On the link between evidentiality and egophoricity in languages of the Greater Himalayan Region

Zemp, Marius Peter; Brosig, Benjamin; Zúñiga, Fernando (31 August 2021). On the link between evidentiality and egophoricity in languages of the Greater Himalayan Region (Unpublished). In: 54th Annual Meeting of the Societas Linguistica Europaea. online. 30.08.-03.09.21.

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Evidentiality is “the linguistic means of indicating how the speaker obtained the information on which s/he bases an assertion” (Willet 1988:55). Tibetic evidential distinctions much like conjunct-disjunct oppositions in other Himalayan languages seem to be informed by the speaker’s involvement in the event profiled (DeLancey 1986, 1992; Hale 1980). Both types of distinctions may be said to involve ‘egophoric’ and ‘allophoric’ markers, that is, markers which mainly occur when the speaker respectively is and isn’t the subject in a statement (Tournadre 1991, 2008; Floyd, Norcliffe & San Roque 2018). The present paper shows that a majority of the evidential distinctions found in the Greater Himalayan Region (GHR) contrast ego- with allophoric markers, but that the contrasting markers nowhere strictly keep to their respective domains. Instead, we may distinguish three main types of distinctions based on the ways in which markers encroach on each other’s domains:
(1) Factual vs. direct (Western Tibetic, Zemp 2017): Contrasting with’dug, which indicates that a present state was directly witnessed, the previously neutral yod came to indicate that the speaker simply knows about this present state. While speakers often obtained this knowledge by participating in the event that led to the state profiled, they may use yod also when they closely monitored this event as external observers. Thus, this type of egophoric marker encroaches on the allophoric domain.
(2) High vs. low degree of personal involvement (Mongghul, Chinggeltai 1989; Fried 2018): ‘Subjective’ -ii and ‘objective’ -a predominantly occur when the speaker respectively is and isn’t the subject. However, they symmetrically deviate from this predominant pattern: -ii may be used when the speaker is not the subject of the event profiled when s/he was personally involved to a higher degree than one would expect from a non-subject, and -a may be used when the speaker is the subject when s/he was personally involved to a lower degree than one would expect from a subject. Thus, the two contrasting markers symmetrically encroach on each other’s domains.
(3) Privileged (conjunct) vs. non-privileged (disjunct) access (Kathmandu Newar, Hargreaves 2005): While past conjunct -ā in statements only occurs when the speaker is the subject, disjunct -a not only occurs whenever s/he isn’t, but sometimes also when s/he is, e.g. to signal that s/he lacked control over her/his own action. Thus, the allophoric marker encroaches on the egophoric domain.
The other types of evidential contrasts identified in the GHR are those between direct and indirect past markers (two subtypes: direct evidential V-lUGA in Middle Mongol [Street 2009] may also be used by someone who performed the event profiled, V-thæ in Amdo Tibetic can’t [Sun 2003]), and that between two direct past evidentials, Dbus-Gtsang Tibetic V-byung and V-song, where the former occurs only with events directed towards the speaker (Haller 2000:92).
The present paper suggests that a descriptively adequate account of evidentiality in the GHR needs to include egophoric markers (unlike Aikhenvald 2004, 2018), shows where the discussed types of evidential contrasts are found, and gives diachronic accounts for their synchronic differences.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Linguistics and Literary Studies > Institute of Linguistics

UniBE Contributor:

Zemp, Marius Peter, Brosig, Benjamin, Zúñiga, Fernando


400 Language > 410 Linguistics


[42] Schweizerischer Nationalfonds


[1515] Evidentiality in Time and Space Official URL




Fernando Zúñiga

Date Deposited:

21 Sep 2021 14:11

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:53



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