How Evidential is the Epistemic Conditional?

Agnès Celle


This paper aims to reassess how —and if— the epistemic conditional in French relates to evidentiality, focusing on its use in reportative and non-reportative declarative sentences as well as in conjectural polar questions. It is proposed that the epistemic conditional developed from the modal hypothetical use, which accounts for its ability to establish an epistemic frame. The epistemic conditional is defined as a construction that conveys an assumption whatever the source of information. It is claimed that the epistemic conditional does not primarily encode information source. Although the epistemic nature of the epistemic conditional makes it prone to draw on reportative evidence, it is not primarily an evidential marker. Nonetheless, the epistemic conditional is claimed to have indirect evidential and mirative extensions. Rather than the type of information source, the conditional encodes the speaker’s lack of control over information, which affects her level of commitment. Such an approach allows handling the different uses of the epistemic conditional in declarative sentences as well as in conjectural questions in a unified way.

Paraules clau

conditional, epistemic modality, evidentiality, mirativity, assumption, conjectural, inferential, control.

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