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Evidentiality and Perception Verbs in English and German

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Richard Jason Whitt

Evidentiality, the linguistic encoding of a speaker’s or writer’s evidence for an asserted proposition, has begun to receive serious attention from linguists only in the last quarter century. Much of this attention has focused on languages that encode evidentiality in the grammar, while much less interest has been shown in languages that express evidentiality through means other than inflectional morphology. In English and German, for instance, the verbs of perception – those verbs denoting sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste – are prime carriers of evidential meaning. This study surveys the most prominent of the perception verbs in English and German across all five sensory modalities and accounts for the range of evidential meanings by examining the general polysemy found among perception verbs, as well as the specific complementation patterns in which these verbs occur.

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Chapter 1 - Evidentiality and Perception Verbs: An Overview 5

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Chapter 1 Evidentiality and Perception Verbs: An Overview Before embarking on an in-depth study of the workings of evidentiality among English and German perception verbs, it is necessary to lay some groundwork. Although almost all linguists agree that evidentiality is how speakers encode their source of information for a proposition, there is much debate as to the particulars of evidentiality: What types of evidential meaning exist? How do we classify evidential systems? etc. Since my inten- tion here is to focus on perception verbs in English and German (that is, lexical means of expressing evidentiality), I will only provide a brief sketch of some commonly accepted precepts. For even though I am not overly concerned about the particulars of grammatical evidentiality, I believe a general understanding of evidentiality is crucial to any analysis of evidential items, whether they be grammatical or lexical. I will then turn my attention to perception verbs. An overview of perception verb typology (namely, subject-oriented versus object-oriented perception), as well as a discussion of the rich polysemy found among perception verbs, will be provided. Next, I will establish a working defi- nition of an evidential perception verb, as well as a typology based on complementation patterns, which will provide the common ground for the study of evidential meaning signified by the five sensory modalities. A survey of semantic and pragmatic factors at work, plus a description of the English- and German-language corpora used in this study, round out the discussion. 6 Chapter 1 1.1 Defining Evidentiality...

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