Sunday, January 1, 2012

Perceiving ANADEW

One feature of Láadan that always struck me as odd was how it handled perception. There are no verbs for see, hear, taste, etc., rather there is a single verb láad perceive, which is used with an instrumental noun to clarify.

Bíiláadlene-thoyu-nanwa.
DECLperceive1SG2SG-ACCear-INSTEVID
I hear you.

I was never clear what effect Elgin was aiming at with this, and it has always struck me as unnatural. I should know better, but if you had asked me last week if this would occur in a natural language, I would have said, "no." But no, it does occur — in one language, Kobon.

Kobon is known for having a very small number of verbs — on the order of 100, of which about 20 get regular use. It achieves clarity by combing the verbs with nouns, adjectives and adverbs. So, eye perceive for see, ear perceive for hear, etc. It heads off into territory even Láadan wouldn't enter, with sleep perceive for dream (Láadan ozh).

I really should know better by now.

Some people might enjoy A universal constraint on sensory lexicon, or when hear can mean 'see'? (PDF).

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