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The Yearbook of the Estonian Mother Tongue Society cover
The Yearbook of the Estonian Mother Tongue Society
PDF | doi:10.3176/esa59.13

Anne Tamm, Reili Argus, Kadri Suurmäe

Evidential sentences guiding Estonian preschoolers’ exploration of novel objects and their properties
The article focuses on the effect of the Estonian evidential on preschoolers’ exploratory play, contrasting it with the effect of normal indicative sentences. The methods involved a behavioral experiment, where 4 and 6-year-old children were presented with one single instance of a new object (“a blicket”). A property was demonstrated (“being a magnet”) with other objects. The experimenter then ascribed the magnetic property to the demonstrated novel object in two different ways. In Condition 1, the magnetic property was ascribed to the object by means of a neutral, indicative statement. Condition 2 used an evidential sentence. Inert, non-magnetic blickets and paperclips were placed in front of the children, who were then asked if they wanted to play with blickets. The duration of their play, the number of attempts to test the properties of the object, and the number of blickets were measured on the basis of the videotaped material. We found that the evidential sentences increased the number of attempts to explore the properties among 4-year-olds, but not among 6-year-olds. The increased play that occurred with evidentials may tentatively be attributed to the novelty of the grammar for the children and their expectations of its effect.


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