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New Insights into Slavic Linguistics

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Edited By Jacek Witkos and Sylwester Jaworski

This volume presents a number of contributions to the 2013 Annual Meeting of the Slavic Linguistics Society held in Szczecin, Poland, October 26–28. The largest number of articles address issues related to the (morpho)syntactic level of language structure, and several papers describe results of recent research into different aspects of Slavic linguistics as well. The current volume proves conclusively that Slavic linguists make a remarkable contribution to the development of various theoretical frameworks by analysing linguistic evidence from richly inflected languages, which allows them to test and modify contemporary theories and approaches based on other types of data.
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Epistemic Indefinites in Slovak: Corpus Survey and the Haspelmath Map

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Veronika Richtarcikova

Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona

1.  Introduction

Epistemic indefinites (EIs) are expressions that overtly mark ignorance, i.e. the speaker’s inability to identify their referent1. The properties and behavior of EIs are distinct from those of plain indefinites. In order to introduce this contrast, consider the following example with Slovak niekto and its English equivalent somebody:



This implicature is of a pragmatic nature, rather than part of what is asserted. The following examples (in English, but the same holds for the Slovak counterpart niekto in (a)) show that the implicature can be easily cancelled as in (b) or reinforced with a continuation in (c):

(1b) Somebody is at the door, could you open? It is my friend.

(1c) Somebody is at the door and I don’t know who it is.

In some languages this ignorance implicature (here epistemic effect) has become grammaticalized. For example, specialized EIs include German irgendein← 297 | 298 → (Kratzer and Shimoyama 2002), Spanish algún (Alonso-Ovalle and Menéndez-Benito, A&M henceforth, 2003), Romanian vreun (Fălăuș 2010) and as I will show in this paper, Slovak indefinite markers voľa- and -si. An encoded conventionalized implicature is more difficult to cancel and reinforce. I illustrate this point in the following examples.



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