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A Context-sensitive and Functional Approach to Evidentiality in Spanish or Why Evidentiality needs a Superordinate Category


Anja Neuß (geb. Hennemann)

This study adopts a context-sensitive and functional approach to the qualitative analysis of Spanish linguistic means that are used to convey evidential meanings. Verbs of cognitive attitude, modal adverbs, modal verbs, the Spanish conditional and the synthetic future are analysed against the background of pragmatics. GlossaNet, a search engine that supports the researcher to build a corpus, was used to collect the examples analysed in this study. Furthermore, as evidentiality is – at least in Spanish – a linguistic category that overlaps with other semantic-functional categories, namely epistemic modality, deixis, subjectivity and polyphony, it is argued that the superordinate category speaker’s perspectivisation should be imposed on these categories.


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6 A context-sensitive and functional approach to the use of the Spanish modal verbs poder and deber


The English modals have been described from different perspectives and within a whole series of different theoretical frameworks and can probably be considered as one of the best studied language categories overall (de Haan/Hansen 2009: 1). With their collected volume on modals Haan/Hansen would have had the chance to provide a study of the modals of languages other than English with all its fac- ets and meaning nuances. But unfortunately, they explain: […] we understand modality in a narrow sense as comprising exclusively the mean- ings ‘necessity’, ‘obligation’, ‘possibility’, ‘permission’, and ‘volition’. […] We shall […] exclude all types of evidential markers. Whereas modal meanings like possibility and necessity refer to the commitment of the speaker to the truth of what he/she is saying, evidentiality refers to the source of evidence the speaker has for his statement […] (de Haan/Hansen 2009: 3). So this implies that their starting point is the semantic category of modality as such. Adopting a function-to-form approach they look at which modals repre- sent which modal meanings. If they had combined a function-to-form approach with a form-to-function approach, it would have helped the modals of others languages to be as ‘equally well’ studied as the English ones. Cornillie/De Mulder/Van Hecke/Vermandere (2009) treat “Modals in Ro- mance languages”, that is, in French, Italian, Spanish and Romanian, but re- stricting their work to the analysis of modals expressing ‘necessity’ and ‘obliga- tion’, that is, to the Romance equivalents of English must and its synonyms (cf. Cornillie/De Mulder/Van Hecke/Vermandere 2009: 107). But Cornillie...

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