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Linguistic encoding of direction (Re: The Conlang Instinct)

From:Thomas R. Wier <artabanos@...>
Date:Saturday, December 11, 1999, 22:05
Nik Taylor wrote:

> Sally Caves wrote: > > Exactly the same for me. No dyslexia at all. But east and west are > > fiendish for me. > > I'll occasionally confuse the two myself. When I worked out the map of > the Human Continent of Terra Nova, I noticed that I put East Landing on > the west coast, and West Landing on the east coast! :-/
This raises an interesting question: how are directions encoded linguistically in our conlangs? In one of my classes this semester, we discussed how certain native cultures of the Americas have highly baroque systems for indicating concepts like this, but it was usually dependent o= n the type of terrain that was normal for the environment in which they lived. So, for example, cultures like the Sioux that lived on the Great Plains in States like Kansas, Nebraska, etc. would grammaticalize terms for the cardinal directions, presumably because of a dearth of prominent landmarks on the plains, while tribes in California or Alaska, generally mountainous and forested places, would build their directional systems based on relative directions like "up river", "down river" etc. So, how do other people here on the list manage this? Phaleran as yet doesn't have a really developed system of demonstratives, but what I do have was rather influenced by Aleut in terms of deixis: this here - that there - that there - that way away, by you by him/her/it still = in sight *pho- *dyan- *t'a- *k'ell= - person (*-ei) phoi dyanei t'ai k'ell= ei place (*-ewo) phoiwo dyanewo t'aiwo k'ellewo, k'ewo time (*-ar) phor, ph=E2r dyanar t'=E2r k'el= lar, k'=E2r manner (*-tro) photro dyanno t'atro -- quality(*-ecca) phocca dy=E2cca t'=E2cca -- that way away, out of sight *spu- spwei spuwo, spwo spw=E2r -- -- I'm thinking of adding an intermediate level of deixis between "that way away but still in sight" and "that there by him/her/it", just not by anyone or thing in particular. But I've also opted out of specifying things like "that long oblong-shape= d thing over there, up-river", as Aleut does, partly because that's just tedious, mostly because I haven't exactly figured out what kind of terrain gave birth to the people speaking Phaleran. I'm thinking Northern-European-Plain-like right now. (Note: demonstratives in Phaleran operate under an ergative system; those forms listed above are only the absolutive forms) =3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D= =3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D Tom Wier <artabanos@...> ICQ#: 4315704 AIM: Deuterotom Website: <> "Cogito ergo sum, sed credo ergo ero." =3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D= =3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D