Friday, February 06, 2004

Language amazes me:

In English I can tell my son: "Today I talked to Adrian," and he won't ask: "How do you know you talked to Adrian?" But in some languages, including Tariana, you always have to put a little suffix onto your verb saying how you know something - we call it "evidentiality." I would have to say: "I talked to Adrian, non-visual," if we had talked on the phone. And if my son told someone else, he would say: "She talked to Adrian, non-visual, reported." In that language, if you don't say how you know things, they think you are a liar.

From an interview with linguistic researcher Alexandra Aikhenvald conducted by Adrian Barnett in the January 31 issue of New Scientist.

So, if the lingua franca of the world were Tariana, what exactly would this mean for George W. Bush and Tony Blair if they had given speeches about attacking Iraq because they had heard that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction? I wonder if there are enough suffixes in Tariana to convey believability in this particular case.

The Swedish verb for the day is att överskatta. It means to overestimate.

- by Francis S.

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