An Amazing Fact from the Economist

The subject is the Tuyuca language of the eastern Amazon:

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.

The whole of the article, on difficult languages, is fascinating.

There’s also a fascinating book on words in other languages for which there is direct equivalent in English (sorry, I don’t have the details to hand), e.g. the Italians have a word for the one day of sick leave taken between a weekend and a public holiday. The Japanese have a word for a woman who looks beautiful from the back but not from the front. The Germans have a word for a so called improvement that in fact makes things worse, and so on…