Saturday, 20 September 2014

Moten Words for the Day

vo|sa /vo̞t͡sa/, noun: “beauty, appropriateness; also as adj. beautiful, appropriate, good, fit for purpose”

slim /slim/, noun: “ugliness, inappropriateness; also as adj. ugly, inappropriate, unfit for purpose”

Not sure if this meme represents vo|sa or slim here.

A peculiarity of Moten is that it lacks truly generic words meaning “good” or “bad”. Instead, it has pairs of nouns that approximate those meanings, but always with a more restricted semantic range. Vo|sa and slim are one such pair.

Vo|sa and slim are basically the extremes in the range of appropriateness. That’s to say, vo|sa represents the quality of things that are good because they are fit for purpose, while slim represents the quality of things that are bad because they are unfit for purpose. The keyword here is purpose, by the way: vo|sa and slim are never used as absolute judgements of value, but only have a meaning when the speaker has some goal or need in mind, and judges the appropriateness of something based on the idea of fulfilling that goal.

For instance, a chair should be vo|sa when the goal is to sit down, but it’s not surprising if it’s actually slim when your goal is to reach the ceiling to change a lightbulb! And a chair that is slim when your goal is to sit down is basically an uncomfortable chair that misses its purpose. It may be of good quality, i.e. sturdy and made of pricey materials, and it may look nice, but if it doesn’t sit comfortably, it will still be slim.

Notice that I also translated vo|sa as “beauty” and slim as “ugliness”. That’s because for some objects, their purpose is simply to be aesthetically pleasing, so in that case “fitness for purpose” is equivalent to “beauty”. This is also true of ideas and concepts, which can be aesthetically pleasing even without looking at any kind of specific purpose, so vo|sa and slim can also be applied to abstractions in that sense.

Notice, however, that these nouns can never refer to the physical beauty of a person or animal. It seems Moten speakers rather balk at the idea that the entire purpose for the existence of a human being or animal could solely be to be aesthetically pleasing. Good for them!


from Tumblr

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