Positional Deixis in Rawàng Ata

Breaking from the religion-making for a moment, I’m concurrently going to post some musings on deictic systems in a constructed language of mine, Rawàng Ata. There will be a number of posts, but I’ll start off with positional deixis.

Some of this post may be incomprehensible if you don’t have enough linguistics terminology, but there shouldn’t be that much. The only really key one, I think, is ‘deixis’ itself. I’ve also chosen to write this in the manner of someone who expects a level of knowledge about the language from his reader, and thus I use terms that are not explained for parts of the language seen only in passing here. I don’t think this is likely to seriously impair understanding, and will serve to pique interest for when I get around to explaining these things in their own right.

Though do comment if there’s anything you find particularly curious, puzzling, interesting or the like.


1. Positional particles.

    Positional deixis is a form of deixis found in nominal and verbal modifiers, serving to specify items or actions more fully with respect to a frame of reference, or anchor. It is marked through a class of words called ‘positionals’. The positionals are a closed class, and are as follows:


    Is used to indicate proximity to the anchor (normally the speaker). Is automatically used with anything in contact with the anchor. Usually used only with those things that are to hand or that could be reached quickly. Can also indicate something closer to the anchor than to the secondary anchor.


    Is used to indicate a greater distance from the anchor – usually either not within easy reach or that are simply further than some other salient item. Can also indicate something closer to the secondary anchor than to the anchor.


    Is used to indicate something, at any distance, within the line of sight of the anchor.


    Is used to indicate something behind the anchor.


    Is used to indicate something that the anchor must tilt their line of sight to see.


    Is used to indicate something that has fallen down from the anchor.


    Is used to indicate something downstream from the anchor.


    Is used to indicate something upstream from the anchor. The concept of ‘upstream’ and ‘downstream’ is extensive: while the direction of nearby rivers takes priority, ‘upstream’ can also indicate ‘uphill’ or ‘further from the sea’ in general. At sea, in sight of land, it generally indicates toward the land, but further from land it refers to motion against the prevailing currents.

    2. Anchors

      In each use of a positional, an anchor is implied – this anchor fixes the frame of reference. Normally, this anchor is the speaker; the two exceptions are when version deixis interacts with the semantics of the positionals (see below) and when a special particle, the ‘frame shift’ particle, is employed.

      The frame shift particle is employed whenever the anchor changes from the speaker to another person or object. The new anchor is then deduced through a hierarchy:

      If directive syntax is being employed, the new anchor is the interlocutor;

      If a person is currently being referred to by means of a deictic pronoun, that person is the anchor (interlocutors take preference over other participants)

      If a local noun has recently appeared, it is the anchor

      If the speech or action of an individual is being reported, they are the anchor

      The topic is the anchor

      Where the positional modifies the topic and the above do not apply, the anchor is the interlocutor

      This hierarchy is not absolute, and where context is clear violations will occur, but this is the typical order of assumptions. No frame shift is required to return the speaker to the state of anchor – where context is clear, the passage of time suffices, and where disambiguation is required the use of a deictic pronoun with first-person semantics will make the return clear (or, for certainty, an actual first-person directive pronoun).

      One complication to the above is that positionals modifying imperative verbs assume that the interlocutor is the anchor, and then shift to the speaker in the presence of the frame shift particle, unless there is some other deictic pronoun, topic or local noun in the command.

      The frame shift particle is , and precedes the positional.

      3. Adjectival uses

        A positional can modify a noun simply by being placed before it. It also precedes any indicator particles or domain phrases.

        Examples (positionals and frame shifts in bold, nouns underlined):

        Ao kubirko

        “The bridge downstream”

        Byala, kò timengi yuinù

        “The stone that has fallen down the mountain”

        Datta ranyeka, mihàyara lelu kòma

        “The sailor says that the girl behind me is ill”

        Datta ranyeka, mihàyara kò lelu kòma

        “The sailor says that the girl behind him is ill”

        (This interpretation could be altered by the presence of deictic pronouns, directive syntax or local nouns in the immediate context)

        À bahaò: datta ranyeka, mihàyara kò lelu kòma

        “Sir, the sailor says that the girl behind you is ill”

        Kò ai in ua yuinù

        Not enough of those stones you have there.

        4. Adverbial uses

          Positionals can also be used to modify verbs, either directly or as verbal articles – in either case, they precede the verb, and raw positionals precede any verbal article. In the former use, they interact with the verbal ition deixis – positive ition gives the positional an allative meaning, while negative ition gives it a locative or ablative meaning:

          Hula bahànta

          “I threw it some distance away from me”

          Hula bahàntu

          “I threw it from some distance away” or “I was throwing it, and I was then some distance from where I am now”

          Note that although the ition suffixes are derived from, and similar in meaning to, the upstream/downstream positionals, they can be used together in a way that would appear to conflict:

          Ao rasittu

          “He came by river from downstream”

          Some contrasting examples including frame-shift:

          Kòma lùang tsūyara

          “It was the girl he saw when he looked from here”

          Kòma lùang tsūyaru

          “It was the girl he saw when he looked back over here from over there ahead of me”

          Kòma kò lùang tsūyara

          “It was the girl he saw when he looked ahead”

          Kòma kò lùang tsūyaba

          “It was the girl I saw when I looked over there in your line of sight”

          [The introduction of directive syntax promotes the interlocutor in the anchor hierarchy]

          And with an imperative:

          Uyā lelu dai hàntang kòmasa

          “Throw it behind you, to the girl!”

          Uyau kò lelu dai hàntang kòmasa

          “Throw it from behind me, to the girl!”

          Uyau kò lelu dai hàntang īkaròisa

          “Throw it to the girl from behind her!”

          (The use of a deictic pronoun for young women, rather than a noun, promotes its referent to the position of anchor when the frame shift particle is present)

          Uyau kò lelu dai hàntang tamussìsa

          “Throw it toward the mountain from behind me!”

          Uyau kò lelu dai hàntang byalasa

          “Throw it toward the mountain from behind its face!”

          (The use of the local noun, rather than the common noun, promotes its referent).

          The positionals can also be turned into verbal articles by means of the suffix nà. Their meaning in this case is usually locative, and the articles are definite:

          Ainà bahànta

          “That time I threw something around here”

          6. Exclamatory uses

            By themselves, positionals and positional articles can be used as exclamations, of three main sorts. The bare forms can occur spontaneously, and serve to call attention to something:


            “Over there!”


            “Look at what has fallen!”

            Positional articles are often exclaimed in an imperative or suggestive way, and have imperative-style anchoring:


            “Do it there!”

            Kò ainà!

            “Do it here!”

            Secondly, a suffix, -yem, may be added to cause reference to the totality of things within the ambit of the deixis:


            “Oh, all the things in front of me!”


            “Oh, all the things that have been done here!”

            Finally, the suffix –ta prepares a positional or positional article to answer a question:


            “Here!” (in response to a question, such as “where shall I put this?”)


            “The time downriver from here!” (in response to a question such as “which time when you were swimming?”)

            Next time: proferative and contrastive deixis!


            OBSOLETE: The Fifth Kingdom – OBSOLETE


            The Five Kingdoms

            The Five Kingdoms of Vajhoran belief are four competing religious aims that a spirit may have. Some Kingdoms are incompatible with others; some are not. In reputed chronological age, the Five Kingdoms are believed to be the Kingdom of Sorcerers, the Kingdom of Eternal Life, the Kingdom of Saints, the Kingdom of Monks, and the Kingdom of Emperors. The first aims simply at magical power over the world; the second aims to ensure speedy resurrection. The third aims to combine the personal will with the transcendent general Will; the fourth dissolves the self in nothingness. The fifth aims at crafting a good life.

            Overall, the Fifth Kingdom is the most important by far. The First Kingdom is not approved of – at best, sorcerers are capricious and fearful, and most are positively malign. The Second has no guaranteed success, and is useless without each incarnation having a good life. Likewise, a saint is better off than many, but could still have a better life; besides, the Kingdom of Sainthood is often arbitrary and never simple to attain. The Fourth Kingdom is unappealing to many, and in any case only accessible to a tiny few. The Fifth, therefore, is the Kingdom of the people.

            The Fifth Kingdom: Four Cities, Eight Roads

            The will is a will for itself; it presupposes its own reality. Yet in reality the will is nothing but emptiness. The will is thus ever in error, which opens the doorway to suffering. The spirit is an emanation of will, and thus contains error, and thus leads to suffering. But how exactly does suffering arise? The prototypical cases must be pain, poverty, inconstancy and guilt. Leaving aside pain, the remaining three species of suffering all have in common the thread of ‘hostility’. A spirit, emanating from will, desires things for itself; in this way, it is likely to come into conflict with other spirits. In poverty, the spirit is deprived of its desires by another spirit. In guilt, the spirit deprives another spirit. This creates suffering because the spirit is an emanation of will, and will itself has desires, which are the collective desires of all the spirits. When one spirit’s desires are not met, therefore, the will itself suffers, and therefore so do all spirits emanating from it. In inconstancy, the spirit deprives itself. In all three cases, therefore, there are two types of suffering – the general suffering of deprivation of the will, and the specific suffering of contradiction, in which the desires of the will are confused and contrary, which undermines the very notion of a unified spirit.

            Finally, pain (or that part of it not attributable to foolishness) is explained by the realisation that the will must be exemplified to be a will, and that the material world is therefore an exemplification of the will. Without the will, the material world would be without motion. Pain that the world inflicts on the individual is thus a manifestation of the suffering and internal conflict in the will itself, which arises from dissent among spirits.

            The ethical requirements, therefore, for the individual spirit are simple. Firstly, do not be inconstant. Secondly, do not create poverty. Thirdly, act in accordance with virtue, as this will place the will and the spirit in accord and eliminate the specific suffering of guilt, even if conflict within the will will create a general suffering. Fourthly, come to union with others as relates to desires. These are termed the “four cities of the kingdom”. The next task is to discover roads to these cities.

            OBSOLETE: Vajhoran Cosmology – OBSOLETE



            Vajhoran cosmology holds that the world consists of four parallel planes of massive (and possibly infinite) extent. At the top of the universe is the plane of light, which is a solid and unvarying substance. Some distance below is the plane of the stars, which is also solid and opaque, but pierced through with numerous holes through which the light shines. Below, clouds hang in the air, having drifted down through the stars. Next is the earth; water sits on the lower-lying parts of this varied plane. The earth has a number of holes in it, through which the sun and moons pass. Below is a darker, starless emptiness filled with water; at the very bottom is another plane of rock, this time with no holes.

            Studies have demonstrated that the part of the earth in which Vajhoros is located is at the summit of a large pseudo-spherical mound. Some have suggested that the entire world is a globe, which would not be a radical reformation of the traditional belief, but the idea is in any case not yet widely accepted.

            In keeping with this cosmology, popular belief holds that there are four sentient species. In the centre of the world are the humans. Beyond lie twilight star-lit lands where the is no sun or moon, or only a faint light of one in the distance; here there live colossal, slow-moving reptiles – dragons. Above, on the top side of the night sky, live star-children, constantly bathing in perpetual light; the light makes them able to float through the sky, and in the lower realms they can glow with blinding brilliance and cause fires with their touch; but they have no reason to intentionally descend. One comes to earth by accident every generation or so, as a meteor dropping from the plane of light breaks through their realm before it plunges to earth. If the star-child does not rapidly find a way to return, it may become bitter and hateful, a demonic figure. Finally, on the bottom of the abyssal sea below the earth dwell the fomorians, blind water-breathers. When young, they may swim up to the pools and oceans of the earth, and lure down humans from jealousy – they can cast illusions and appear as beautiful temptresses or dead loved ones. They are attracted to light, but are destroyed by sunlight, and even weakened by strong firelight – if undisturbed, they may gather around a house, gazing at the fire, until they become so weak they cannot move. Those who do not die on earth eventually eat enough (mostly of one another) that they become too huge and heavy to swim up to the earth, and the oldest and largest are confined to the very bottom of the abyss.

            Each species has two parts – body and spirit. They are not interchangeable – only a human spirit can appear in a human body (though the odd children’s tale claims an exception here or there). The two are entirely theoretically independent – although the body and spirit may influence one another, either may exist without the other, and they are not inseparably tied to one another. Spirits are beings of will, and lust for power, which the body gives them; a spirit clings desperately to its body, and rarely gives it up, although it is not unknown – possessions, for instance, or dementia. Eventually the body breaks down and stops working, but the spirit remains just as it was before. Disembodied spirits retain a form of primitive consciousness, and a geographical location, although they can move as fast as the wind. Nonetheless, they have little reason to. Being disembodied is a form of torture for the spirit – being purely of will, they are mostly wholly impotent.