Rawang Ata: Ostension Deixis

Ostension deixis is a limited form of deixis used almost only with physical ostension – that is, a physical action designed to call attention to an object. There are five ostensives:

to            – “this in my hand”

–            “that, that I’m pointing at”

ū            – “this that I’m throwing to you”

kilu            – “this that I’m standing on or kicking”

ko            – “this that I’m tapping”

Ko is now rare, archaic or patronising, with its meaning largely transferred to kilu. To can also be used with items that are part of the body of the speaker if the speaker is pointing to them.

The ostensives are used almost exclusively in this precise physical situations. Occassionally, however, they may be used metaphorically, when something has been pointed out with such overwhelming directness and obviousness that it is considered analogous to a physical gesture. In these cases, the ostensive is often accompanied by a form of its appropriate gesture even if there is no object present to be gestured to. In these metaphorical cases, the ostensives are all more or less interchangeable in meaning.

Ostensives are adjectival particles, preceding the noun like positionals (although they typically move to follow the noun if there are other particles preceding the noun). Unlike positionals, oblates and relationals, ostensives inflect for number – singular, dual, plural and perplural. The inflection is irregular, though singular is always unmarked. In the order [singular-dual-plural-perplural] the inflection is as follows:

to            –            toko            –            tomā            –            totan

nù            –            nuài            –            nuko            –            nùmā

ū            –            ūai            –            ūko            –            ūtan

kilu            –            kiluko            –            kilukilu            –            kilukilu

ko            –            koko            –            komā            –            koko

In practice, the colloquial kilu inflects differently:

kilu            –            koko            –            komā            –            koko

However, the ostensives do not inflect to agree in gender.

In addition to their adjectival use, ostensives can also be converted into pronouns (with the same meanings) through the use of the suffix -i, although the inflection then works somewhat differently:

toi            –            tokoi            –            toitoi            –            totani

nùi            –            nùkoi            –            nùinùi            –            nùimā

ūi            –            ūkoi            –            ūiko            –            ulūi

kilui            –            kilukoi            –            kiluiko            –            kiluikilu

ko            –            kokoi            –            koikoi            –            kotani

It should be noted that these ‘pronouns’ retain an underlying adjectival quality, and the number of the pronouns depends not only on the number of items pointed at but also on the grammatical number of the noun that they semantically relate to. For example, somebody holding a pair of scissors would refer to them as tokoi, not toitoi.


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