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I never did figure out what the right answer was in traditional grammar, but I ended up reading in a linguistics paper somewhere that this is a complementizer. In other words, it turns a clause into a complement of the following verb. In your example, it turns どこにある into an interrogative complement of the verb 知っています:  1. デパートはどこにあるか?  As ...


Yes, you're interpreting the sentence correctly. My understanding is that this is possible because there is the "question word" of どこ in there, which makes the か(知らない) reading possible.

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