Power dynamics and pragma-cultural sources of unsourced evidentiality in Persian

Amin Zaini and Hossein Shokouhi

Abstract

This paper investigates participants’ reflections on power relations embedded in the cultural-pragmatics of unsourced evidentials in Persian texts. Using Fairclough’s (2013) critical discourse analysis, we adopted Hanks’ (2018) ethnography of referential practices and Foucault’s (1980) power dynamics to analyse 16 Persian texts through follow up interviews and focus group discussions on two opposing pairs of texts – one pair on Iranian national identity versus Persian literature, and another on Iranian politics versus religion. Our analysis revealed that unsourced evidentials appear in Persian predominantly due to censorship and sometimes due to deliberate use by authors (e.g., for winning an argument). Text consumers often overlook unsourced evidentials while reflecting on politico-religious referents, such as inequalities and bigotry. This has roots in Persian literature, religion, and politics of power embedded in the culture, and the participants’ attention to inequalities and discriminations has roots in referential practices in current Iranian discourse.

Keywords:
Publication history
Table of contents

This paper investigates the production of unsourced evidentials in modern Persian texts and their consumption by Iranian readers. Four Iranian international postgraduates at an Australian university read four texts with politico-religious and national themes, and their reactions to the texts in light of the unsourced evidentials and the different referents in them were investigated. At the level of production, we unpack cultural-pragmatic roots of unsourced evidentiality in the Persian language. At the level of consumption, we focus on how text consumers overlook unsourced evidentiality and pay attention to other referents in texts.

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