Evidentiality and Modality

Much of my recent research investigates aspects of evidentiality in ʔayʔaǰuθəm. With Daniel Reisinger and Lisa Matthewson, I argue that ʔayʔaǰuθəm determiners encode evidentiality; the determiners encode whether the speaker has direct evidence for the referent, and whether the evidence is available at speech time. Here are our recent ICSNL 55 precedings and Sinn und Bedeutung 25 proceedings papers.

In joint work with Daniel Reisinger, I examine a paradigm of clitics that encode evidentiality and deixis at the clausal level: we label these ‘clausal demonstratives’. We propose a nonmodal analysis of these evidentials as involving relations between situations. Here is our WCCFL 37 proceedings paper.

In addition to these deictic evidentials, ʔayʔaǰuθəm has reportative and inferential evidentials that exhibit modal behavior, as discussed in this prepublication chapter to appear in Modality in underdescribed languages: A methodological perspective. In our SALT 31 proceedings paper, Daniel Reisinger and I compare the behaviour of the reportative and inferential evidentials with the clausal demonstratives in order to argue that the former evidentials are epistemic modals while the latter are nonmodal evidentials, meaning that the categories of epistemic modality and evidentiality partially overlap and both types of evidentials may be found in the same language. Our findings for the different types of ʔayʔaǰuθəm evidentiality has implications for where we expect to find evidentiality encoded cross-linguistically, as well as for the debate concerning whether evidentiality and epistemic modality are discrete or overlapping categories.

In addition to my work on the two ʔayʔaǰuθəm evidentials I analyze as epistemic modals, mentioned above, I have co-authored a chapter with Sarah Murray on modality and evidentiality in North American languages for The Routledge Handbook of North American Languages.

Demonstratives and gesture

In joint work with Daniel Reisinger, I examine the components of meaning encoded by ʔayʔaǰuθəm demonstratives. In this ICSNL 56 precedings paper and Sinn und Bedeutung 26 proceedings paper, we argue that ʔayʔaǰuθəm demonstratives encode evidentiality in addition to deictic distance (with a subset also encoding gender and number). We also argue that gesture plays a crucial role in establishing reference for one paradigm of demonstratives, providing evidence that gesture contributes to core semantic content. More recently, we have compared the contribution of gesture with different determiners and demonstratives, presenting on this work at Sinn und Bedeutung 28.


Due to my work on an ʔayʔaǰuθəm e-dictionary project, I have become interested in the semantic interpretation of various word-level processes affecting ʔayʔaǰuθəm verbs, in particular reduplication and ablaut. Gloria Mellesmoen and I together have an IJAL article on two markers of plurality found on verbs in ʔayʔaǰuθəm; we argue that one of these, a reduplication process, marks event-external pluractionality, while the other, an affix, marks plural participants. A pre-publication version can be found here. In our SALT 29 proceedings paper, we explore the connection between verbal plurality and nominal plurality, examining the semantic interpretation of a reduplication pattern found on both verbs and nouns; we also examine an ablaut process marking event-internal pluractionality analogous to the type of plurality found with group nouns.

Scalar exclusive

One of the most ubiquitous of the second-position clitics in ʔayʔaǰuθəm is a scalar exclusive particle. While a variety of semantics tests show this clitic to have the contribution of a scalar exclusive – excluding alternative propositions higher than the prejacent on some scale – it frequently associates with the universal quantifier in the language. This is puzzling since the universal quantifier is at the top of the scale of alternative quantifiers, which should mean there are no alternatives to exclude and the contribution of the scalar exclusive should be vacuous. In this paper, I argue that the scalar exclusive has an effect of domain widening in these contexts and draw a parallel with cases where the scalar exclusive just associates with the universal quantifier every in English (e.g. Talking of my dog…: she loves just everyone!).