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Title: Evidentiality and Chinese Modals
Authors: Tang, Lili
Keywords: Sino-Tibetan Languages
Chinese Language
Issue Date: 2010
Publisher: City University of Hong Kong
Abstract: This dissertation explores the semantics of epistemic modality and attitude expressives through a detailed study of two pairs of modals in Mandarin Chinese, the epistemic modals keneng/yiding and attitude expressives danyuan/kongpa. The meaning of each of the four modals in Chinese is described on the basis of data collected by the author and from published sources. One of the main aims of the dissertation is to investigate the felicity conditions of the modals. I argue that the epistemic modals (keneng and yiding) and the attitude expressives (danyuan and kongpa) react to evidentiality - the inherent encoding of information sources in a clause. I show that epistemic modals clash with firsthand evidential type. The reason is explained through an evidentiality hierarchy I propose in the dissertation. Arguing against hierarchies previously proposed in the literature, I arrange inherent evidentiality types on a scale according to the reliability of the information source. Epistemic modals encoding a high degree of certainty, rank lower than direct or firsthand information, common human knowledge, culture shared knowledge, visual testimonial and private experience. The relatively lower ranking of epistemic modals is involved to explain why they are incompatible with sentences that covertly exhibit high reliable information sources (viz. firsthand information). The attitude expressives danyuan and kongpa are infelicitous in sentences encoding firsthand information for similar reasons. At a formal semantics level, I argue that previous approaches of interpreting epistemic modals (keneng and yiding) and attitude expressives (danyuan and kongpa) by means of classical possible worlds provide unsatisfactory accounts for their incompatibility with highly reliable information sources. I show that classical possible world semantics fails to supply accurate truth values for sentences in which epistemic modals (or attitude expressives) clash with highly reliable information. I adopt and develop a fuzzy logical model, called Fuzzy Evidentiality Language, which not only formalizes the above evidentiality hierarchy, but also provides satisfactory semantic values for this incompatibility.
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