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Karolina GrzechResearcher

About me

I am a descriptive and documentary linguist specialising in the languages of South America, and with particular interest in the linguistic and cultural area of Andean foothils:  the limit between the Andes and the Amazon. I have spent time doing fieldwork in Ecuador, working with speakers of the Amazonian Kichwa  in the province of Napo. 

My main theoretical interest is evidentiality and epistemicity, and in how those categories are expressed in everyday, spoken discourse.

I am also interested in the issues related minority and endangered languages, including language planning and policy, sociolinguistic issues surrounding language loss and language shift, and language support and revitalisation initiatives. 

I am a founding co-director of Language Landscape, an organisation dedicated to raising awareness of linguistic diversity. 


My current research project focuses on the development of intersubjective marking in the Quechuan language family, and aims to situate it in a cross-linguistic perspective, thus contributing to the typological work on intersubjectivity as a semantic category.

The project’s point of departure is the analysis of the intersubjective semantics of epistemic markers attested in Amazonian Kichwa: a group of mutually intelligible, under-described Quechuan varieties spoken in the Ecuadorian Amazon.

Research projects


A selection from Stockholm University publication database

  • The non-evidential meaning of the Tena Kichwa 'direct evidential'

    2016. Karolina Grzech.


    Quechuan languages are known to have a three-way evidential distinction between direct, indirect and reported source of information (cf. Willett 1988; Aikhenvald 2004). The Quechuan enclitic =mi has previously been analysed e.g. as marking direct evidence and certainty (Weber 1986; Floyd 1997), or the 'best possible ground' for making an assertion (Faller 2002). However, neither of the to-date analyses is adequate for describing the meaning of the enclitic =mi in Tena Kichwa, a Quechuan variety spoken in the Ecuadorian Amazon. In this article, I discuss the properties of the Tena Kichwa =mi, and show that in this variety, the marker is best analysed not as an evidential, but as a marker of epistemic primacy.

    Read more about The non-evidential meaning of the Tena Kichwa 'direct evidential'
  • Divided we stand, unified we fall? The impact of standardisation onoral language varieties: a case study of Amazonian Kichwa

    2019. Karolina Grzech, Anne Schwarz, Georgia Ennis.


    This article adds to the discussion on standardisation of minority languages spoken in primarily oral cultures. Focusingon Amazonian Kichwa (Quechuan, lowland Ecuador), we show how the introduction of a written standard can undermine language transmission, prompt contradictory ideologies, and instil conflicting aims within speech communities. Our approach combines descriptive linguistics and ethnography. First, we examine the extent of variation within Amazonian Kichwa and compare the local varieties with the standard. We juxtapose this with the speakers’ perceptions of and attitudes towards variation, evidenced in their linguistic practices and discourse. We show that these perceptions have little to do with the features being standardised, but this does not preclude the speakers’ having clear attitudes towards what the perceived standard. To explain this, we propose that Amazonian Kichwa speakers value authenticity above mutual intelligibility, contrary to ideologies assigning value to languages as potential tools of wider communication. To conclude, we provide policy recommendations grounded in this study, but applicable to minoritised oral varieties in other contexts.

    Read more about Divided we stand, unified we fall? The impact of standardisation onoral language varieties: a case study of Amazonian Kichwa
  • Managing Common Ground with epistemic marking

    2020. Karolina Grzech. Journal of Pragmatics 168, 81-97


    This article proposes that ‘evidential’ markers in Upper Napo Kichwa (Quechuan, Ecuador) are not in fact evidential, but mark epistemic distinctions related to ownership and distribution of knowledge in discourse. To demonstrate this, I analyse two Upper Napo Kichwa epistemic enclitics, =mi and =. I account for their distribution in the corpus, analysing the occurrences of the markers in situated language use. To provide a functional explanation for how the markers are used, I discuss the notion of ‘epistemic Common Ground management’. I postulate that it is relevant to how epistemic discourse strategies and marking systems are used in a variety of languages. Subsequently, I illustrate this claim with a case study, showing how ‘epistemic Common Ground management’ allows to account for the distribution of the Upper Napo Kichwa epistemic markers. Finally, I propose that looking at the formally divergent strategies from a common functional perspective enhances our understanding of how epistemic marking is used cross-linguistically.

    Read more about Managing Common Ground with epistemic marking

Show all publications by Karolina Grzech at Stockholm University