Chapter in:English Noun Phrases from a Functional-Cognitive Perspective: Current issues
Edited by Lotte Sommerer and Evelien Keizer
[Studies in Language Companion Series 221] 2022
Shell nouns as epistemic stance devices in English
A study of four epistemic modal nouns and four evidential nouns
This paper is concerned with the role of English Noun Phrases headed by shell nouns with epistemic modal and evidential meanings as devices for expressing epistemic stance. In line with previous work (Schmid 2000, Carretero 2016), this research adopts the notion of modal and evidential frames (Talmy 1996). The paper focuses on the distinction between epistemic uses, i.e. those uses that express commitment to communicated information, and non-epistemic uses. On the basis of data from the British National Corpus of four epistemic modal nouns (possibility, probability, likelihood, certainty) and four evidential nouns (evidence, indication, proof, sign), four factors that determine (non-)epistemicity have been identified, which are shown to have different relative weight for each of the nouns analysed. Based on these factors, an annotation scheme is proposed for the annotation of epistemic and non-epistemic uses of these nouns in further research.