time (almost) without space?

Esa Itkonen eitkonen at utu.fi
Mon Sep 26 11:58:12 UTC 2011

The article 'When time is not space', by C. Sinha et al., was discussed a couple of months ago on Funknet. The authors claim that in Amondawa (= an Amazonian language of the Tupi Guarani family) there is a sort of dissociation between spatial and temporal expressions. (Notice that 'dissociation' is a shorthand of my own which does not do justice to the complexity of the argument by Sinha et al.)Now, if one happens to be acquainted with Everett & Kern's excellent 1997 grammar of Wari' (= a genetically unrelated Amazonian language, of the Chapakura[n] family), one might be excused for thinking that something similar is going on here as well. 

First, the inventory of spatial expressions (= directional verbs & body-part nouns in POSS constructions) is very detailed (pp. 252-284) whereas the inventory of temporal expressions is rather exiguous (pp. 285-290). Second, the two inventories seem disjoint. Temporal expressions are divided into a) diurnal and b) seasonal ones: a) 'day', 'night', 'afternoon', 'dusk', 'sun', 'moon'; b) "seasons of the year are indicated by reference to rain, lack of it, or activity in the gardens" (p. 286). "All other references to location in time are expressed by the appropriate Portuguese terms" (p. 286). "Exact references to time are for the most part irrelevant in Wari' " (p. 287). Third, space-to-time metaphors seem to be lacking, apart from a single example like 'in the middle (= "waist") of the night'.

On the other hand, the putative space vs. time dissociation seems undermined by the existence of two (= space vs. time) three-level systems of demonstrative adjectives (p. 153) and pronouns (pp. 305-306) where the spatial expressions constitute a transparent (and analogous) basis for their temporal counterparts.

I wonder if there is any way to lure Dan Everett into commenting on the above.


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