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In some languages every statement must contain a specification of the type of evidence on which it is based: for example, whether the speaker saw it, or heard it, or inferred it from indirect evidence, or learnt it from someone else. This grammatical reference to information source is called 'evidentiality', and is one of the least described grammatical categories. Evidentiality systems differ in how complex they are: some distinguish just two terms (eyewitness and noneyewitness, or reported and everything else), while others have six or even more terms. Evidentiality is a category in its own right, and not a subcategory of epistemic or some other modality, nor of tense-aspect. Every language has some way of referring to the source of information, but not every language has grammatical evidentiality. In English expressions such as I guess, they say, I hear that, the alleged are not obligatory and do not constitute a grammatical system. Similar expressions in other languages may provide historical sources for evidentials. True evidentials, by contrast, form a grammatical system.
In the North Arawak language Tariana an expression such as "the dog bit the man" must be augmented by a grammatical suffix indicating whether the event was seen, or heard, or assumed, or reported. This book provides the first exhaustive cross-linguistic typological study of how languages deal with the marking of information source. Examples are drawn from over 500 languages from all over the world, several of them based on the author's original fieldwork. Professor Aikhenvald also considers the role evidentiality plays in human cognition, and the ways in which evidentiality influences human perception of the world. This is an important book on an intriguing subject. It will interest anthropologists, cognitive psychologists and philosophers, as well as linguists.
Alexandra Aikhenvald is Professor of Linguistics and Associate Director of the Research Centre for Linguistic Typology at La Trobe University. She has worked on descriptive and historical aspects of Berber languages and in 1990 published, in Russian, a grammar of Modern Hebrew. She is a major authority on languages of the Arawak family o fnorthern Amazonia, and has written grammars of Bare (1995, based on work with the last speaker who has since died), Warekena
(1998), and Tariana, from Northwest Amazonia (2003). Her books inlcude Classifiers: a Typology of Noun Categorization Devices (2000, paperback reissue 2003), and Language Contact in Amazonia (2002). She is currently working on a grammatical description of Manambu, from the Sepik region of New Guinea.