Michael Fortescue, Köpenhamn universitet, Institut for Nordiske Studier og Sprogvidenskab,

talar under rubriken: "Where Fire and Water Meet: Orientation Systems of the North Pacific Rim".

Tid och plats

: 6 maj kl. 15-17.
Rum: C 307


This paper presents a survey of the orientation systems of the languages spoken along the North Pacific Rim (the northern half of the “Ring of Fire”) between the islands of Sakhalin on the Asian side and Vancouver Island on the American side, including the Bering Strait region. All of them make much use of what Levinson (2003) calls "absolute" frames of reference (of the "landmark" sub-type) and are – or were until recently – spoken by hunter-fisher-gatherers in a contiguous large-scale region that shares many geophysical traits but where a number of distinct language families (or isolates) are situated. This continues my earlier research on Eskimo orientation systems (Fortescue 1988). Generalizations of an areal and typological nature will emerge. In particular, I shall be looking in the synchronic data for diagnostic evidence of diachronic shifts from one kind of geographical environment to another that have occurred in the past. There are various unanswered questions that have been raised in the literature about early movements of language groups
in one direction or another within the region which this data can help elucidate – and some of the findings should also be relevant for other parts of the world. I shall introduce the individual sub-regions of the North Pacific Rim one by one in order to show how their orientation systems are organized, both as regards the "macrocosmic" geographical setting and the "microcosmic" interior of the house (and the relationship between the two). En route I shall discuss the possible source of the unusual conflation displayed by a number of the languages concerned between house-internal ‘towards the fire’ and house-external ‘out onto the water’ terms (and their converse, ‘away from the fire’ and ‘to the shore’).

Fortescue, M. 1988. Eskimo Orientation Systems. Copenhagen: Meddeleser om Grønland, Man and Society 11.
Levinson, Stephen C. 2003. Space in Language and Cognition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.