The words li and la in Cape Verdean Creole look parallel to the Portuguese words ali and . There's just one problem: li and ali are opposites. Li means "here", while ali means "there". There are differences between ali and , with ali being used to refer to locations near the person being spoken to, but it certainly doesn't mean "here"; Portuguese uses aqui or to express that, and Creole uses la to express ali.

Does li come from ali? If so, how did it come to mean the opposite? If not, what is its etymology?

1 Answer 1


I'm not familiar with these languages, so I can't give a complete answer to your question.

I just wanted to point out that "opposites" is a pretty strong term for two words with such similar meanings as "here" and "there". They're both demonstratives; it's relatively simple for demonstratives to change with regard to proximal/distal usage. E.g. the French word "ici" means "here", and you'll usually see "là" defined as "there", but in fact "là" is also commonly used to express the idea of "here". (Why use là instead of ici?)

It sounds like you say Portuguese has a three-way distinction between aqui/cá "here" (proximal), ali "there" (medial), and (distal), while Cape Verdean Creole has a two-way system li (proximal) vs. la (distal). It's very easy for this to develop from the Portuguese system by simply dropping the Portuguese proximal pronouns and shifting the remaining ones to fill their semantic space.

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    Adding to this: while I was studying (Brazilian) Portuguese I was taught that while the usual demonstratives went este - esse - aquele etc. (the same system as in my native Spanish, BTW), it was rather common to employ the medial deictics instead of the proximal ones. So I don't see this happening in Caboverdiano as strange.
    – pablodf76
    Jan 14, 2017 at 15:02
  • I just put two and two together: the demonstrative pronouns mirror exactly what you're talking about here. (Es li means this, rather than using a cognate of este.) This must be the answer.
    – Dan Getz
    Mar 4, 2017 at 1:11

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