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Epistemic IndefinitesExploring Modality Beyond the Verbal Domain$
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Luis Alonso-Ovalle and Paula Menéndez-Benito

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199665297

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199665297.001.0001

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A short history of English epistemic indefinites

A short history of English epistemic indefinites

Chapter:
(p.100) 5 A short history of English epistemic indefinites
Source:
Epistemic Indefinites
Author(s):

Benjamin Slade

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199665297.003.0005

In modern English there are two primary epistemic indefinites, some NP and some NP or other which bear distinct pragmatic properties, differing from one another both with respect to signalling how the speaker is (un)able to identify the individual in question and with respect to their relation to specificity. This chapter provides a preliminary examination of the synchronic and diachronic properties of these two English epistemic indefinites, along with other constructions associated with epistemicity, such as Old English postnominal nathw-. Texts from the Old English, Middle English, Early Modern English, and Modern English periods are examined in order to determine the development of the epistemic and specific uses of various constructions.

Keywords:   epistemic indefinites, Old English, Middle English, English, specificity, diachrony

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