Language Variation and Change Workshop

January 24, 2020 | 3:30PM
Rosenwald 301

The evidential system of Potawatomi
Robert Lewis, University of Chicago 

This talk provides an overview of the evidential system in Potawatomi. I show that the evidential system of Potawatomi is scattered across three pieces of the grammar “rather than existing in paradigmatic opposition to one another” (Brugman & Macaulay 2015:224). These three pieces are two enclitics, the dubitative mode inflection and a set of particles. 
Potawatomi has a hearsay evidential enclitic =me which marks that the evidence for the statement is hearsay. =me can also be used in questions and narratives. In questions, it can be used to mark that the speaker assumes that the listener is not able to (fully) answer the question. In narratives, it can be used with backgrounded sentences for setting or explanation to achieve a narrative evidential. 

Potawatomi also has a variety of ways to mark the extent of speaker certainty or epistemic assessment. The enclitic =ma is used to correct misunderstandings, mark mirativity and mark strong assertions. =ma is in a paradigmatic relationship with the hearsay evidential =me

The dubitative mode has been claimed to have an evidential function in the past tense and an epistemic function in the present tense (Buszard 2003:25). Lockwood suggests that the dubitative mode only “appear[s] to be an evidential” (2017:114). However, my research finds that the dubitative mode exhibits both evidential and epistemic functions. Tense is not the deciding factor, though. Lockwood finds that the dubitative mode is scarcely used in Potawatomi. Evidentiality is now more often expressed with the particle yédek ‘maybe, I wonder, must be’ or nmej ‘I do not know, I wonder’ (Lockwood 2017:113-4). My research supports a shift of the dubitative mode from verbal inflection to independent particles; however, my research finds that nmej exhibits only epistemic functions while yédek exhibits both evidential and epistemic functions. 

In the final part of this talk, I explore the contributions of =na to particles which express doubt, dubbed doubt particles by Fairbanks (2016). Doubt particles include nmej ‘I do not know, I wonder’, yédek ‘maybe, I wonder’, édgwén ‘I do not know’, gnebetth ‘maybe’, wégwéndek ‘I do not know’, mthi ’supposedly' and danak ‘maybe’.