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An interesting aspect of Akatek grammar, which is also present in most other Q'anjobalan languages, is the use of directional morphemes, which appear as enclitics. These morphemes make it possible for the speaker to talk about movement and direction in space without pointing or using other gestures. Consider the stative verb [ʔej] to be, which can appear as [ʔejʔok] existing inwards, [ʔejtok] existing towards there, away from the speaker and listener and [ʔeːltox] existing from the inside out, using different enclitics.

I am having trouble understanding how a word can express direction if the speaker and listener may be facing each other, sitting/standing side by side, or even back to back.


It seems like it would work in much the same way that 'there' does in English - it doesn't specify any actual direction other than 'away'. I would assume that =[tok] means 'away from the general area that contains both the speaker and listener'.

If Akatek does have morphemes like this that encode relative specific directions, I'd imagine that they'd be explicitly linked to the direction the speaker was facing.

  • There actually are cases of languages with absolute directions, so you can't really rule it out for Aketek without more information. Jul 27 '13 at 23:11
  • 1
    Quite true, they're just fairly rare so I assumed.
    – Sjiveru
    Jul 28 '13 at 18:07

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