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!


            3 thoughts on “Positional Deixis in Rawàng Ata

            1. Marconatrix says:


            2. vacuouswastrel says:

              Are you referring to the general appearance, or to the nature of the deixis?

              If the former, you’re close, but too precise. The language is, in many ways both grammatical and phonological, inspired by Austronesian languages.
              If the latter – no, but it would be good if you thought so. There are obvious austronesian touches (landward/seaward), but nothing intentionally from Malagasy – all I know about the Malagasy deictic system is that it’s very large, it’s thought by some to represent five, seven or nine degrees of distance (but others deny this) and it distinguishes by the direction of motion of the object concerned – including oscillation and rotation! I intend to have this in a conlang someday, but not today.

              However, as I say there are austronesian inspirations, so perhaps there are also Malagasy features.

            3. KirillOFF says:

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              Сео треш то что тебе нужно.

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