On the Political Use of the Reportative Conditional in Italian Newspapers
Paraules clau:evidentiality, epistemic modality, reportative evidentials, Italian language, conditional mood, implicit content, language of newspapers
The labels condizionale riportivo (reportative conditional) or condizionale citativo (quotative conditional) are employed to describe certain uses of the conditional mood in Italian, particularly when the conditional marks the non-firsthand nature of a given piece of information. This use of the conditional is particularly frequent in the language of newspapers. However, reportative conditionals may also carry epistemic overtones, and they are used by speakers when they want to stress that they are not committed to the truthfulness of the information reported. Depending on the context, a reportative conditional can be either a purely evidential marker, or an evidential marker with epistemic overtones. Some Italian (trained) speakers exploit this ambiguity as a strategy to play on the two possible interpretations. This strategy is particularly significant in contexts in which the speaker is supposed to be neutral and, as such, must refrain from expressing her/his epistemic stance when recounting events. In this paper, after an analysis of the different sections of newspapers in which reportative conditionals occur, I will discuss one particular use of reportative conditionals in Italian newspapers, i.e. the “political” use of conditionals. To this end, I will carry out a qualitative analysis of some excerpts from newspapers published between the second half of the 19th century and today. In particular, it will be shown that journalists often take advantage of the ambiguities underlying reportative conditionals in Italian, in order to discredit the political position of a person (or group) without overtly questioning it.
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