Datapoint Amharic / Epistemic Possibility

Discuss WALS Datapoint Amharic / Epistemic Possibility.

One Response to “Datapoint Amharic / Epistemic Possibility”

  1. Magdalena Krzyzanowska Says:

    Dear Editors,

    I have just finished my PhD dissertation on epistemic modality in Amharic. In your study, the information on epistemic expressions in Amharic has been taken from Leslau, and quite right. The problem is that there are two expressions which could refer to the notion of epistemic possibility in Amharic: a modal auxiliary ‘yǝhonall’ (which you provide reference to) and another, less grammaticalized expression, ‘yǝčǝlall’ which I find a better equivalent of the English ‘may’. ‘Yǝčǝlall’ is also polyfunctional and has gone through the same path of grammaticalization (from ability to epistemcity) as some modal verbs in SAE languages. I do not know how much you stick to the idea that an epistemic expression in a given language should be as closest an equivalent of the English ‘may’ as possible. The modal ‘yǝčǝlall’ comes from the verb ‘čalä’ (be able, can) but it gains the epistemic meaning only in the imperfective form preceeded by a complementizer ‘lǝ-’ + imperfective form of the main verb. Leslau was unaware of the existemce of this construction (at least he does not mention it explicitely in his reference grammar).
    Another important point is that there is a semantic difference between the two expressions and they are not mutually substituitable. What is then the range of meanings that fall under the lable ‘epistemic possibility’ in your study? Anything that can be successful translated into English as epistemic ‘may’? But what meaning it conveys? What does it mean ‘epistemic possibility’ in your case?

    With best regards,
    Magdalena Krzyzanowska

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