Theiling Online    Sitemap    Conlang Mailing List HQ   

Directions, Location, and Posession in Trade Speech

From:Elyse Grasso <emgrasso@...>
Date:Sunday, February 23, 2003, 3:56
This is a bit long, but these categories all inter-react. This info
isn't on the website yet. I'll need to reorganize it for that.


If hominids are erect bipeds that evolved on the plains of Africa,
Shayanans are quadrumanes that evolved in bayous or mangrove swamps: a
place where the main features of the landscape were trees and
waterways, not land. In their gross anatomical structures Shayanans
resemble shiny, hairless, venomous, marsupial spider-monkeys.
(I suspect they evolved from what their world did instead of having
frogs.) They have a head with a stinger in the mouth, a prehensile
tail, 4 limbs each equipped with 4 opposable digits, and an abdominal
pouch which is used as a handy pocket when it doesn't have a baby in
it. Their shoulders and hips are more flexible and less stable than
humans', so they can reach behind them more easily without dislocating
anything. Some subspecies are more aquatic than others, and tend to be
less spindly.

Personal directions

Humans tend to recognize 6 directions relative to their own centers: up,
down, front, back, left, and right. Shayanans who speak Trade Speech
recognize 8 directions relative to themselves:
a direction that can be reached most easily with the head and stinger,
a direction that can be reached most easily with the tail,
4 directions that can be reached most easily with the left anterior arm,
etc., and
a direction that corresponds to the itchy place between your shoulder
blades and one that is its opposite.
The dorsal direction is thought of as the vulnerable one: there are six
appendages available to defend the abdomen and pouch.

When these direction terms are used they are almost always marked to
idicate the individual whose point of view is being described: if 'I'
am standing bipedally, 'you' are in a quadrupedal stance and 'he' is
hanging by the tail from a tree branch or diving into the water,
the directions will mean very different things to the 3 of us. When the
markings are omitted, is assumed that the reference frame is obvious
from context.

Environmental directions

Trade Speech does not have words that correspond exactly to 'up' and
'down' as they are used in human languages. There is a word that means,
approximately, 'away from the surface', which is the equivalent of 'up'
in the trees and 'down' in the water.  There is a corresponding
word that means 'toward the surface'.  Mines work like water, more or
less: you go 'away from the surface' at the entrance even if the mine
tunnels slope uphill. This also applies to traps and mazes.

There is a word that means the top of the trees or the bottom of the
water. Saying "he's reached the <top>" is the equivalent of saying in
English "he has nowhere to turn".

A 'south beach' or 'south coast' has water on the north side of it.
Beaches and coasts are <at the top> for boats, but not for people

The words for east and west are related to the roots for climbing and


Locations tend to be described in terms of landmarks and the routes and
distances between them. They recognize areas of influence (which can
interlace) rather than geographic borders.

On the other hand, the idea of enclosure is very important. Shayana has
very large, very dangerous animals, and Shayanan settlements are built
inside defensive perimeters (or spheres, actually). The center of the
settlement is the safest place for the children (who usually don't have
potent venom), so you can tell who the most influential person in a
settlement is by looking for the person who controls the center. (The
Hasri is 'Your Innerness', not 'Your Highness').

A settlement can be viewed as a geographic location (a place to be 'at')
or as a structure (a place to be 'in'). This also applies to smaller,
enclosed structures like family compounds, houses or buildings, rooms,

There are variations of demonstratives related to concentric levels of
They include:
here (near, within this level of enclosure)
in here (emphasizing the enclosure)
there (away, but within this same level of enclosure)
in there (in a place that's more enclosed than the current point of
out there (outside the enclosure containing the current point of
yonder (away, outside any enclosure)
inside yonder (in an enclosure at the other end of a route from here)

These locational variatons interact with the pronouns in complex ways.
There is a religion with somewhat Olympian deities that are often
colloquially referred to as Them Most-Inside-Yonder. At the other
extreme, a different religion uses We-InHere-Dual-Inclusive when it
addresses parayers to a deity (this is an intimate mode that
would also be used in either direction between parent and child).

Noun-classes and pronouns

All of these can be inflected by the location indicators and by modals
for query, negation, some, every, definiteness, etc. In ordinary nouns,
plurals are marked on the specifier particle. Only pronouns have
internal plural inflections.

sentient/cognitive-singular (who)
animate singular (what)
animate plural
inanimate (what)
inanimate plural

These can only be inflected by the modals.
location (where)
time (when)
method/manner/action (how)

'Why' is a special case.

Geographic locations are only locations. Structures are inanimate.

Trees can be locations, inanimate, or animate depending on the context
(and to some extent the type of tree). They are least likely to be
treated as inanimate when they are alive.

The sentient/cognitive category includes people and ideas and literary


Intrinsic possession  ("Joe's hand") is often indicated by simple
"hand Joe" or "Joe hand", depending on whether the focus is on Joe or
the hand (modifiers follow the thing modified, specifiers precede it).
If the possessor is a complex phrase or clause, it may take an
adjectival case marker.

Possessors can can also take either a genitive or an associative case
When discussing Joe's fish (in his aquarium) Joe takes an associative
When discussing Joe's fish (on his plate, that he will be eating
momentarily) Joe takes the adjectival marker.
When discussing Joe's fish (in his warehouse, to be sold) or Joe's
fishing tackle that he bought or manufactured, Joe takes the genitive.

Relatives and ideas are associational. When talking about one's own
relative it is actually more common to use juxtaposition with 'we'
("sibling we", or "sibling of us"), and the "we" can be marked as dual,
inclusive or exclusive depending on the situation and the point
being made. "My idea" is idiomatically "idea we-dual-exclusive", (= my
idea and me) and "your idea" is, more regularly, "the idea associated
with you". The term "intellectual property" is hard to translate
into Trade Speech, where artifacts are created, but ideas, songs and
stories, like children, are procreated.

Structures can be possessed, but geographic locations and routes are
associational, not owned. This was a problem when the Imperials
arrived, since they are strongly territorial.
Elyse Grasso

Cherani Trade Speech