The acquisition of the morphological marker of evidentiality in Estonian: the results of a comprehension experiment Cover Image

Eesti kaudse evidentsiaalsuse morfoloogilise markeri omandamisest: mõistmiskatse tulemused
The acquisition of the morphological marker of evidentiality in Estonian: the results of a comprehension experiment

Author(s): Reili Argus, Kadri Suurmäe, Andra Kütt, Anne Tamm
Subject(s): Language and Literature Studies, Language acquisition
Published by: Tallinna Ülikooli Kirjastus
Keywords: first language acquisition; Estonian; experimental methods

Summary/Abstract: The aim of the article is to establish when Estonian children begin to understand the Estonian morphological evidential (e.g., ole-vat “supposedly, itis”) as an indirect evidential. Estonian is one of the few languages in Europe with a grammatical evidential. However, the Estonian evidential is anatypical evidential. It has developed from a partitive case form of a nonfinite verb (the partitive evidential) and, therefore, gives rise to epistemic modal readings as well. Another relevant factor that was taken into account in this study was the interdependence of linguistic and social cognitive development in the acquisition of evidentials. Of the age groups that were studied—four-, six-, and nine-year-olds—only nine-year-olds had already reached the social cognitive development level necessary for understanding indirectness: the realization that a statement is mediated. Therefore, the acquisition of the Estonian morphological evidential marker is a valuable source of evidence in many respects. The experiments conducted with 91children separated purely indirectness-related semantics from epistemic modal semantics. At the age of four, only half of the children interpreted the evidential as an indication of indirectness. This age group may have understood the evidential form as an epistemic modal or not understood it at all. At the age of six, sixty-six percent of the children understood the form as a vehicle of expressing indirect evidence. Nine-year-olds were already confident in interpreting the partitive evidential as an indirect evidential,since 95% of them attributed the information that they were presented with as indirect and not deriving from the speaker herself as the original source of the conveyed information.

  • Issue Year: 2014
  • Issue No: 16
  • Page Range: 83-102
  • Page Count: 20
  • Language: Estonian
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