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Re: Delexicalization of left & right

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  • John Vertical
    ... I was thinking deriving this meaning from the hand names, i.e. The one on the left hand side . ... Yes, naturally there will be absolute directions too.
    Message 1 of 9 , Aug 1, 2006
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      Ash Wells wrote:
      >
      >Interesting concept!
      > What about 'thing/one' - when you're describing a non-specific item, or
      >differentiating 2 objects out of
      >a pair.
      > e.g.
      > 'Which one would you like?' 'The one on the left'.

      I was thinking deriving this meaning from the hand names, i.e. "The one on
      the left hand side".


      Roger Mills wrote:
      >
      >Armt Richard Johansen wrote:
      > > First, a question: how about cardinal directions? (North, south, east,
      > > west.) Surely, these concepts must be important to hunter-gatherer
      > > societies.
      >
      >Some languages use derivs. of "toward the mountains/toward the sea",
      >up/down etc. but of course that depends on the local geography and one's
      >orientation in it...

      Yes, naturally there will be absolute directions too. Since the climatic
      setting in question is subtropical / tropical, terms referring to local
      geography might be more important than the cardinal directions. (Those
      aren't anyway always as stable as you IE people might think; none of the 8
      cardinal direction terms in Finnish date older than Proto-Fennic - ie. 2-3K
      years of age.)


      > > could of course go with left/right version of every body part that comes
      > > in pairs, but it gets kinda implausible for the language to have that
      >kind
      > > of fine-grainedness, yet still have no words for left and right.
      >
      >I think so too.

      Which is exactly why I settled for so few root-pairs. The four eye / hand
      names will definitely be fully independant words; either or both of the foot
      names I suppose could be nigh-ancient derivations from the hand names...
      which will probably in turn come from "strong" and "weak" or sumthing
      similar.


      > > Other suggestions:
      > >
      > > - port/starboard
      > > - clockwise/counterclockwise
      > > - right-handed/left-handed helicity
      >
      >IIRC from what John V. said about his people, they may not have that level
      >of technological thought....?

      Helicity is definitly too advanced a concept. Clockwise/counterclockwise
      will be trivial to derive from the verbs "to turn left / counterclockwise" &
      "to turn right / clockwise"; and the riverbank names & the absolute
      directions upstream/downstream will probably be used instead of
      port/starboard, as the culture won't be seafaring (much, at least)


      > > Also, the lexical items for Right Eye and Left Eye might over time
      >undergo
      > > semantic drift, so that they end up actually meaning right and left.
      >This
      > > would especially be the case if they can be combined with the words for
      > > specific body parts that come in left-right pairs.

      Wouldn't the fact that there's two or three such combining root-pairs hinder
      development of full abstraction? At least as long as the culture stays on
      the same development level (small indigenous SE-Asian or sub-Saharan African
      people could be a good comparision)

      Also, as far as semantic drift goes, I'm thinking of taking the eye names
      originally from mythology... maybe relating to stellar bodies. Ooh, and new
      idea - ritual eyepatches during eclipses! /,-)


      >Whether the cultural concept _right: good vs. left: bad, taboo_ is really
      >ancient is an interesting question.

      Well, with handedness, right=strong, left=weak is rather trivial; the more
      symbolic meaning is not exactly lightyears apart, altho I wouldn't expect
      every culture to have developed / adopted it.

      John Vertical
    • Eugene Oh
      ... In many of the southern Chinese languages, right is still expressed with 正 (right, erect, proper) and left with 倒 (overturned, fallen,
      Message 2 of 9 , Aug 5, 2006
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        2006/8/1, John Vertical <johnvertical@...>:
        >
        > >Whether the cultural concept _right: good vs. left: bad, taboo_ is really
        > >ancient is an interesting question.
        >
        > Well, with handedness, right=strong, left=weak is rather trivial; the more
        > symbolic meaning is not exactly lightyears apart, altho I wouldn't expect
        > every culture to have developed / adopted it.
        >

        In many of the southern Chinese languages, "right" is still expressed
        with (right, erect, proper) and "left" with (overturned, fallen,
        opposite).
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