Modality and Evidentiality in Akan: A Corpus-Based Study

Date: 13 March 2019

Venue: UAntwerpen - Stadscampus - Hof van Liere - Willem Elsschotzaal - Prinsstraat 13 - 2000 Antwerpen (route: UAntwerpen, Stadscampus)

Time: 3:00 PM

PhD candidate: Joana Portia Saky

Principal investigator: Jan Nuyts

Short description: PhD defence Joana Portia Saky - Faculty of Arts


The existing literature has focused on the functional use of modality in terms of its qualification of propositions. The use of modal auxiliaries to express these qualifications has received quite an attention. This issue sometimes leads people to equate the study of modality to the study of modal auxiliaries only. In recent years, however, writers have shown that other word classes (adverbs, adjectives and verbs) are also used to express propositional qualifications in. As regards evidentiality, various studies have demonstrated the use of both grammatical and lexical paradigms for indicating the source of information. 

The current study is motivated by the lack of detailed discussion on these topics in the language and thus makes the effort to explore, describe and discuss the expression of modality and evidentiality by the use of available forms in Akan discourse. In line with the views writers have expressed on these topics, we demonstrate in this study that Akan uses modal auxiliaries, modal adverbs, predicative modal adjectives, verbs and verbal constructions to express epistemic, deontic and dynamic modalities. Further, we have pointed out that the language utilizes only lexical verbs, verbal and adjectival constructions to express evidentiality. 

On the relationship existing between modality and evidentiality, the study has proceeded on the common linguistic premise that everyone speaks based on a kind of evidence, knowledge or experience. Thus, whatever information one gives (be it stating a fact (non-modalized) or speculating (epistemically modalized) etc.) is based on evidence (see Nuyts 2001b; 1993). As such, forms and constructions in this study have been analyzed according to which modal or evidential meanings they express. In all instances, none of the forms identified and discussed in the study, expresses both modality and evidentiality. Of course, there are forms which can express two or more modal meanings or different degrees of modality in different contexts. Others too can express different forms of evidence but not both notions. 

Three of the Akan dialects, viz. Akuapem Twi, Asante Twi and Fante are involved in the discussions as a result of their literary status. From time to time, we indicate how a form or a construction is represented in the new Akan orthography we have renamed as Akanwa.