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7215 - Placenames and the spatial organisation of Moseten

Mosetén (Mosetenan) is spoken in the foothills of the Bolivian Andes, an area which is defined by mountain ranges and rivers. The topography is reflected in the spatial expressions of the language, in particular the four noun phrase markers - chhe’ ‘upriver, on’, - wë ‘downriver, behind’, - khan ‘in, under’ and - ya’ ‘at, near’. These can appear as clitics on noun phrases (1), or as attached to pronouns forming place adverbs (2):

(1)Köwë’dö-wë
Covendo-DOWNRIVER
‘In Covendo’

(2)mö’-wë
she-DOWNRIVER
‘there (downriver, feminine antecedent)’

While the system is transparent in general noun phrases and place adverbs, placenames usually appear with fixed markers, independent of where the speaker is in relation to the location. We may expect the most salient locative information to appear with such placenames, but that is not always the case. Indeed, some of the fixed markers are surprising, in particular with respect to the upriver/downriver distinction. For example, the village of Covendo shown in (1) is the most upriver settlement, yet it always appears with the ‘downriver’ location marker - wë .

I will discuss the choice of location marker with placenames, exploring whether a semantic change has led to the peculiarities we encounter. Most location markers have various meanings, for example the marker - wë is most commonly used to express ‘downriver’, but also ‘behind’ and even ‘on the other side’. When it comes to placenames, the additional readings play a role, while the upriver/downriver meanings do not. I will argue that the latter distinction is a recent innovation in Mosetén.

Keywords: placenames, location marking, Moseten

Author: Sakel, Jeanette (University of the West of England, United Kingdom/Ver Königr)

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