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PhD Defence Sonja Gipper on September 23
Evidentiality is still one of the least understood grammatical categories. MPI researcher Sonja Gipper specialises in the evidential system in Yurakaré, an endangered language spoken in Central Bolivia. On September 23 at 10:30, in the Radboud University aula she will defend her thesis 'Evidentiality and intersubjectivity in Yurakaré: An interactional account'.
September 22, 2011
Yurakaré is an unclassified endangered language spoken in Central Bolivia. The Yurakaré people live in small communities between the Amazonian lowlands and the Andes, dispersed across a large area.
Flourishing, but still unknown
Evidentiality is usually defined as expressing the speaker's source of information for the proposition, says Gipper, citing the Russian linguist Alexandra Aikhenvald. Evidential systems of the world's languages include evidential types such as Direct (speaker has observed the event him-/herself), Reported (event was reported to the speaker by another person) and Inferential (speaker infers proposition on the basis of external evidence). Since the first symposium on evidentiality in 1981, interest in the subject has flourished. Nevertheless, evidentiality remains one of the least understood grammatical categories.
Indigenous Territory and National Park Isiboro-Sécure (TIPNIS) in Bolivia where the Yurakaré people live (copyright Sonja Gipper).
Utterances in interaction
In her dissertation, Sonja Gipper analyses and describes the evidential system of Yurakaré in detail, which has not been done before. "The Yurakaré data show that evidentials are not always used to merely inform the addressee about the speaker's information source, but are frequently chosen according to the interactional context and function." Her study reveals that interaction plays an important role for the use and interpretation of the Yurakaré evidentials. This can be expected to be the case for other grammatical markers as well.
Gipper argues that descriptive linguistics should pay special attention to utterances in interaction, which is not the standard approach. "It seems desirable to further implement the method of sequential analysis in the field of descriptive linguistics, since it can offer results that cannot easily be obtained with other methods". According to Gipper, an interactional perspective is crucial for the study of evidentiality and other grammatical categories.