Manusya, Journal of Humanities

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This article reports a result of an experiment in investigating Tibetan children's comprehension and metapragmatic knowledge of evidentials. The experiment was conducted in a Tibetan school in Nepal with three groups of children: 9-year-olds, 11-year-olds, and 14-year-olds. Four questions were asked based on a story. These questions solicit answers that reflect children's understanding and awareness of evidential contrasts, namely direct versus indirect experience. Most children seem to understand that when one has eyewitness knowledge of an event, s/he needs to use the direct evidential. In contrast, if one does not see what happens, s/he needs to resort to the indirect evidential or modal. There is a relationship between age and metapragmatic knowledge of evidentials. A low level of metapragmatic ability occurs mainly in the youngest group (the 9-year-olds). The oldest group (14-year-olds) produce responses that reflect a higher degree of evidential awareness, such as the use of reasoning as a basis of justification. Most children who participated in the experiment produce evidentials appropriately, but they seem to have little understanding of what exactly these forms convey. The work fits into a growing body of research on children's production and/or comprehension of evidentials and modals. It points to a direction that production and comprehension need not correlate.

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