Evidentiality and Modality: At the crossroads of grammar and lexicon

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Evidentiality is a linguistic notion that is of particular interest when exploring the interaction between language and cognition. Competing conceptions of the term exist, but one of its simplest definitions is the linguistic encoding of the source of information (Chafe & Nichols eds. 1986, Aikhenvald 2004 inter alia). In French, evidentiality competes with the notion of médiativité, whose definition is more restricted and clearly bounded (Lazard 1956, 1996, Guentchéva, ed., 1996, 2004, Guentchéva & Landaburu, eds, 2007). 

The number of publications on the notion has seen an exponential rise since Aikhenvald’s monograph in 2004, and the term of evidentiality has been slowly making its way into grammar textbooks. Its relationship with the notion of epistemic modality is complex and still under discussion (Cornillie 2007, Boye 2010, Tournadre 2016, Guentchéva, ed., 2018). Some consider that the two notions are clearly separated: Aikhenvald (2004), de Haan (1999) and Nuyts (2001). Others posit that epistemic modality is a sub-category of evidentiality: Papafragou (2000), Ifantidou (2001), even though earlier work described epistemic modality as a supercategory encompassing evidentiality: Anderson (1986), Palmer (1986) and Willett (1988) inter alia. Several authors have also revealed how evidentiality interacts with other central grammatical domains, such as tense, aspect, person and polarity, but a thorough description of these ramifications needs more cross-linguistic investigation.

According to Aikhenvald, evidentiality is first and foremost a grammatical category that can be found in some of the world’s languages, whereas other researchers consider evidentiality a universal semantic or pragmatic concept (Boye & Harder 2009, Cornillie, Arrese & Wiemer 2015 inter alia). There is no denying that some languages have a distinctly more grammaticalized evidential system than others, but the research on grammaticalization has also established that drawing a line between what is grammatical and what is lexical in a language depends on several criteria that are open to discussion. Grammaticalisation theory has shed light on the non-discreteness and non-binarity of the grammar/lexicon distinction, and on the fact that languages around the world tend to develop grammatical forms from lexical sources which gradually travel comparable paths (Heine & Kuteva 2002 inter alia). More crosslinguistic research is necessary in order to place the evidential and modal markers of the world’s languages on the lexicon-grammar continuum, and therefore reveal the recurrent patterns that can be observed in languages with emerging evidential or modal systems.


We welcome proposals for talks that will present data on the evidential or modal markers of one or several languages, and contribute to this international conference, whose objectives are to:

-develop a fruitful dialogue between the typological research on evidentiality and modality as grammatical categories and the functional approaches which focus on the semantic and pragmatic properties of these domains

-bring together a large sample of languages, either featuring a fully grammatical evidential or modal system or not

-connect the field of evidentiality and modality research with other fields such as grammaticalisation theory

-present investigations into the L1 and L2 acquisition of evidentiality and modality

-study how discourse particles and constructions can express evidential and modal meanings

-explore the lexicon-grammar continuum through typological, acquisitional and diachronic studies on evidential and modal markers


Keynote speakers:

Alexandra Aikhenvald (James Cook University)

Bernd Heine (Köln University)

Jan Nuyts (University of Antwerp)

Nicolas Tournadre (Université Aix-Marseille, Lacito, IUF)


Organization Committee:

Eric Mélac (Université Paul Valéry - Montpellier 3, EMMA)

Pascale Leclercq (Université Paul Valéry – Montpellier 3, EMMA)

Jacques Brès (Université Paul Valéry – Montpellier 3, Praxiling)

Eric Corre (Université Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris 3, Prismes)

Nicolas Tournadre (Université d'Aix-Marseille, Lacito et IUF)



 Venue and date:

Montpellier (at the heart of Montpellier old town; site St Charles, station Albert 1er – tram 1 and 4)

10-11th june 2021


Registration fees

Full price 80 euro (including Thursday and Friday lunches, Thursday conference dinner and coffee breaks)

Master's and PhD students 50 euro (including Thursday and Friday lunches, Thursday conference dinner and coffee breaks)

Auditors: 20 euro for Thursday lunch, 20 euro for Friday lunch, 40 euro for conference dinner





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