Cagliari, Italy  15-18 September 2003

ALT V Conference



A.  Victor Friedman

Language Contact and the Typology of Evidentials in the Balkans.


As grammaticalized in the Balkan languages, evidentiality encodes the speaker's evaluation of the narrated event, often, but not always, predicated upon the nature of the available evidence. These evidentials can be of two types: Confirmative (sometimes called 'witnessed') and nonconfirmative (sometimes called 'reported', 'inferential', and/or 'nonwitnessed'). The nonconfirmatives can, in Austin's terms, be felicitous (neutral) or infelicitous. Felicitous nonconfirmatives are used for reports, inferences, etc., for which the speaker chooses not to take responsibility. An infelicitous nonconfirmative expresses either acceptance of a previously unexpected state of affairs (surprise, i.e. something the speaker would not have been willing to confirm prior to discovery, the mirative or admirative) or sarcastic rejection of a previous statement (doubt, irony, etc., the dubitative).


    I shall argue that there is an important distinction between the levels of sentence and extended narrative in Balkan evidentials, that this difference impacts on the sentence types in which nonconfirmatives can occur, and that this division results from the manner in which confirmativity and nonconfirmativity are grammaticalized in a given system. This difference in turn is correlated with a distinction between grammaticalization and obligatoriness. Finally, I shall argue that the typology of Balkan evidentials results from relative degrees of (in)completeness in the copying of grammatical patterns in language-contact situations in which socially determined patterns of multilingual dominance have a role to play.


   The result is the following typology of Balkan evidentiality:


1.  Cannot be truly nonpast, occurs in extended narratives:

1a. Turkish and Balkan Slavic (Macedonian and Bulgarian) have both confirmative and nonconfirmative evidentials in extended past tense narratives. The nonconfirmatives, (from perfects), always have a past reference to either a real or a putative narrated event, speech event, or state of mind. They cannot be used with true nonpast reference and are thus excluded from present-tense questions as well as inferences about the future. Although both marked confirmatives and marked nonconfirmatives occur in these languages, nonconfirmativity occurs most often as a pragmatically determined discourse function when opposed to marked confirmatives. Historical evidence favors the view that Balkan Slavic copied the Turkish

patterns using native material.

1b. Megleno-Romanian and Ukrainian Tosk Albanian: Only perfect-derived nonconfirmatives  occur, they can be used in connected narratives, and are limited to the past tense. Both developed under the influence of the Turkish/Balkan Slavic type, with significant Balkan Slavic influence as indicated by historical patterns of migration and bilingualism.


2. Can be truly nonpast, does not occur in extended narratives: Albanian and Frasheriote Aromanian (Gorna Belica, Struga region): Evidence supports the hypothesis that the Albanian paradigms (from perfects) were influenced by Turkish. Frasheriote Aromanian noncon­firmatives are more restricted and were unquestionably based on the Albanian.


    In systems with marked confirmatives, the choice between confirmative/nonconfirmative is obligatory. In systems with only nonconfirmatives, their use is never obligatory, i.e. there is no context in which failure to use a nonconfirmative form will result in confusion or an ungrammatical sentence. In the Balkan context, Turkish clearly provided the initial impetus: Balkan Slavic and Albanian developed in two different directions, and Megleno-Romanian and Ukrainian Tosk Albanian represent developments from the Balkan Slavic pattern based on partial copying.  In systems with marked confirmatives, despite the fact that they need not be literally witnessed, they still bear the restriction of literal witnessing, namely, the event must be one that could have been witnessed, i.e. past.  This can be described in terms of grammatical bleaching from literal witnessing to confirmativity.  In systems where marked confirmatives do not develop, there are two possibilities: Either the past tense constraint remains and occurrence in extended narrative remains possible, or the constraint against nonpast occurrence is lost and with it so is the ability to occur in extended narratives. Ukrainian Tosk Albanian (which separated from the bulk of Albanian in the eighteenth century but was in close contact with Bulgarian) provides the link between Turkish/Balkan Slavic and Standard Albanian, showing that only with the loss of the past tense constraint in Standard Albanian comes the exclusion from extended narrative.


Illustrative data (relevant forms are in slashes and interlinear glossing is omitted to save space, orthography is simplified for the internet):


No  podocna  se /sluchija/ raboti  za  koi ne znaev (Macedonian; Confirmative = nonwitnessed)

'But after that things /happened/ which I didn't know about.'


Ne veruvam deka toj go /napravil - *napravi/ toa.

I don't believe that he /did/ it. (Macedonian; nonconfirmative = OK, confirmative = ungrammatical)


Bir /varimish/, bir /yokimish/.  Isiyare ve karisi /istermishler/ yesınler bir tauk. /Almishlar/ pazardan o taugi, amma /bilmezsinmishlar/ nekadar tuz koysunlar.  Isiyare /gitmish/ furunciye sorusun nekadar tuz koyunur.  Furunci /demish/ ona: Bir panca. (Turkish nonconfirmative narrative)


Si /bilo/ shto ne /bilo/, Isiyare i zhena mu /sakale/ kokshka da jadat.  /Kupile/ kokoshka od pazar, ama, ne /znaele/ so kolku sol treba da se posoli kokoshkata.  /Otishol/ Isiyare kaj furnadzhijata da prasha so kolku sol treba da se posoli kokoshkata. Sol kolku edna raka, /rekol/ furnadzhijata. (Macedonian translation, nonconfirmative narrative)

'Once there /was/, once there /was/ not.  Isiyare and his wife

/wanted/ to eat chicken.  They /bought/ a chicken at the market, but

they didn't /know/ how much salt to put on it. Isiyare /went/ to the

baker's to ask how much salt should be put on the chicken. The baker

/said/ to him: "One handful.'


Pastaj u /niskan/ donji pesėmbdhit, gjeshtėmbdhit familije, u /ngritkan/, /artkan/ tė ronnė kėtu.  Pa dedo Mihnja nji atė vakėt nog /dashka/ tė vinė, zere /paska/ mulli tė ujtė bojna rixhės Devna.  Pas dytri javės /vin/ nė milys dedos Mihnja pėr bilirat.  Dedu ca nok u /bėka kajil/, i /pytka/ bilarata, ato nog /dashkan/, /thėnkan/:... (Ukrainain Tosk Albanian nonconfirmative narrative)

Then about fifteen or sixteen families /left/, they /picked up/ and /came/ to live here.  But granpa M. at that time did not /want/ to come, because he /had/ a water mill on the River Devna.  After two or three weeks they /come/ to granpa Mihnja [to marry off] his daughters.  Granpa didn't /agree/ and /asked/ the daughters, they didn't /want/ to and /said/:'


Nė qendėr tė qytetit, dy persona tė panjohur, qė /flitnin/ serbisht, /sulmuan/ dhe /tentuan/ tė rrėmbejnė studenten Afėrdita Aliu (1973) nga Kaēaniku i Vjetėr, tė cilės ia /plaēkitėn/ 60 DM dhe 50 dinarė. Falė ndėrhyrjes sė njė qytetari shqiptar ajo /shpėtoi/ nga rrėmbimi dhe u /dėrgua/ nė ambulancė ku iu /dha/ ndihma mjekėsore.  Njėri nga personat e panjohur e /paska sulmuar/ Afėrditėn dhe e /paska kėrcėnuar/ me revole edhe mė 17 janar. (Standard Albanian ordinary pasts except last two, nonconfirmative indicating an additional degree of remove)

In the center of town, two unknown persons who /were speaking/ Serbian /attacked/ and /attempted/ to kidnap the student Afėrdita Aliu (1973) from Old Kaēanik, from whom they /stole/ 60 DM and 50 dinars. Thanks to the intervention of two Albanian citizens she /was saved/ from the assault and sent to a clinic, where she /received/ medical attention.  One of the unknown persons /had attacked/ Afėrdita and /threatened/ her with a revolver also on 17 January.


Toj /bil/ bogat!  (Macedonian, nonconfirmative past)

O zengin/mish/! (Turkish, nonconfirmative past)

Ai /qenka/ i pasur!  (Albanian, nonconfirmative present)

'He is rich!' (to my surprise; nonconfirmative refers to discovery of

pre-existing state)





Ku /qenka/ mjeshtri?  (Albanian, nonconfirmative present)

*Kade /bil/ majstorot ? (Macedonian, nonconfirmative past)

*Usta neredey/mish/?  (Turkish, nonconfirmative past)

'Where is the boss?' (I am surprised at his absence; Albanian can

have true presernt meaning, Balkan Slavic/Turkish cannot)