The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

LFRG I 5/1: Anastasia Smirnova

LFRG will meet twice this week. Please note the unusual date/time and location for this meeting:

Speaker: Anastasia Smirnova (Tufts University)
Date/Time: Tuesday, May 1, 10-11:30 am
Location: 56-180
Title: Evidentiality in Bulgarian: epistemic modality and temporal relations

Bulgarian has a designated morphological paradigm that expresses evidentiality, a linguistic category that encodes the source of information (Aikhenvald 2004). In this talk, I discuss the properties of the Bulgarian evidential system from a cross-linguistic perspective and present a formal semantic analysis of the Bulgarian evidential construction. The analysis is motivated by a number of facts that went unnoticed in the literature on evidentiality in Bulgarian and that cannot be explained by the previous analyses (Izvorski 1997; Sauerland and Schenner 2007; Koev 2011). First, I show that the same evidential construction in Bulgarian can express direct, reportative, and inferential information sources. These data not only challenge the current analysis of the Bulgarian evidential as indirect (Izvorski 1997), but also argue against the assumption that evidential systems cross-linguistically distinguish between direct and indirect information sources (Willett 1988; Aikhenvald 2004). Second, I show that the Bulgarian evidential expresses temporal meaning: it functions as a relative tense. Finally, while I retain the insights of Izvorski’s modal analysis, I substantially change the modal component to account for reports of false information in reportative contexts (I analyze them as reports de dicto). Ultimately, I argue that the evidential construction in Bulgarian has a tripartite meaning: it encodes information source, temporality and epistemic modality. This paper addresses the question about the ontological status of evidentiality in relation to epistemic modality and contributes to the understanding of the semantics of evidentials cross-linguistically (cf. Faller 2002, McCready and Ogata 2007, Matthewson et al. 2007) by showing how the interaction of the modal and the temporal components affects the distribution and meaning of evidentials in discourse.