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

David Robertson spokaneivy at gmail.com
Sat Mar 2 19:14:44 UTC 2019

Dear Horia et al.,

In the Tsamosan branch of Salish (Quinault, Upper Chehalis, Lower Chehalis,
Lower Cowlitz), 'right side' is typically expressed with a stem composed of
the root for 'BIG/MAIN/SENIOR' + a "lexical" (i.e. derivational) suffix
meaning 'ARM'. 'Left side' is expressed with an unanalyzable root going
back to Proto-Salish.

In the neighboring branch, Coast Salish, 'right side' is often (e.g. in
Klallam, Sechelt, Lushootseed) expressed by a similar structure, but with
the meaning 'GOOD ARM', and 'left side' as 'BAD ARM'.

In creolized Chinuk Wawa of the lower Columbia River region, 'right side'
is 'GOOD HAND/ARM' and 'left side' is 'OTHER/STRANGE HAND/ARM'.


Dave R.
*David D. Robertson* *PhD*

* (2012, Linguistics, University of Victoria, BC) CONSULTING LINGUIST*
** my dissertation: http://dspace.library.uvic.ca:8080/handle/1828/3840
<http://dspace.library.uvic.ca:8080/handle/1828/3840> *
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<https://olcnetwork.com/directory.php?school=uvic> *
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** my telephone: (509) 828-7344 *
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http://chinookjargon.ca <http://chinookjargon.wordpress.com>*

On Fri, Mar 1, 2019 at 1:35 AM Maia Ponsonnet <maia.ponsonnet at uwa.edu.au>

> Dear Horia,
> In Dalabon, an Australian language of the Gunwinyguan family
> (non-Pama-nyungan), there are specific terms for the left hand and the
> right hand, as follows:
> *bala-weh* 'left hand'
> HAND-bad
> *bala-mon* 'right hand'
> HAND-good
> *bala *is no longer used with this sense 'hand' outside of these
> compounds (hand/finger is *langu*).
> Dalabon uses cardinals and geocentric terms to indicate directions, and I
> have not observed that *bala-weh *and *bala-mon *were used for this. In
> fact, when communicating in English with older Dalabon speakers, the
> terms 'left' and 'right' were usually not helpful to convey information
> about spatial orientation.
> *bala-mon* and *bala-weh *are not used to talk about omen or fortune
> either.
> So these expressions strictly designate each hand as a body part. Given
> that a vast proportion of the population is right-handed, these
> compounds are basically conveniently descriptive for a majority of people.
> Good luck with your research and kind regards,
> Maďa
> Dr Maďa Ponsonnet
> Senior Lecturer and Chair, Discipline of Linguistics
> Social Sciences Building, Room 2.36
> Faculty of Arts, Business, Law and Education
> The University of Western Australia
> 35 Stirling Hwy, Perth, WA (6009), Australia
> P.  +61 (0) 8 6488 2870 - M.  +61 (0) 468 571 030
> ------------------------------
> *From:* Lingtyp <lingtyp-bounces at listserv.linguistlist.org> on behalf of
> Horia Calugareanu <horia.calugareanu at gmail.com>
> *Sent:* Thursday, 28 February 2019 8:22 PM
> *To:* lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org
> *Subject:* [Lingtyp] Languages with connotations for 'left' and 'right'
> Dear colleagues,
> I am putting together a semantic typology in order to test the following
> hypothesis:
> Across languages, the word for left (side/direction) (or some derivation
> of it) tends to get a negative connotation, whereas the word for ‘right’
> gets a positive one, if the effect exists.
> Apart from Indo-European languages, where the effect is widely present,
> this is a non-exhaustive list of languages which prove the thesis: Arabic,
> Mandarin Chinese, Korean, Fula, Golpa, Hungarian, Malay, Turkish.
> Do you know of any other (preferably non-Indo-European) languages which
> help confirm or infirm the generalisation?
> Finally, I am also researching whether the effect holds anyhow in
> languages with allocentric frames of reference (i.e. uphill/downhill, or
> north/south, instead of left/right). I haven’t been able to find any due to
> scarce resources, but some examples of languages with non-egocentric FoR
> are Tseltal, Haillom, Guugu Yimitirr, Kuuk Thaayorre.
> Thank you very much.
> Kind regards,
> Horia Călugăreanu
> University College London
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