[Lingtyp] Languages with connotations for 'left' and 'right'

Bohnemeyer, Juergen jb77 at buffalo.edu
Fri Mar 1 04:43:36 UTC 2019

In Yucatec Maya, ‘south’ is derived from ‘right’, consonant with the mnemonic commonly used in this culture according to which one finds north and south by facing the direction of the rising sun and stretching out one’s arms. ‘East’ and ‘west’ etymologically refer to sunrise and sunset, while ‘north’ appears to be a loan from Nahuatl or some other central Mexican language. I’m not aware of any connotations associated with ‘left’ and ‘right’. In terms of reference frames, Yucatec is anything goes: egocentric, geocentric, and intrinsic frames are used pervasively. — Juergen

> On Feb 28, 2019, at 11:20 PM, David Gil <gil at shh.mpg.de> wrote:
> On 01/03/2019 11:04, Randy J. LaPolla wrote:
>> This is certainly the case in Old China, where left is east (the primary orientation in Chinese thought is to the south),
> Interestingly, you get a different association in the Middle East, where the primary orientation is to the east, and thus, the country-name Yemen (located on the southern tip of the Arabian peninsula) is cognate with the word for "right".
> (Correspondingly, I have a vague recollection — but I could be wrong — that, somewhere in Afroasiatic languages, there is colexification of "left" and "cold", but I don't currently have library access or good enough internet to be able to follow up on this.)
> -- 
> David Gil
> Department of Linguistic and Cultural Evolution
> Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History
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