Systems of Deixis in Rawang Ata: Relation Deixis

Whereas positionals define locations within a frame of reference, relations define the locations of frames of reference in space and time. They can be used adverbially or pronominally.

  1. Adverbial use of relationals

The relationals of time are as follows:

kontomorrow (after sunset tonight)


ruo yesterday (before sunset last night)

kon kala –            tonight

meta kalalast night

ruo kala the night before last

nahā this year

naruo last year

nakonnext year

halaokowithin this generation

foyā in the next generation

fotuangu in the last generation

It should be noted that kon, meta and ruo can all refer to a “day” in the sense either of a 24-hour period or of a period of daylight.

These can all stand as adverbs describing the temporal location of an event. The anchor for these relationals is by default the time of the discourse, but the use of any topics with temporal-adverbial semantics causes the anchor to shift to this new time. The anchor is only reset by a new temporal-adverbial topic, or by the use of directive syntax. Within directive syntax, relationals are always anchored to the discourse itself.

For example:

Rahànta yuinù. Kon to rahànta yuinù.

“I am throwing a stone. Tomorrow I will throw a stone again.”

Samù āng, rahànta yuinù. Kon to rahànta yuinù

“At the wedding, I threw a stone. The day after, I threw a stone again.”

Samù āng, rahànta yuinù. Kon to bahànta yuinù

“At the wedding, I threw a stone. Tomorrow I will throw a stone again.”

[The use of the first-person agreement indicates directive syntax]

In a similar manner, there are a number of spatial relationals as well:


ùi ‘upstream’

dahi east

dahi ao west

ohoramasu south

ohoramasu aonorth

nyoa                            – nearby

dàfan a day’s walk from

uminu in the region of

The ‘upstream’/’downstream’ relationals have similar semantic extension to the upstream/downstream positionals, ao and uli, to which they are clearly related. Dàfan has an extended meaning, ‘at the next location’, on the analogy of the next resting place on a journey of many days. The anchors of the spatial relationals operate in the same manner as those of the temporal relationals.

2. Adrelationals

Relationals can be modified by a number of particles we will term ‘adrelationals’. The most important four magnify the ‘amplitude’ of the relation, by one of four degrees. The order of the amplitudinal adrelationals is as follows: wa, ya, yò, ku. The first of these relates to fractional distances; the remaining three relate to concepts of ‘handful’, ‘heap’ and ‘mountain’. Taking kon as our base relational, this gives us:

wa kon                        – ‘less than a day from now’

ya kon             – ‘several days from now’

kon             – ‘many days from now’

ku kon             – ‘a huge number of days from now’.

The same effect operates on the two spatial relations of distance:

wa uminu  – ‘more than a day away, but far from not being in the same region as’

ya dàfan   – ‘a handful of days’ walk from’

The remaining spatial relationals, and the temporal relational meta cannot be modified by these adrelationals.

In addition to the amplitudinal adrelationals are two ‘peripheral’ adrelationals, bana and nisi, and two ‘segmental’ adrelationals, riu and bià. The peripheral adrelationals convey the meanings ‘at or near the limit of’ and ‘just beyond the limit of’; the segmental adrelationals, ‘in the near part of’ and ‘in the far part of’:

bià kon                  – ‘late tomorrow’

bià ruo                        – ‘early yesterday’

riu ruo             – ‘late yesterday’

bana kon      – ‘dusk tomorrow’

nisi dàfan   – ‘a little more than a day’s walk’

bià uminu  – ‘in the farther parts of the region’

Finally, there is a peculiar adrelational , with the meaning ‘everywhere within’. With definite verbs, the idea is of duration or wide extent, while with indefinite verbs it is of iteration and variance in place:

dàfan   – ‘everywhere within a day’s walk’

meta                – ‘all today’

3. Adjectival use of relationals

The relationals can also be used with adjectival meanings, in which case they follow the noun like oblates, rather than preceding them like positionals. Where there is semantic overlap between an adjectival positional and an adjectival relational (eg. ā vs. ao), the relational is usually used in cases of greater distance – and the rules for determining the anchor are also different, as explained above.

samù āng kon

“the wedding tomorrow”

kubirko nisi dàfan

“the bridge a little more than a day’s walk from here”


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