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26 December 2009

Strange languages

http://www.economist.com/world/international/displaystory.cfm?story_id=15108609
OK, it's not rigorously academic, but it's interesting. Does the existence of evidential language in Tuyuca mean that its speakers think differently? And how would you translate it?
Most fascinating is a feature that would make any journalist tremble. Tuyuca requires verb-endings on statements to show how the speaker knows something. Diga ape-wi means that “the boy played soccer (I know because I saw him)”, while diga ape-hiyi means “the boy played soccer (I assume)”. English can provide such information, but for Tuyuca that is an obligatory ending on the verb. Evidential languages force speakers to think hard about how they learned what they say they know.

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