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Making a story make sense: Does evidentiality matter in discourse coherence?



Evidentiality refers to the linguistic marking of the nature/directness of source of evidence of an asserted event. Some languages (e.g., Turkish) mark source obligatorily in their grammar, while other languages (e.g., English) provide only lexical options for conveying source. The present study examined whether or under what conditions firsthand source information is relied on more than nonfirsthand sources in establishing discourse coherence. Turkish- and English-speaking participants read a series of somewhat incongruous two-sentence narratives and were to come up with a way of completing each narrative so that it would form a coherent story. Each narrative contrasted two source types (firsthand vs. hearsay, firsthand vs. inference, or inference vs. hearsay) and two information types (general vs. particular information) each presented first or second. Analysis of story completions showed greater overall reliance on firsthand information when it was presented second and referred to a particular event. When the firsthand source occurred first and the particular event occurred second, the latter was favored, especially by Turkish participants. Taken together, the findings suggest that evidentiality interacts with information type in establishing discourse coherence and that both firsthand and particular information are relied on more when presented later rather than earlier in discourse.


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ADDRESS FOR CORRESPONDENCE Sümeyra Tosun, Department of Psychology, Süleyman Şah University, Istanbul, Turkey. E-mail:


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