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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 5 - Olfactory and Gustatory Perception 213

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Chapter 5 Olfactory and Gustatory Perception The final two sensory modalities – those of smell (olfaction) and taste (gus- tation) – are the focus of this chapter. Both modalities will be addressed here because of the scant amount of data that could be found for each modal- ity in both English and German. Evidential meaning is indeed attested, albeit infrequently. English smell and German riechen cover olfactory per- ception, while English taste and German schmecken represent gustatory perception. 5.1 Olfactory Perception 5.1.1 smell In the Helsinki Corpus, there are a total of twenty attestations of smell, one (5%) of which may be evidential. The ARCHER Corpus provides us with twenty-eight cases of smell; none of these, however, signal evidential meaning. The one arguable case of evidential smell in the Helsinki Corpus involves the complementation pattern, and the evidential meaning is not self-apparent because of the ambiguity of the adjective involved: (423) Furthermore all wines that smell well and are redish yellow, so much as is of their nature altogither, they trouble the heade when a man is vexed with both kindes of swounding … (Helsinki Corpus: CEHAND1B, William Turner, A New Boke of the Natures and Properties of All Wines (1568), pp. C7R–C7V) 214 Chapter 5 The problem here is that well could denote the evidential meaning where the smell of the wine is evaluated to determine if the wine is good (well) or not, but well could also denote a mere value judgment on the part of the writer, whereby the...

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