SOAS University of London

Department of Linguistics, School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics

Who has the ‘right to know’ in interaction, and how to find that out: Lessons from fieldwork on Amazonian Kichwa in a cross-linguistic perspective

Karolina Grzech (SOAS)

Date: 5 December 2017Time: 3:30 PM

Finishes: 5 December 2017Time: 5:00 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: B102

Type of Event: Seminar


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Who has the ‘right to know’ in interaction, and how to find that out: Lessons from fieldwork on Amazonian Kichwa in a cross-linguistic perspective


In this talk, I will introduce the findings of my doctoral research, which focused on the documentation and description of Tena Kichwa, one of the dialects of Amazonian Kichwa (Quechuan, Ecuador). My primary research objective was the description and analysis of discourse enclitics found in the language: syntactically optional markers which increase discourse coherence (cf. Schiffrin 1987), much like the expression such as you know or obviously do in English.

The Tena Kichwa markers I investigated have cognates across the Quechuan language family. In other Quechuan varieties, they are primarily analysed as evidential, that is, as indicating what kind of evidence the speaker might have for a claim (cf. Aikhenvald 2004): whether the evidence is visual/direct, inferred from context, or based on a verbal report. In Tena Kichwa, however, the use of the markers in question does not align with evidential sources ascribed to their cognates in other dialects. Rather, the markers are used in a more subjective manner, which led me to analyse them as related to the speaker’s subjective assessment of both their own knowledge state and the knowledge state of the interlocutor. In this talk, I will introduce these findings in more detail, supporting them with language data to corroborate my analysis.

An important aspect of this talk is to make the presented research accessible to an audience who might not be familiar with the categories of evidentiality and epistemicity. Therefore, I will contextualise the findings by defining the relevant concepts related to the ownership of knowledge in interaction: evidentiality, epistemic authority (Heritage & Raymond 2005: 16), and epistemic primacy (Stivers et al. 2011: 13). I will show how authority over knowledge can be claimed in interaction by speakers of a variety languages, from English, through Japanese, to different dialects of Quechua. To complete the picture, I will situate the aforementioned categories within the structure of the discussed languages. I will show that cross-linguistically, authority over knowledge can be claimed by means of both pragmatic strategies and morphosyntactic marking. Moreover, I will demonstrate that it interacts with many grammatical categories, both the 'established' ones, such as person (e.g. Bergqvist 2017; Schultze-Berndt 2017), and the ‘emergent’ ones, such as egophoricity (Floyd et al. 2016) or engagement (Evans et al. In Press).


Aikhenvald, Alexandra Y. 2004. Evidentiality. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Bergqvist, Henrik. 2017. From person to engagement. Paper presented at the 50th Annual  meeting of SLE, Zurich.

Evans, Nicholas, Henrik Bergqvist & Lila San Roque. In Press. The grammar of engagement. Language and Cognition. Cambridge University Press.

Floyd, Simeon, Elisabeth Norcliffe & Lila San Roque (eds.). 2016. Egophoricity. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Heritage, John & Geoffrey Raymond. 2005. The Terms of Agreement: Indexing Epistemic Authority and Subordination in Talk-in-Interaction. Social Psychology Quarterly 68(1). 15–38.

Schiffrin, Deborah. 1987. Discourse Markers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Schultze-Berndt, Eva. 2017. Shared vs. Primary Epistemic Authority in Jaminjung/Ngaliwurru. Open Linguistics 3(1).

Stivers, Tanya, Lorenza Mondada & Jakob Steensig. 2011. Knowledge, morality and affiliation in social interaction. In Tanya Stivers, Lorenza Mondada & Jakob Steensig (eds.), The Morality of Knowledge in Conversation, 3–24. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

About the speaker

Karolina Grzech is a linguist specialising in language documentation and description. She works primarily in the areas of semantics, pragmatics and discourse, with a focus on evidentiality and epistemicity. Her interests include an array of phenomena related to spoken discourse, including the use of discourse markers in interaction and pragmatic structuring of talk. She is also interested in the methodology of fieldwork, in development of experimental research methods in semantics and pragmatics, as well as in language standardisation and how it impacts language vitality.

Her PhD research focused on Tena Kichwa, a variety of Amazonian Kichwa (Quechuan IIB) spoken in the Napo province of Ecuador. Her thesis consisted of a sketch grammar of the language, and the description of its epistemic discourse markers as used in spoken Kichwa discourse. She has been trained in linguistics at SOAS, where she has done an MA in Language Documentation and Description, followed by a PhD in Linguistics. She graduated in 2017, and is now a research associate at the Linguistics Department at SOAS.

Karolina has been carrying out fieldwork in the province of Napo, Ecuador, since 2013. Together with Kichwa documenters, she has created a substantial corpus of audio-visual data, part of which is deposited in the Endangered Languages Archive (ELAR).

She is a co-director of Language Landscape (, an organisation dedicated to raising awareness of linguistic diversity and implementing new methods in linguistic research.