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Re: Evidentiality drift (WAS: Pronouns & sexuality)

From:Herman Miller <hmiller@...>
Date:Saturday, February 28, 2009, 22:25
Sai Emrys wrote:
> On Thu, Feb 26, 2009 at 6:46 PM, Herman Miller <hmiller@...> wrote: >> Back to the framing idea though: if you've got a language like Tirelat, >> where you can't express tense without evidentiality, it's pretty much clear >> from the language what each side would consider to be reliable facts as >> opposed to opinion or hearsay. If you have a conflict of opinions, no big >> deal, but if facts are in dispute, you won't be considered credible unless >> you can back them up. Ultimately, I'm not sure that would be of much help >> though, because the meanings of the words would still differ. > > I wonder: would such use of evidentials survive over time? > > Surely politics (and the more subtle interpersonal sorts) would erase > these distinctions; simply put, it's useful to misrepresent your > evidence, or to state your opinions as facts. So evidentials would > drift to become a matter of simple emphasis or stress. (in the same > way that people now use "x is literally y" to mean "x is figuratively > but emphatically y"). > > Do any of you know of how a natlang with evidentials has handled this IRL? > > - Sai
Well, there isn't a specific "fact" evidential in Tirelat, but certain evidentials are more likely to be used in cases where you believe something to be a fact. It's likely that the range of evidentials in Tirelat is unusually large. Some examples of the word "bit" in different contexts with varying degrees of credibility: A dog bit me. jĕtaċaŕin A dog bit him/her; I saw it happen. jĕtaċatin It's obvious that a dog bit him/her. jĕtaċamin I heard that a dog bit him/her. jĕtaċálin I think maybe a dog bit him/her. jĕtaċaxan In each case you've got a potential opening for argument if the fact that someone was bitten by a dog is in dispute. It's harder to dispute "a dog bit me" except maybe to ask "are you sure it was a dog?" (unless you want to suggest that the other person is outright lying). But in political situations, this sort of personal experience could be dismissed as anecdotal. Tirelat is unusually regular; after all it was originally a personal language, and only later did I adopt it as a fictional language for the Sangari people. I've been going back to considering it more of a personal language, or a model for a typical Sangari language without many of the irregularities of real languages. It's possible that languages related to Tirelat (or future descendant languages) could have a simplified version of this scheme. It could also happen that extra shades of meaning are distinguished in some languages.