Search for contacts, projects,
courses and publications

InfinIta - The categorization of information sources in face-to-face interaction: a study based on the TIGR-corpus of spoken Italian



Battaglia E.


Geddo C.



When speakers inform others about some state of affairs or make a conjecture, they sometimes signal the source of the asserted or conjectured information. The main classes of information sources are direct experience and perception, hearsay, and reasoning. Good sources count as evidence that gives credibility to the speaker’s utterance: therefore, communicative means that refer to them are called evidential means. Research in linguistics, pragmatics, discourse and conversation analysis, philosophy and psychology converges to suggest that information source is an important conceptual and communicative category. On the other hand, the systematic explicit expression of evidential distinctions by grammatical means, even if common, is by no means universal: in many languages, the explicit expression of evidentiality is not obligatory and utterances without any evidential marking are therefore frequent in discourse. How relevant is the category of information source for speakers of such languages? The project’s main hypothesis is that the communicative relevance of information source in assertions and conjectures is high even in languages that do not force speakers to express it systematically by evidential markers. This hypothesis is put to empirical test in an audio-video corpus of face-to-face interactions in Italian, a language without grammaticalized evidentiality. The TIGR-corpus will be collected in Ticino and in the Grisons (Switzerland). It is expected that evidential distinctions are communicated by a large range of means, including not only explicit grammatical and lexical markers, but also more implicit strategies that depend on the utterance’s semantic content, co-text and the situational context. If such means are employed to categorize the utterance’s information source or to show a source in the interactional situation, this is considered evidence compatible with the central hypothesis. Further evidence in favor are conversational sequences of repair in which interlocutors ask speakers to provide evidential details (“How do you know?”). On the contrary, if the information source of an utterance is indeterminate and such evidential indeterminacy remains unchallenged in interaction, this suggests that the category is not relevant for participants in that moment. In order to test and elaborate the central hypothesis, the project team will (a) pragmatically annotate part of the corpus data to produce quantitative data that allow to measure the degree of evidential specificity vs. evidential vagueness of assertions and conjectures; (b) use qualitative methods common in interactional linguistics to study a subset of information sources that are characteristic of face-to-face interaction because they presuppose shared time and space (direct perception in situ, the interlocutors’ discourse, and inferences based on either of these); (c) use similar qualitative methods to analyze conversational repair targeting information source. Twitter Account: InfinIta, @ItaInfin,

Additional information

Start date
End date
48 Months
Funding sources
Swiss National Science Foundation / Project Funding / Humanities and social sciences (Division I)