The Expression of Epistemic Uncertainty Through the Use of Distal Demonstratives in Russian and Chinese: A Cognitive Analysis of Corpus Data

Paola Bocale, Daniele Brigadoi Cologna


In both Russian and Chinese, there are conditional connectives that appear in the apodosis of conditional sentences and are derived from non-proximal demonstratives. This work will concentrate on the Russian conditional connective to and the Chinese conditional connective , which share a similar development from distal demonstratives and exhibit similar syntactic, semantic and pragmatic properties. The analysis will take into account that both Russian to and Chinese are fundamentally deictic and have a motivated semantic content, which is closely related to the respective distal deictic demonstratives with the meaning that. The main question addressed in this work is how the semantics of distal demonstratives can account for their interaction with environments marked by epistemic uncertainty. In order to explain how the spatial relationship is transferred to the modal domain, the research will draw upon the theoretical framework of Deictic Space Theory, a cognitive linguistic theory which grounds fundamental features of human language in spatial cognition. The analysis will show how the occurrence of distal deictics in constructions involving epistemic uncertainty can be explained as a metaphorical extension from the basic meanings of remoteness in space and time to remoteness in certainty. 

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