Coding of evidentials (Surgut Khanty)

NoEvid: The language does not have a grammaticalized form to express evidentiality.

(1) jaqə ʌaŋ, tēmi əj pӯrəs īmi tot ɔ̄məs-ʌ.

inside step.pst.3sg see! an old woman there sit-prs.3sg

‘He/she entered and there was an old woman sitting.’ (Csepregi 1998: 74.)

(2) ťū īmi qūntintə kīʌ-m-aʌ tɔ̄ɣi.

det little_old_woman long_ago rise-pst.ptc-3sg place

‘It seems that the little old woman got up a long time ago.’ (Csepregi 1998: 74.)

(3) qow ārəɣ qow mɔ̄ńť əntə tūw-m-a tɔ̄ɣi.

long song long fairy_tale neg bring-pst.ptc-3sg place

‘It seems that you haven’t brought a long song, a long fairy tale.’ (Csepregi 1998: 76.)

(4) mīn ürəkkaɣi-mən mətaʌi waʌ-t-aʌ tɔ̄ɣi.

we_two outside-1du someone be-prs.ptc-3sg place

‘It seems that there is someone else here, too.’ (Csepregi 2011: 25.)

Although evidentiality (how the speaker obtained the information she bases her statement on) is not expressed by grammatical means in Surgut Khanty, there is a way to differentiate between direct and indirect evidence. This distinction is frequent in narrative genres such as in fairy tales. If the protagonist was an eyewitness of the event, the sentence is initiated by the word tēmi ’behold!, see!’ (1).

If the speaker was not an eyewitness of the event, and something can only be inferred from the signs (inferential evidence), the participle construction with the postposition tɔ̄ɣi ’place’ is used, which also has a personal affix. The past participle refers to past tense actions (2), (3), while the present participle denotes continuous events (4). The uniqueness of the construction is that it is put at the end of the sentence, which is typically the position of the predicate, thus the postposition tɔ̄ɣi ’place’ may be regarded as an element which provides verbal features to the construction.

Surgut Khanty is the only Khanty dialect where this construction exists. In the northern dialects (e.g. Synja Khanty) and in Northern Mansi, evidentiality is incorporated in the meaning of personal suffixes.


Márta Csepregi