Directional systems in Philippine languages

Presentation Date: 

Saturday, May 19, 2018


Kaohsiung, Taiwan
The 28th Meeting of the South-East Asian Linguistics Society
Paper presentation
Wenzao Ursuline University of Languages
17-19 May 2018
This study presents a diachronic analysis of the terms encoding the four cardinal directions in 54 Philippine languages across various Philippine microgroups. The direction terms vary greatly in the languages, making it impossible to reconstruct a single directional system for the Philippines. However, commonalities in the directional systems are found in the languages. Four major fields of reference are generally used in encoding directions:
  1. The path of the sun. 45 of the languages examined encode east and west in reference to the rising/setting of the sun.
  2. The wind/monsoon systems. PAn *qamiS ‘north wind’, *timuR ‘south/east wind’, *SabaRat ‘south wind’, and PWMP *salatan ‘south wind’ developed into various cardinal directions.
  3. Riverine terms. Reflexes of PAn *daya ‘upriver, inland’ and PAn *lahud ‘downstream, toward the sea’ developed as local direction terms and subsequently cardinal directions, which vary on the geographical location of each speech community.
  4. Systems of location. Reflexes of locational terms such as PMP *babaq ‘below, beneath, under’ and *(ma-)udehi ‘behind’ refer to west and south respectively, implying a conceptual orientation of the speaker toward the east and north.
Moreover, based on a typological classification of the terms (23 of the 54 languages exhibit a complete system, 29 have terms for only east and west, 1 only encodes east, and 1 does not have cardinal direction terms at all), certain implicational relationships in the lexical encoding of directions can be observed, i.e. the east–west axis tends to be encoded first before the north–south axis, given the contiguity of the former to the path of the sun, a feature that is naturally salient in all speech communities.