Respectable uncertainty and pathetic truth in amazonian quichua- speaking culture

Janis Nuckolls, Tod Swanson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

3 Scopus citations


It is argued in this chapter, on the basis of evidence from grammar, discourse, and verbal art, that for Amazonian Quichua speakers, there is a cultural preference for expressing uncertainty, which is linked with animistic perspectivism. Animistic perspectivism endows nonhumans with subjectivity and implies that there is an infinite multiplicity of perspectives, thereby making a single, totalizing truth impossible. Respectable uncertainty is also apparent in the system of evidentiality, in speech reports, echo questions, and verbal art, all of which emphasize perspective over certainty. A type of certainty that Runa do value, however, and which would not be valid within a rational framework of inquiry, is that of emotional truth, involving feelings of empathy for others, including nonhumans. Emotional truth, then, provides an exception to the preference for uncertainty, and may lead people to confidently reason about ethical matters.?.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationMetacognitive Diversity
Subtitle of host publicationAn Interdisciplinary Approach
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9780198789710
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018


  • Amazonian quichua
  • Animistic perspectivism
  • Discourse
  • Empathy
  • Evidentiality
  • Uncertainty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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