In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Evidentials

  • Introduction
  • Monographs
  • Articles
  • Edited Collections
  • Extensions of Nonevidential Categories
  • Meanings
  • Tense, Aspect, and Mood
  • Epistemic Modality
  • Person Marking
  • Meanings in Complementation
  • Reported Speech and Information Source
  • Mirativity
  • Historical Development
  • Contact-Induced Change
  • Grammaticalization of a Quotative Marker in Spanish Varieties
  • Areal Features
  • Child Language Acquisition
  • Evidentiality and Cognition
  • Information Sources and Cultural Stereotypes

Linguistics Evidentials
Alexandra Y. Aikhenvald
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 August 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 September 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199772810-0014


Evidentiality is a grammatical category with source of information as its primary meaning—whether the speaker saw the event happen, did not see it but heard it, made an inference based on general knowledge or visual traces, or was told about it. Languages may distinguish firsthand and nonfirsthand information or have a special marker just for reported evidentiality. In larger evidential systems, firsthand or visual evidential may contrast with nonvisual, inferred, assumed, and reported. Evidentiality is a verbal category in its own right. It does not bear any straightforward relationship to the expression of the speaker’s responsibility or attitude toward the statement. Neither is evidentiality a subcategory of modality or a tense. Nonevidential categories, including perfect aspect, past tense, conditional, and other modalities and complementation devices, can develop meanings related to information source. French linguists employ the term “mediative.” Scholars of Quechua use the term “validational” or “verificational.”


The notion of evidentiality was introduced into general linguistics by Jakobson 1957. Aikhenvald 2004 is the only monograph to date dealing exclusively with the category of evidentiality. There are numerous articles dealing with various meanings of evidentials. A number of monographs address epistemic and other modalities and pragmatic notions involving responsibility, control, and authority, with marginal relevance to evidentiality.

  • Aikhenvald, Alexandra Y. 2004. Evidentiality. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

    A comprehensive overview of grammatical evidentiality in a cross-linguistic perspective based on the author’s own fieldwork and on examination of grammars of more than five hundred languages. Deals with the expression, semantics, and pragmatics of evidential systems across the world; their correlations with other categories, including mirativity; their origins and decay; and child language acquisition. Paperback edition with revisions published 2006 (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press).

  • Jakobson, Roman O. 1957. Shifters, verbal categories, and the Russian verb. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

    Introduces the general notion of evidentiality as a cover term for grammaticalized marking of information source.

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