Luận văn A study on Evidential Modal Markers in English

 

As shown in Longman, Dictionary of English language and culture, 1999, “truth” is the state or quality of being true, or accepted for which proof exists. “Fact”, similarly, exposes “the reality”. The reason for gathering these two nouns in this sections for analysis is that they bear hardly difference in meaning, and they both carry the same weight in the speakers utterance. In other words, they make the listeners or readers show their confidence in what the speaker is saying. There seems no doubt in the propositions and no questions are needed for clearer evidence. Moreover, the source of information the speaker base upon when stating is somehow visible and well known.

 

(40a) The fact is that Manchester United has defeated Chelsea in this season.

(40b) It is the fact that Manchester United has defeated Chelsea in this season.

= Sự thật là đội Manchester United đã đánh bại đội Chelsea trong mùa giải này.

= Rõ ràng là đội Manchester United đã đánh bại đội Chelsea trong mùa giải này.

(41a) That Mary was re-married to a Chinese billionaire is the truth.

(41b) It is the truth that Mary was re-married to a Chinese.

= Chuyện Mary tái hôn với một nhà tỷ phú người Hoa là có thật đấy.

= Sự thật là Mary đã tái hôn với một nhà tỷ phú người Hoa.

(42) The truth of the matter is that John doesnt want to see you.

= Sự thực của vấn đề là John không muốn gặp cô nữa.

= Thực ra là John không muốn gặp cô nữa.

 

In (40a-b), the speaker is thought to deduce the Chelseas defeat by Manchester United from reality or from what he has watched. (41a-b) implies that the speaker has derived the information “Mary was re-married to a Chinese” from what he might be told by others or from his own experience. (42) manifests that John might tell the speaker his intention of not wanting to see the girl or the speaker may know about Johns intention by judging from Johns behavior or attitude to the girl.

 

 

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e changes” in (23a-b), “they have no experience in this work” in (24a-b), “he suddenly left home” in (25a-b), and “he told a lie” in (26a-b) that “P is well-understood and clearly seen or heard”. Observably, these assertions in (23a, 24a, 25a, 26a) dressed up with only Evidential modal adjectives are regarded as impersonalized, which signals that the speaker may avoid specifying who is responsible for the judgments though in an explicit orientation; that is, they prove objectively oriented. Whereas utterances in (23b, 24b, 25b, 26b) are turned into being personalized in the presence of “to me” and “to us”, making them sound a little bit more subjective. 2.1.1.2. SURE Another adjective for Evidential modal qualification occurring so often in communication turns out to be “sure”. By Longman, Dictionary of English language and culture, 1999, “sure” is to express the speaker’s not doubting or seeming to doubt what he believes or knows, always attached to the person (pronoun) subjects. In fact, when the speaker makes “sure” of his/ her assertions, that means he feels confident in his/ her knowledge or the source of information for his utterance. Or that is to say, the utterance seems to be highly assured by the speaker in terms of certainty. (27) I am sure that I have met her before somewhere. = Tôi dám chắc rằng tôi đã từng gặp cô ấy ở đâu đó rồi. (28) I feel quite sure that Tom will pass the exam easily. = Tôi tin chắc rằng nó sẽ vượt qua kỳ thi một cách dễ dàng thôi. By means of two examples, “sure” can be said to be equivalent to “chắc là, tin chắc là, chắc chắn là, dám chắc là” in Vietnamese. As seen in (27-28), the speakers offer the high commitment to the propositions “I have met her before somewhere” or “Tom will pass the exam”. In order to make these statements, the speakers have to base upon what they have known or experienced. (27) indicates that the woman’s face appears familiar to the speaker, and from what he/she remembers he has drawn a conclusion that he/she has met her before somewhere. Similarly in (28), it is certain that the speaker knows well about Tom’s ability and Tom’s results at school; that is why he/she states with his strong belief that Tom are able to and will pass the exam easily. Therefore, the utterances’ proposition is strongly supported with a quite reliable source of information even though in such a subjective orientation. 2.1.1.3. DOUBTFUL On the contrary to “clear, evident, obvious, apparent” and “sure”, “doubtful” functions as a Evidential modal markers of the low certainty. “Doubtful” bears itself the feature of being uncertain and unconfident of the fact. Or the proposition is not well committed to. When the speaker utters the statement using “doubtful”, from what has been seen or heard in reality, it proves that the proposition lacks the evidence or the speaker neither has enough evidence nor feels sure of the source of information. Moreover, “doubtful” is said to be open to question. Equivalently, in Vietnamese “đáng ngờ là, đáng nghi ngờ là” can translate its meaning. (29) It is doubtful that John ever found out something about it. = Thật là đáng ngờ về chuyện /không thể có chuyện John đã tìm ra cái gì đó liên quan đến sự việc ấy. (30) I find it doubtful that John wrote this when he was ten. = Tôi không chắc/ tôi không tin/ tôi hoàn toàn nghi ngờ về chuyện là John viết cái này ở tuổi lên mười. The speakers in both (29-30) hold hardly any belief in propositions “John ever found out something about it” or “John wrote this when he was ten” which remain undependable. Or they cannot find out enough evidence to devote high commitment to such propositions. Thus, these propositions seem questionable, causing doubt to the hearer who is certain to know that the speaker cannot assure the source of information concerning John’s finding out something about it as in (29) and John’s writing it at the age of ten as in (30). The chosen adjectives here, though different in the certainty level, have well exemplified the Evidential modal markers. As suggested by Bellert (1977), these modal adjectives can qualify the state of affairs to the utterance and are part of the complex proposition expressed by the utterance. They can be both impersonalized and personalized, or can be subjectively as well as objectively oriented, which really depends on not only the speaker’s attitudes and intentions, or the evidence he/she acquires, but the structures the speaker utilizes for the utterance as well. 2.1.2. EVIDENTIAL MODAL ADVERBS Along with adjectives, a wide range of adverbs can be of Evidential modality. Some of them act as prominent markers which are taken into consideration in this section. They are composed of “clearly, obviously, evidently, surely, undoubtedly, apparently, seemingly”. Most of them are said to derive from the root of adjectives. They are tabulated in accordance with the certainty level in the table below: The high certainty The medium certainty clearly, obviously, evidently, surely, undoubtedly rõ ràng là, hiển nhiên là, chắc chắn là, không còn nghi ngờ gì nữa seemingly, apparently dường như là, hình như là Table 2: Scale of Evidential modal adverbs’ certainty 2.1.2.1. CLEARLY, OBVIOUSLY, EVIDENTLY These adverbs are all ly-adverbs whose roots are adjectives; thus, there is no denial that their meaning can be interpreted from the root-adjectives’. They imply that something is self-evident, i.e. it is no need of further argument. The speaker who is using “clearly, obviously, evidently” - the Vietnamese translations are “rõ ràng là, hiển nhiên là” - is expressing his/her very strong commitment in his/her proposition by either basing on visual, auditory evidence or logical inference. (31) He was obviously at a loss for my name. = Rõ ràng là anh ấy chịu không nhớ nổi tên tôi. = Anh ấy rõ ràng không thể nhớ nổi tên tôi. (32) Evidently, Kate is not well. = Rõ ràng là Kate không khoẻ. (33) You clearly don’t understand what I have explained. = Rõ ràng là bạn không hiểu những gì tôi vừa giải thích. = Bạn rõ ràng không hiểu những gì tôi vừa giải thích. (31-33) reveal that the speakers have felt confident in their information which comes directly from their own experiencing, or witnessing. Detailedly, in (31) the speaker might report his/her talk with a man who appeared to have forgotten the speaker’s name. (32) refers to the situation in which the speaker utters “Kate is not well” at the sight of her pale face, or on hearing her cough. (33) sees that the speaker might have a conversation with someone who fails to understand what the speaker has explained. 2.1.2.2. SURELY In Elizabethan English, “surely” meant what “certainly” does today, meaning “it is so” which implies no doubt. It is obvious that “surely” expresses a very high level of commitment in what the speaker is saying. “Surely” and its Vietnamese equivalents “hẳn là, chắc chắn là” show that the speaker is almost certain of what is stated. (34) Surely that is a plain-clothes policeman. = Chắc chắc đó là cảnh sát mặc thường phục. = Chắc chắn anh ta là cảnh sát mắc thường phục. (35) Surely I have met him before. = Chắc chắn tôi đã gặp anh ấy trước đó rồi. In (34), there is a hint that the speaker might have recognized a policeman who was dressed in plain clothes; accordingly, he says so confidently and definitely. The same thing can be applied to (35). Here the speaker has found some familiarity with the man’s face, which reminds the speaker of the fact that the speaker has met the man somewhere before. That means the speaker attaching some weight to the utterance. 2.1.2.3. UNDOUBTEDLY If “doubtful” can express the low certainty, then “undoubtedly” moves in opposite direction in terms of certainty scale. “Undoubtedly” is used for the affairs of the high certainty as to the source of information like “clearly, obviously, and evidently”. “Undoubtedly” is quite synonymous to “certainly” or “unquestionably” and equivalent to “không còn nghi ngờ gĩ nữa, đương nhiên là, rõ ràng là” in Vietnamese, (36) Undoubtedly, Pat is very intelligent. = Pat rất thông minh là chuyện quá rõ rồi. = Không có gì nghi ngờ về chuyện Pat rất thông minh cả. (37) John undoubtedly left home. = Hẳn là John đã bỏ nhà ra đi rồi. At the first sight of “undoubtedly” in English it is immediately inferred that this expresses negative polarity. But in fact, in terms of meaning, it does not; it reveals rather strong positive polarity though it is morphologically. It is much different from its Vietnamese interpretations “không còn nghi ngờ gĩ nữa”. In Vietnamese “không” plus other language items can cause the negative polarity to their meanings. Thus, (36-37) are assuredly positive as regards meaning. In (36), it is really true that Pat is very intelligent, which is well known to everybody. In other words, by what Pat has done does that prove his intelligence. Obviously, no question related to his intelligence is to be raised. Whereas, in (37) John might have been found nowhere; hence, basing on the fact, the speaker can make sure that John left home. 2.1.2.4. APPARENTLY, SEEMINGLY When being an adjective, “apparent” can be classified in the group of “clear, obvious, evident”, but in the form of an adverb “apparently” and “seemingly” are placed into the same classification. Both of them can be interpreted as “in appearance, according to the outward appearance or according to what has been heard” (Longman, Dictionary of English language and culture, 1999). In Vietnamese, they can be understood as “dường như là, hình như là” They signal the medium certainty in the proposition; to put it in another way, they express neither a very high nor a very low, but something between, commitment to what is stated. As for the utterance, it is required that evidence be added to support the source of information more. (38) Apparently she never got my letter after all. = Hình như là cô ấy rút cuộc chưa nhận được một lá thư nào của tôi cả. (39) That is seemingly an endless problem. = Dường như đó là một vấn đề vô tận. In (38-39), the speakers might judge from the facts as the speakers know them. In details, the speaker in (38) seem to have heard from some source, then produced the utterance of “her never getting the speaker’s letter”; meanwhile in (39) the outward appearance of the fact comes to the speaker’s assistance and drives him to provide such an assertion as “that is an endless problem”. Both the two propositions in (38-39) hold the medium certainty. As studied, “clearly, obviously, evidently, surely, undoubtedly, apparently, seemingly” are all modal adverbs as Evidential modal markers. They, according to Bellert (1977), qualify the truth of propositions expressed in the utterance in which they occur and hence constitute a second, meta-linguistic proposition. Differently from modal adjectives, they are not part of the propositional meaning but express the speaker attitude toward the proposition; as such, the speaker cannot question or negate his/her own current attitude. That is why the listeners or even readers on absorbing the statements including these Evidential modal adverbs uttered by the speaker can feel the sense of subjectivity. 2.2. EVIDENTIAL MODAL NOUNS It is common knowledge that nouns can function as subjects, complements, objects, and so forth. Besides these normal features, nouns like adjectives, adverbs or verbs can hold the function of expressing modality, “possibility”, or “probability” as examples. But, in our reference within the scope of our study, only nouns of Evidential modality are discussed herein. They are limited to such nouns as “truth, fact, rumor, doubt” which have the Vietnamese corresponding meanings of “sự thực là, tin đồn là, mối nghi ngờ là”, respectively. The scale of certainty by Givón will be made best use of to “weigh” the reliability of the assertions as well as the propositions in the speaker’s utterance. Thenceforward, implications of the certainty of the information sources can be exposed. Evidential modality can be well qualified with these nominal markers like “truth, fact, rumor, doubt” even though in different ways and at different levels of certainty. Before going into details, it is much better to demonstrate them in the table below in conformation to their rank of certainty. The high certainty The medium certainty The low certainty truth, fact thực tế là, sự thực là rumor, no doubt tin đồn là, không nghi ngờ gì doubt mối nghi ngờ là Table 3: Scale of Evidential modal nouns’ certainty 2.2.1. TRUTH, FACT As shown in Longman, Dictionary of English language and culture, 1999, “truth” is the state or quality of being true, or accepted for which proof exists. “Fact”, similarly, exposes “the reality”. The reason for gathering these two nouns in this sections for analysis is that they bear hardly difference in meaning, and they both carry the same weight in the speaker’s utterance. In other words, they make the listeners or readers show their confidence in what the speaker is saying. There seems no doubt in the propositions and no questions are needed for clearer evidence. Moreover, the source of information the speaker base upon when stating is somehow visible and well known. (40a) The fact is that Manchester United has defeated Chelsea in this season. (40b) It is the fact that Manchester United has defeated Chelsea in this season. = Sự thật là đội Manchester United đã đánh bại đội Chelsea trong mùa giải này. = Rõ ràng là đội Manchester United đã đánh bại đội Chelsea trong mùa giải này. (41a) That Mary was re-married to a Chinese billionaire is the truth. (41b) It is the truth that Mary was re-married to a Chinese. = Chuyện Mary tái hôn với một nhà tỷ phú người Hoa là có thật đấy. = Sự thật là Mary đã tái hôn với một nhà tỷ phú người Hoa. (42) The truth of the matter is that John doesn’t want to see you. = Sự thực của vấn đề là John không muốn gặp cô nữa. = Thực ra là John không muốn gặp cô nữa. In (40a-b), the speaker is thought to deduce the Chelsea’s defeat by Manchester United from reality or from what he has watched. (41a-b) implies that the speaker has derived the information “Mary was re-married to a Chinese” from what he might be told by others or from his own experience. (42) manifests that John might tell the speaker his intention of not wanting to see the girl or the speaker may know about John’s intention by judging from John’s behavior or attitude to the girl. 2.2.2. RUMOR “Rumor” is categorized into the group of hearsay markers. It unambiguously expresses Evidential modality. When it is in use, it means the speaker collect the information about something from others – from the informal source. Thus, the reliability of the utterance cannot be high. Or when it is uttered together with a proposition, the perceiver cannot judge whether the proposition is true or false. It requires, obviously, more evidence for more support. That is why “rumor” belongs to the group of the medium certainty. (43) Rumor has it that Jean is getting married again. = Mọi người đồn rằng Jean sắp tái hôn. (44) I hear a rumor that this company is importing plastics for toys. = Tôi nghe đồn là công ty này đang nhập khẩu nhựa để làm đồ chơi. (45) The rumor is that John committed a suicide. = Có tin đồn là ông John đã tự vẫn. Here in these examples, “rumor” implies that the information may be circled around and shared by many people including the speaker. This signals the Evidential modal stance between the truth and the message given by the speaker. It also keeps the speaker from committing himself/herself to the validity of the information such as “Jean is getting married again, this company is importing plastics for toys, and John committed a suicide” in (43-45). 2.2.2. DOUBT “Doubt” is the feeling of uncertainty of belief; it shows the lack of confidence or trust in what is being said. It may be said that the speaker has almost no evidence or enough information concerning the utterance. Consequently, “doubt” does not enable the proposition to gain the speaker’s strong commitment. However, when “doubt” is used in a different way, its meaning is immediately changed, and observably, so is its scale of certainty. If “doubt” is ranked, like the modal adjective “doubtful”, in the category of the low certainty, “no doubt” belongs to the group of the medium certainty. “No doubt” is studied to grasp the meaning of “almost certainly, or very probably” (Longman, Dictionary of English language and culture, 1999). It evidently shows much higher certainty and stronger commitment to the proposition than “doubt”. (46) It was the doubt that he was just trying to help. = Chuyện anh ta đã cố gắng giúp đỡ là vô cùng đáng ngờ. = Thật đáng ngờ là anh ấy đã cố gắng giúp đỡ. (47) No doubt he was just trying to help. = Không còn nghi ngờ gì về cái chuyện anh ấy đã cố gắng giúp đỡ cả. = Rõ ràng là anh ấy đã cố gắng giúp đỡ. (46-47) have reflected the difference in both meaning and level of certainty between “doubt” and “no doubt”, which has been referred to. Even though the proposition is the same, the truth-value of (47) is higher than that in (46). Or the speaker can identify the source of information more clearly in (47) than in (46). These nouns “truth, fact, rumor, and doubt”, as seen from the examples, can function well to convey the Evidential modality or they are thought of as “specific and clear” in the sense of Evidential modality. It is explained that if they are used, the grounds on which a speaker makes an overtly qualified assertion can be well encoded. The source of information or the reliability of the information, consequently, can be marked without any ambiguity. In all likelihood, the assertion can be realized at its certain level of certainty immediately the statement is uttered with these modal nouns. Undoubtedly, they are impersonalized inside themselves; however, when they occur together with other personal subjects, they are likely to be personalized. 2.3. EVIDENTIAL MODAL LEXICAL VERBS This section receives an emphasis on the role and properties of lexical verbs, called “Evidential modal lexical verbs”, as a means to convey Evidential modality. They are said to render the speaker’s evaluation of the factuality of the state of affairs expressed. Undeniably, they seem to be very “popular” and used so frequently with reference to the functions of showing the speaker’s opinion on and confidence in the truth-value or the source of the proposition. Thus, apart from Evidential modal adjectives, Evidential modal adverbs, Evidential nouns, Evidential modal lexical verbs are taken for granted that they are one of the primary means to impart Evidential modality. As known, these Evidential modal verbs are not easy to be well-understood because of their complexity. That is the reason for the ambiguity caused by these verbs. Moreover, these Evidential modal verbs have not yet been profoundly and concretely studied. This section, obviously, is necessary as a result. It is expected to offer an overview of verbs used for Evidential modal qualifications as well as the position of these Evidential modal verbs in the whole system of Evidential modal expressions. Within the scope of the paper, it seems impossible to cover all the verbs. There are limited and chosen verbs which sound typical in terms of the frequency of usage and the sense of Evidential modality. They include: Evidential propositional-lexical verbs: think, believe, guess, suppose, doubt; nghĩ là, tin là, đoán là, cho rằng, nghi ngờ là Sensory verbs: see, hear, taste, feel, smell, appear, seem, sound, look; thấy là, nghe thấy là, nếm thấy là, nghe mùi, cảm thấy, dường như Hearsay verbs: say, tell; nói rằng, kể rằng là 2.3.1. EVIDENTIAL PROPOSITIONAL-LEXICAL VERBS In general, it appears not to be an easy work to deal with Evidential modal lexical verbs, particularly here Evidential propositional-lexical verbs. For the linguists, if classifying or specifying the Evidential modal adjectives, Evidential modal adverbs prove easy, then how challenging it is for them to define which verbs can be Evidential modal verbs as well as Evidential propositional-lexical verbs and which cannot. It is advisable to choose “think, believe, guess, suppose, doubt; nghĩ là, tin là, đoán là, cho rằng, nghi ngờ là” for this section to focus on. They are thought to be the typical verbs which traditionally convey modality or Evidential modality with the first person pronouns “I, we”. The high certainty The medium certainty The low certainty think (must/certainly) thấy là think, believe, guess, suppose nghĩ là, tin là, đoán là, cho rằng doubt nghi ngờ là Table 4: Scale of Evidential propositional-lexical verbs’ certainty It is noted that “think, believe, guess, suppose, doubt” can perform the “process meaning” and “modal meaning”. As what is differentiated by both Nuyts (Epistemic Modal Qualifications on their Linguistic and Conceptual Structure, 1994) and Quirk (A Grammar of Contemporary English, 1972), these verbs used with “process meaning” show “activity”, while used with “modal meaning” they indicate “perception”. The former can go with progressive aspect, whereas the latter cannot. The latter will not be taken into account in the paper. During the process of analyzing each of the Evidential propositional-lexical verbs, the examples will be provided to illustrate the differences between these two meaning. 2.3.1.1. THINK In the sense of Evidential modal qualifications, “I think” is linked with the meaning of “I consider it probably true that…even though I am not certain of the information” (Nuyts, Epistemic Modal Qualifications on their Linguistic and Conceptual Structure, 1994). That means “think” - “nghĩ là” - in this case being ranked at the level of the medium certainty. However, when “think” is combined with Judgmental markers like “must” and “certainly” (“chắc là, thấy rõ là”) in the complement clauses, it can be placed in the high range of the certainty scale. (48a) I think he must be with his girlfriend now. (Modal meaning) (48b) I think he is certainly with his girlfriend now. (Modal meaning) = Tôi dám chắc là nó đang ở cùng với bạn gái nó đấy. (49) I think that Tom is right. (Modal meaning) = Tôi nghĩ rằng/ cho rằng Tom đúng. (50) Jude is back, I think. (Modal meaning) = Tôi cho rằng là Jude đã quay trở về. (51) The plane is taking off, I think, in 5 minutes. (Modal meaning) = Máy bay sẽ cất cánh, tôi nghĩ là trong 5 phút nữa. (52) I think of her all the time. (Process meaning) = Tôi luôn nghĩ về cô ấy. “Think” in (48-52) can be seen as the verb expressing the state of mind which is the result of reasoning process. Though similar in appearance, “think” in (52) cannot show the speaker’s view concerning the state of the affair; instead, it shows an “on-going” activity. The former clearly infers the assessment of the truth-value of the propositions by the speaker who has encoded, to some extent, the ground of the assertion. The latter only helps with the meaning that the speaker is missing his girlfriend much. The latter is said, thus, to carry the “process meaning” while the former is of “modal meaning”, i.e. the “Evidential modal meaning”. 2.3.1.2. BELIEVE Of the medium level of certainty, “I believe” - “Tôi tin là” - acting as a device of Evidential modality can be paraphrased by Nuyts (Epistemic Modal Qualifications on their Linguistic and Conceptual Structure, 1994) as “I consider it probably true that…though I am not completely sure”. In this sense, the speaker using “believe” expresses depth and assurance of feeling that is often based on inconclusive evidence. Compared with “believe” of “modal meaning”, “believe” of “process meaning” - “tin vào, tin tưởng vào” - only shows the speaker’s faith, trust, or confidence in the value of something. The examples presented below can bring out these two meanings of “believe”: (53) I believe they are getting married. (Modal meaning) = Tôi tin rằng họ sắp lấy nhau. (54) The Smiths, I believe, has just moved to Belfast. (Modal meaning) = Gia đình Smiths, tôi nghĩ rằng, họ vừa mới chuyển nhà đến Belfast. (55) Kate will be appointed that position, I believe. (Modal meaning) = Kate sẽ được bổ nhiệm vào vị trí đó, tôi tin là như vậy. (56) I believe in Jesus. (Process meaning) = Tôi tin vào chúa Jeus. (57) I don’t believe his account of the accident. (Process meaning) = Tôi không tin vào cái bản khai của anh ta về vụ tai nạn. (53-67) convey the modality in the ways of showing the speakers’ attitudes towards the utterance. As for Evidential modality, “believe” exemplified in (53-55) helps to put the sources of information into code; as such the speakers devote their between-high-and-low commitment to the propositions. That is to say, they have not collected or absorbed enou

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