Cardinal points and spatial/temporal orientation systems in Mongolic languages

Ilya Gruntov and Olga Mazo

Cardinal points and spatial/temporal orientation systems in Mongolic languages

(66th Annual Meeting of the PIAC Göttingen, 2024)

The names of the cardinal points in Mongolic languages are generally related to the two systems of spatial orientation: entering the house from the south (correspondingly north is ‘behind’, south is ‘front’) or entering the house from the east (west is ‘behind’, east is ‘front’). Terms for the eastward orientation are used in Ordos, Lower Uda and Ekhirit Buriat dialects, while the southward orientation is typical for Khalkha, Oirat, Khamnigan, Buriad and some other languages.

In some idioms the terms for ‘left’ and ‘right’ are related to the cardinal directions, but in others this relation is absent or lost.

These systems can be restructured in various ways. In certain Qinghai Gansu idioms, the introduction of the Chinese terms for the cardinal directions caused semantic changes in the meanings of the original Common Mongolic terms.

In a dialect of Shira Yughur even without Chinese influence the system was completely restructured with loss of some terms, contamination of others and introduction of the new ones.

Besides, we are going to discuss the correspondence between spatial and temporal terms in various Mongolic languages. E.g., the concept BEFORE may be related to the concepts of FRONT or UP.

In our paper we will also analyze various Mongolic systems and their relations to the systems of the neighboring languages of different language families (Turkic, Tungusic, Sino-Tibetan).