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The multimodal marking of evidentiality: pragmemes of circumstantial inference and Mandarin written news report

Research output: Contribution in Book/Report/Proceedings - With ISBN/ISSNChapter

Publication date7/01/2017
Host publicationPragmemes and theories of language use
EditorsKeith Allan, Alessandro Capone, Istvan Kecskes
Place of PublicationHeidelberg
Number of pages15
ISBN (electronic)9783319434919
ISBN (print)9783319434902
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Publication series

NamePerspectives in Pragmatics, Philosophy and Psychology


Circumstantial evidentiality refers to the semantic-pragmatic-grammatical encoding of an inference which has been drawn on some physical evidence surrounding the speech participants (cf. Squartini 2008, 2012; Cornillie 2009). Reportative evidentiality corresponds to the pragmatic-semantic-grammatical marking of a proposition as a piece of information the SP/W has been told by someone (i.e. Willett 1988; Aikhenvald 2004; Tantucci 2013).
This study will shed new light on the multimodal encoding of both by looking at the evidential meaning which emerges from the interplay of a constative speech act and the physical or socio-cultural situation in which this speech act occurs. The first part of this article is dedicated to some prototypical instances of circumstantial evidentiality. I will argue that the physical situation where a constative speech act occurs crucially constitutes the real evidential marker of a circumstantial-evidential utterance, regardless of the semantic-pragmatic-grammatical encoding of the proposition. I will propose that this sort of unescapable correspondence between a constative speech-act and the physical situation where this is realized, represents a felicitous example of evidential pragmeme (cf. Mey 2001, 2010; Capone 2005, 2008; 2010 on the notion of pragmemes), viz. the evidential meaning of a proposition that is obtained as the result of being conveyed ‘in the situation’.
In the second part of this study I will focus on reportative evidentiality. Concerning this latter domain, it is traditionally expected that new information occurring in news report registers should predictably appear in the form of an evidential construction or strategy. Contrary to this common assumption, I will provide corpus-based evidence showing that this is not the case. Focusing on the news report section of the written corpus of Mandarin LCMC (Lancaster Corpus of Mandarin Chinese), this study aims at showing that new information in Mandarin news report often tends to occur as an assertive speech act, and only subsequently marked as an evidential. I will propose that this recurring pattern corresponds to a conventionalized pragmeme of written news report in Mandarin Chinese. Namely, the situated context where new information comes into play (i.e. news report articles from newspapers, news blogs/websites), together with the conventionalized expectation of a subsequent evidential marking, constitute a standardized pattern of news report in written Mandarin Chinese. As a result, the both situational and textual matrix of this pragmeme allows the writer to convey reportative evidentiality even in cases where a proposition formally occurs as a bare assertion.