Björn Wiemer

Lithuanian esą — a heterosemic reportive marker in its contemporary stage

From the syntactic point of view, esą is the most diversified Lithuanian evidential marker of all as it covers uses not only in regular paradigms, but also as a function word. This stage can be captured by the notion of heterosemy. Diachronically esą derives from the former neuter of the present active participle of būti ‘to be’, which is homonymous with the regular form of the same participle. In contemporary Lithuanian, esą has also become an uninflected function word used as a particle and a complementizer after certain groups of verbs. Today its uses as a participle and as a function word coexist. This article provides a corpus-based investigation into the syntactic distribution of this unit, which neatly distinguishes its grammatical und lexical status and asks in which usage types and why a reportive meaning arises. The study then focuses on frequent cases in which the syntactic status of esą is ambiguous, also taking into account possible discourse pragmatic cues. The second part of the article starts with an argument for considering the function word uses of esą as results of lexicalization. The rest of the study is devoted to a comparison of esą with functionally equivalent evidential units on a broader areal (basically Eastern European) background. This comparison sheds light on differences and similarities in the etymology, evolution and contemporary syntactic and semantic range of functions of lexicalized reportive markers.

Keywords: evidentiality, lexicalization, particles, complementation, diachronic semantics