Last night, as I was doing some light fun reading (An Introduction to Historical of Linguistics), I stumbled upon a characteristic of some languages, called Evidential Markers, which identify how a speaker arrives at the information contained in a given statement. For example, if I stated “She ate three chocolates”, an evidential affix would be needed to specify whether I know this because I, myself, saw her eat these yummy chocolates (a ‘visual’ evidential), if I heard it from another source (‘secondhand’), or if I assumed it- as there are no more chocolates, and she’s a glutton (‘assumed’).
So here’s what I’m thinking: Mongolians could really use this morphological feature. Why, you ask? I will tell you. Mongolians are champion gossipers. Theoretically I already knew this, but now I’ve seen it in action. At 10:15 this morning I was innocently slurping up some milk tea (Mongolian’s favorite beverage) in the teachers’ lounge. One minute, a teacher was addressing the room. The next, four teachers started aggressively responding. In Mongolia, crying is taboo. A highly embarrassing act that is at all costs avoided in the presence of another. So when two teachers started bawling, I taken by surprise- what in the world was going on? Remember folks: I don’t speak Mongolian. I am way out of the loop. Asking my fellow English teacher offered no help, as her response was “mmmm bad”. Later, while team teaching, I asked a different counterpart what had transpired. So here’s the dish: the biology teacher had spread some unfavorable gossip about the history teacher- leading the history teacher to storm out of school, and all hell to break loose next to the bucket of milk tea.
If it is a normal occurrence for two teachers to burst into tears due to the gossip mill, maybe these Evidential Markers would limit the gossip? Who knows.
*Correction: it appears Mongolian does have two evidential markers for the past tense, but they aren’t obligatory, and only one is used in colloquial speech.