In languages that use a relative frame of reference we can say that the heart is on the left side of the body, and no matter what direction you are facing that is true. But in an absolute frame of reference, if you said that the heart is on the west side of the body while your facing north but then turned to the south, the heart is no longer on the west side of the body.

If a purely absolute frame of reference language exists, how does it address this problem? If not, how would such a language approach this problem?

  • This doesn't invalidate the question but the heart isn't (wholly, at least) actually on the left-hand side of the body; it's in the middle but the apex points leftwards (see this image). – Miztli Jan 13 at 14:03
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    I don’t think there’s any real need for saying that fact. The problem is stated backwards: ‘left’ doesn’t exist except as an abstract concept in certain languages, it is we who invented a ‘left’ defined as ‘heart side of the body’ or ‘West side of the body when facing N’ etc. I expect that in any practical situation involving sides of the body, nothing stops speakers of those languages from saying like ‘she lost her eye on the heart side of her body’, ‘he has a tattoo on the normally dominant hand‘, etc. (not posting as answer cause I don’t have fluency in any absolute-ref language to be sure) – melissa_boiko Jan 13 at 16:33
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    It's not the case that such languages lack words for 'left' and 'right', it's just that they rarely use them to give directions. The languages that I work with that use an absolute frame of reference have words for 'left' and 'right' and so could indeed say that the heart is on the 'left'. They also use 'left' to talk about left-handedness and even have a nickname that means 'Lefty'. – Gaston Ümlaut Jan 14 at 20:58
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    But if I stand in front of you and point at your chest, your heart is on (my) right side! – Jan Jan 15 at 11:34
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    Do you know of a language without intrinsic frame? As far as I know the languages said to have absolute frame don't exclusively have absolute frame, they just use it in places where English would use relative, but in the cases like you mention like referring to body parts is exactly where intrinsic would be used. – Zorf Jan 25 at 10:01

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