Saturday, October 25, 2014

Detail #112: A distinction in interrogative adverbial pronouns

Imagine a system with an adverb formed from some interrogative pronoun that signifies 'in what direction'. This is not all that uncommon ultimately, and Swedish, for instance, forms this by combining where and a preposition - but in Germanic style, puts the preposition last. (Strictly speaking, the adverb used is cognate to whither, rather than where.) Vartåt, so something like whither-to.

In a language where absolute directions are understood by the speakers, one could distinguish relative and absolute directions; maybe questions with an interrogative pronoun in the dual number are asked to distinguish left from right, whereas a plural number signifies desire to have an absolute direction.

Alternatively, of course, other means of distinguishing them could be used - imagine an English variety where what direction asks whether to go left or right, which direction asks for a compass bearing.

Of course, a thing that not all conlangers might now is that there are indeed languages where the speaker is assumed at all moments to know the cardinal directions' current, ehrm, direction.

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