization, and using a wide variety of corpora, such as the British National Corpus for English, the Spanish CREA corpus, or comparable or parallel corpora in different languages, such as the (English-Spanish) MULTINOT corpus.

The first chapter in section A, by MERI LARJAVAARA, discusses a particular case of reported speech in French, the report of lies, focusing on a specific type of evidentiality, ‘incredulous evidentiality’, which is defined as the speaker’s commitment to the untruth of the propositional content of reported discourse. Two types of reportative markers are distinguished: those in which incredulousness is lexically expressed and those in which it is implicated by the context. Through the analysis ← 9 | 10 → of examples taken from online discussion forums, the study describes the linguistic mechanisms used to mark the falseness of the content reported and explores the degree of speaker/writer’s commitment to the reported lies. The author advocates a distinction between the speaker’s partial commitment, in the case of general reported discourse, and the complete commitment to the untruth of the utterance in the case of reported lies.

The chapter by CECILIA-MIHAELA POPESCU and OANA-ADRIANA DUŢĂ shows that Romanian, unlike other Romance languages, has developed a grammaticalized form for expressing epistemic modality and evidentiality, namely the range of forms known as the ‘presumptive’. In present-day Romanian, the presumptive has an inferential meaning in independent declarative sentences, and a reportative meaning in adversative or concessive constructions, where the utterer does not take responsibility for the truthfulness of information from another source. By contrast, the epistemic and evidential meanings are marginal in other forms, such as the Future Type I, the Conditional and the Conjunctive, unless these expressions are used in combination with the gerund of the main verb.

The contribution by SUSANA RODRÍGUEZ ROSIQUE provides a semantic-pragmatic account of the use of the Spanish future tense traditionally called ‘future of necessity’. This use is first characterized as lying at the intersection between epistemic modality and inferential evidentiality. Rodríguez Rosique’s definition of future as a spatially-modelled deictic construction likely to be projected over different levels can well explain why this verb form develops various functions in several semantic and discourse categories, which include temporality, modality, evidentiality, (counter-) argumentation, intersubjectivity, and mirativity. The paper analyses the value of the future when occurring with verbs such as comprender, entender, reconocer, which is interpreted as a case of projection over a different level of meaning (utterance meaning), resulting in a discursive intersubjective effect (persuasion).

The chapter by DOROTA KOTWICA describes the use of three constructions that involve the Spanish verb ver (‘to see’), namely por lo visto, por lo que se ve and por lo que se ha visto, in an ad hoc corpus of digital editions of the Spanish newspapers El País, ABC and La ← 10 | 11 → Vanguardia. The three expressions have evidential uses, where they express inferential or reportative evidentiality, as well as non-evidential illocutionary uses where they combine with complements and their meaning is compositional. Kotwica investigates the relationship between the degree of grammaticalization of these three constructions, on the basis of complementation patterns and syntactic autonomy, and the type of evidentiality that they express. The aim is to confirm the hypothesis that the greater the degree of lexicalization the more likely the construction will function with a clear evidential value. The results of the quantitative analysis provide evidence in favour of two tendencies in the expression of evidentiality with verbs of perception in Spanish: a) only fixed constructions encode evidentiality as their core meaning and b) the more fixed/grammaticalized a construction is, the more indirect the evidentiality it expresses.

The chapter by ELENA DOMÍNGUEZ ROMERO and Mª VICTORIA MARTÍN DE LA ROSA presents a qualitative and quantitative analysis of the verb see and its Spanish counterpart ver in terms of the frequency and distribution of their different meanings, based on a self-compiled corpus of opinion columns and leading articles in British and Spanish newspapers. Their goal is to unveil the experiential and cognitive ‘see/ver’ domain overlap existing in English and Spanish. The results reveal that the pattern ‘Verb + Direct Object’ is more common with the meaning of perception, while the cases of ‘Verb + Prepositional Phrase’ are more frequent with the meaning of cognition. The paper also suggests that the polysemy of this verb is to be characterized not only in terms of a metaphorical extension from perception to cognition, but also by a metonymic extension into meanings such as ‘read’, ‘examine’, ‘check’ or ‘visit’, where the component of vision seems to be the element triggering the whole meaning.

The chapter by LIDIA MAÑOSO PACHECO proposes a taxonomy of expressions reporting the source of information in news from broadsheet British and Spanish journals. The taxonomy is organized around the specificity parameter, which divides the expressions into three categories (identifiable, non-identifiable and non-specified), and is complemented with the factors of animacy and status of the reported speaker. The distinctions explored in this investigation seem to suggest not only ← 11 | 12 → a relationship between the text and the newspaper stance, but also a close connection between the discourse and the targeted society. This connection is illustrated, for example, by the use in the British articles of non-specified sources with overtones of coded approval and by the higher frequency of inanimate entities in the Spanish articles.

The source of information in journalistic discourse is the concern of the chapter by CELIA MARQUÉS AMORÓS, which sets forth a classification of expressions of attribution according to reporter positioning towards the reported content. The corpus consists of hard news headlines extracted from the websites of quality newspapers, and the approach chosen is the systemic-functional Appraisal framework. The analysis reveals significant differences between the reporting style of British and Spanish media: British newspapers seem to have developed a wider variety of free indirect styles combining features of both direct and indirect reporting, in order to display more evaluative responsibility on the part of the reporter. The results also show that approximately 20% of the headlines are loaded with positioning and evaluation strategies that are more compatible with the opinion genre than with an informative function.

The chapter by MIRIAM THEGEL offers a semantic and pragmatic account of the deontic readings of the Spanish modal verbs deber and tener que. In contrast to the tendency of much of the literature to describe the difference between both verbs mainly in terms of strength of the necessity, Thegel proposes that the difference actually lies in (inter)subjectivity and speaker-orientation. Through a qualitative and quantitative analysis of occurrences in political debates from the European Parliament, considering four classificatory variables (tense, grammatical person, diathesis and source of necessity), it is shown that tener que is a more subjective verb, oriented towards the speaker and his/her opinion, while deber is to be understood as an intersubjective verb that frequently expresses a shared attitude regarding deontic necessity.

The final chapter in this section, by PILAR GUERRERO MEDINA, examines the way in which generic aspect and “covert modality” are interconnected in the English middle construction. The first issue addressed is that “the modal letting value” of middle constructions pointed out by some scholars, which has to be understood as part of Talmy’s Force Dynamics ← 12 | 13 → framework. Aspectual properties of middles are then discussed on the basis of the theory of Qualia Structure, highlighting constitutive qualia and telic qualia as essential in the interpretation of middles as modal generic statements. The author argues that contextualization and high-level metonymy, as important motivating factors, may further enhance the letting modality of middles, by foregrounding certain intrinsic and nonintrinsic “conducive” properties of the subject entity.

The second section of the book, Section B on corpus-based studies, includes six chapters that examine the features of evidentials and modals in different discourse domains and genres, using a wide variety of corpora.

The first chapter in this section, authored by JULIA LAVID, MARTA CARRETERO and JUAN RAFAEL ZAMORANO, presents current innovative work in the area of epistemicity in English and Spanish in the framework of the MULTINOT project, aimed at the contrastive annotation of bilingual English-Spanish texts with multiple levels of linguistic description. The authors present an annotation scheme which captures both the functional-semantic dimensions and the language-specific realizations of the categories of epistemic modality, on the one hand, and evidentiality, on the other. They also discuss a number of problems and issues which emerge in the development of annotation guidelines for each category of epistemic and modal meanings in these two languages, and which may cause problems during the annotation process. These are basically caused by potential triggers of evidentiality and/or epistemic modality, some of which can be annotated automatically, while others –such as lexical verbs or modal nouns- pose more difficulty and have to be annotated manually. The discussion is interesting not only for corpus annotation purposes, but also from a theoretical point of view, since it reveals those areas where the application of linguistic definitions is potentially problematic.

The chapter by FRANCISCO ALONSO ALMEIDA and MARÍA LUISA CARRIÓ PASTOR investigates the similarities and differences in the use and functions of modal verbs in research articles on English linguistics and engineering, through the qualitative and quantitative analysis of a representative corpus. The results show that epistemic modality is often used in the conclusions of the linguistics articles with the aim ← 13 | 14 → of mitigating the strength of the claims, thus avoiding imposition on readers. Participant-internal modality is more common in the linguistics subcorpus, while participant-external modality is typically found in the engineering articles, probably due to the more physical and material nature of the object of research. In both subcorpora, deontic and volitive modality are mainly used as resources for attracting the reader’s attention and for expressing commitment to the tasks carried out in the development of the research. Occurrences have also been found in which modals function mainly as information-structural devices.

The chapter by DAVID BANKS describes the use of modality in two early academic periodicals from the second half of the seventeenth century, the French Journal des Sçavans and the English journal Philosophical Transactions. The Journal des Sçavans consisted mainly of book reviews and covered the whole range of new knowledge of the time, while Philosophical Transactions was based on the editor’s voluminous correspondence and was restricted to science and technology. The analysis reveals that modal verbal forms are more common than other types of modal expressions (adverbial, adjectival etc.), and that the differences in modal use in both journals reflect the decisions of their respective editors. These decisions are the result of the different historical contexts in France and England in the late seventeenth century.

The chapter by MARÍA JOSÉ BARRIOS SABADOR addresses the interaction between probability markers and cognitive verbs in the expression of uncertainty, using a spoken corpus of Peninsular Spanish, CREA. Both kinds of expressions differ in that probability markers shape an objective scene, where the perceived object becomes the focus of the conceptualization, while cognitive verbs set up a subjective scene with the conceptualizer being part of the utterance. The study of twenty-three selected markers demonstrates a high presence of cognitive verbs in the context of probability operators. The results of the quantitative analysis show that the two kinds of expressions jointly achieve the communicative effect of reducing the speaker’s commitment for the expression of real uncertainty or as a mitigation strategy used to soften the assertion.

ERIKA BERGLIND SÖDERQVIST investigates gender differences in the use of inferential evidentiality markers. Using spoken language ← 14 | 15 → data from the British National Corpus, a number of potential markers (for example seem, appear, believe, must, clearly or obviously) have been analyzed in terms of evidential value and pragmatic dimensions such as degree of certainty and (inter)subjectivity. The results of the study show statistically significant variation between the male and the female respondents; these differences align with the findings of past studies that men tend to give more directives or suggestions, whereas women tend to control interaction by using questions and trying to establish common ground. The analysis also reveals that the markers preferred by males are those that produce intersubjective assessments while the markers preferred by female speakers are those that produce subjective assessments.

The final chapter in this section, by DAISUKE SUZUKI and TAKASHI FUJIWARA, addresses the use of the adverbs doubtless, no doubt, and undoubtedly, and analyzes the differences between them by examining their contexts of use. A quantitative analysis was carried out on all the occurrences of the British National Corpus in which the adverbs function as sentence adverbs, in terms of two contextual factors: position (initial, medial or final), and occurrence with pronominal Subjects or full noun phrase Subjects. This analysis, whose results showed differences between the three adverbs in terms of both factors, was complemented with an experimental analysis that made it possible to observe the two factors in unison and to predict native speakers’ production preferences.

The chapters in this book, in summary, provide examples of cutting-edge research in the study of evidentiality and modality in different European languages, all of them with a discourse, semantic or pragmatic perspective. The different chapters in section A show not only the diversity of resources to express evidentiality and modality in specific languages such as French, Romanian, Spanish and English, but also the subtle differences between the same expressions in these languages. The corpus studies in section B, using quantitative techniques such as annotation, concordancing or experimental designs and also qualitative techniques, showcase the variety of approaches and potentialities of both general and specialized corpora for the study of evidentiality and modality in European languages. ← 15 | 16 →


As volume editors, we would like to acknowledge support from a number of research agencies who helped fund the participation of different researchers in the EMEL’14 Conference, and the financial support provided by the following research projects to enable the publication of this volume:

Research Project FFI2011-23181: La expresión de la evidencialidad y modalidad en inglés y otras lenguas europeas: Perspectivas interlingüísticas. The expression of Evidentiality and Modality in English and other European Languages: Cross-linguistic perspectives. (EUROEVIDMOD), (Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación), Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad (MINECO).

Research Project FFI2015-65474-P: Evidencialidad: Estudio Discursivo-Pragmático del Inglés y otras Lenguas Europeas. Evidentiality: A Discourse-Pragmatic Study of English and Other European Languages (EVIDISPRAG). Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad y Fondo Europeo de Desarrollo Regional (MINECO/FEDER)

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Section A
Evidentiality and Modality in European Languages

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Reported Lies: Incredulous Evidentiality and Speaker’s Commitment1

Abstract: This paper discusses a particular case of reported speech in contemporary French, namely texts where the speaker reports lies s/he has been told, presenting them as lies. Evidentiality in the broad sense is strongly present. This kind of evidentiality will be called ‘incredulous evidentiality’. In fact, incredulous evidentiality includes not only reported lies but all cases in which the speaker reports information s/he believes is not true, and reported lies form one of its subtypes.
         I will briefly describe the reportative mechanisms of this particular kind of texts and secondly discuss the speaker’s commitment. In reportative evidentiality the speaker commits her/himself at least partially to the propositional content; in contrast to this, in incredulous evidentiality the speaker does not only distance him/herself from the propositional content of the reported speech but even denies it and thus commits him/herself to its untruthfulness. Incredulous evidential discourse must thus be considered a category on its own. The texts under investigation are found on the internet, most commonly in different kinds of discussion forums.

Keywords: evidentiality – lying – lies – truthfulness – untruthfulness – commitment – reported speech – polyphony – French


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2017 (August)
evidentiality modality European Languages comparative linguistics corpus studies
Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2017. 427 pp., 10 b/w graphs, 62 b/w tables

Biographical notes

Juana I. Marín-Arrese (Volume editor) Julia Lavid-López (Volume editor) Marta Carretero (Volume editor) Elena Domínguez Romero (Volume editor) Mª Victoria Martín de la Rosa (Volume editor) María Pérez Blanco (Volume editor)

Juana I. Marín-Arrese is Professor of English Linguistics at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Her research interests focus on cross-linguistic studies on evidentiality, and critical discourse studies on epistemic stance. Julia Lavid-López is Professor of English Linguistics at Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Her research interests centres on the functional analysis of language, using computational and corpus-based methodologies. Marta Carretero is Associate Professor of English Linguistics at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. She has authored multiple publications on modality and evidentiality, and in the annotation of modal, evidential and evaluative expressions. Elena Domínguez Romero is senior Lecturer at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. She has worked on evidentiality and perception, modality and historical discourse stylistics. Mª Victoria Martín De La Rosa is Lecturer at the at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Her main research interest centres on the use of metaphor in advertising discourse or US education policies. María Pérez Blanco is Lecturer at the University of Cantabria. Her main research interests focus on the expression of evaluation, modality and evidentiality in English and Spanish.


Title: Evidentiality and Modality in European Languages
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