The Semantics and Pragmatics of the Japanese Evidentials -Rashii, -Sooda, and -Yooda: an Experimental Investigation

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Languages provide expressions that allow its users to indicate their source of information for a given claim, which can have an effect of attenuating how committed they appear to be to the truth of their claims (e.g., ame-ga futteiru-sooda ‘It is raining, I hear’). This linguistic notion has been termed evidentiality, and Japanese has a rich set of morphosyntactic evidentials that express indirect evidentiality (i.e. -rashii, -sooda, and -yooda) for situations where the speaker only had access to indirect means of arriving at her claim, such as conjecture or hearsay. This dissertation presents a systematic investigation of how features of the context (i.e. the preceding sentences) can affect the interpretation and acceptability of evidential statements, and how this varies with the type of evidential. Study 1 examined the factors of (a) Sensory Information (whether sensory information for a given claim was available to the speaker), and (b) Speaker Conjecture (whether the speaker arrived at her claim via conjecture). Although there was some variability within the Japanese evidentials on how significant these factors were in terms of predicting felicity, there was a notable divide between a reportative evidential statement (exemplified above) and a matrix- clause hearsay one (e.g. ame-ga futteiru-to kiita ‘I heard that it is raining’). This result prompted Study 2, which examined the factors of (a) Evidence Strength / Source Reliability and (b) Speaker Conjecture, on the degree of contradiction of an evidential statement that has been modified in the vein of Moore’s paradox (e.g. ame-ga futteiru-sooda-ga, futteinai ‘It is raining, I hear, but it is not’). The results again showed a divide between -sooda (and -rashii and -yooda) vs. matrix-clause hearsay, leading to the semantic (possible worlds) analysis of these Japanese evidentials as epistemic modals, or as ‘epistemic evidentials’. The practical implication is that the utterance of a Japanese evidential statement using -rashii, -sooda, or -yooda generally conveys partial speaker commitment to the truth of the embedded proposition. In addition, this dissertation explores the option of an analysis that does not subscribe to the dichotomy of an evidential element being analyzed either as an epistemic modal or not. Instead, I identify features that are useful for analyzing the epistemic and evidential status of any linguistic element that can be used to express evidentiality.

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  • 03/29/2018
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