Reference to space in Aghu

W. van den Heuvel (Speaker)

Activity: Lecture / PresentationAcademic


Of all the Greater Awyu languages, the Aghu language, spoken (in the 1950s) by some 1,500people in the area between the Digul river and the Mapi river in Papua, seems to have the most extensive paradigm of spatial expressions. Demonstratives, modifying the position of a Figure (F) relative to a viewpoint (V), express both the Figure’s distance from V and its position relative to V. For expressing the distance, the language makes a threefold division into ‘close’, ‘rather close’ and ‘far’, while the position can be expressed according to different frames of reference, like su vs sü ‘up’ vs ‘down’, or oto vs üko ‘ uphill’ vs. ‘downhill’. The same formatives as those used in demonstratives are also used as part of verbs, which express both the fact that the Figure is moving, and the direction in which it is moving: either from or towards V.

The presentaion gives an overview of the different formatives that
make up demonstratives and verbs of motion, gives details about the semantics
of the system, including conventionalized implicatures (e.g. that su is used for going ‘up’ into a house, even if the house is on the ground). The second part of the presentation shows how a careful analysis of the use of motion verbs can serve to analyze the structure of Aghu narratives. As indicated above, motion verbs and demonstratives reflect a certain viewpoint from which the narrative is perceived. Careful study of motion verbs and demonstratives reveals how these may reflect a change in location or viewpoint from which the story is perceived. As such, they can be seen as indications of paragraph boundaries, and can thus be used as a valuable tool in analyzing the way in which Aghu narratives are structured.

Drabbe, Petrus. 1957. Spraakkunst van het Aghu-dialect van de Awju-taal. ’s Gravenhage:
Martinus Nijhoff.
Period20 Jan 2014
Event titleWorkshop on the Languages of Papua 3
Event typeWorkshop