A sketch of the grammar of space in Tzeltal
This paper surveys the lexical and grammatical resources for talking about spatial relations in the Mayan language Tzeltal - for describing where things are located, where they are moving, and how they are distributed in space. Six basic sets of spatial vocabulary are presented: i. existential locative expressions with ay ‘exist’, ii. deictics (demonstratives, adverbs, presentationals), iii. dispositional adjectives, often in combination with (iv) and (v), iv. body part relational noun locatives, v. absolute (‘cardinal’) directions, and vi. motion verbs, directionals and auxiliaries. The first two are used in minimal locative descriptions, while the others constitute the core resources for specifying in detail the location, disposition, orientation, or motion of a Figure in relation to a Ground. We find that Tzeltal displays a relative de-emphasis on deixis and left/right asymmetry, and a detailed attention to the spatial properties of objects.
Publication typeBook chapter