Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Moten Words for the Day

jemagi /je̞maɡi/, verb: “to sail, to travel”

ibnamagi /ibnamaɡi/, verb: “to walk, to travel on foot”

jugejugej /juɡe̞juɡe̞j/, verb: “to walk; to step”

Not me though. I usually fall asleep before the plane even takes off! :D

So, three verbs this time, all somewhat in the same semantic range, but with specific meanings that do not neatly fit with English counterparts.

Let’s start with jemagi. Its original meaning is “to sail”, i.e. “to travel by boat” (indeed, it’s a compound of jem: “river, brook” and jagi: “to go, to leave”). But its meaning was actually broadened with time, to refer to travelling with any kind of vehicle (including animals like horses). So its most common translation is simply “to travel”.

Yet jemagi doesn’t exactly correspond to “to travel”, because it doesn’t cover travelling on foot. There’s a specific verb for that: ibnamagi (from jagi and bnam: “foot, leg”). So you can’t simply say in Moten that someone travelled somewhere: you have to indicate at least whether they did it mostly on foot (in which case ibnamagi is used) or mostly using vehicles (in which case jemagi is used). My own theory about this semantic split is that long ago, the Moten speakers were a riverside community, and the main means of travel were either riverboats or just travelling on foot (maybe they didn’t have any animals capable of sustaining their weights or pull carriages). This led to two verbs being used for these two forms of travel. When other forms of travel appeared (maybe draft animals were introduced into their community), the verb already used to indicate travel in a vehicle was extended to cover other vehicles, while travelling on foot, i.e. using one’s own strength, kept its own verb.

Since ibnamagi refers to travelling on foot only, it can be translated as “to walk” (as in “he walked the whole way from Paris to Amsterdam”, something I will never do! ;) ). But that’s only true when “to walk” refers to travelling. If you want to refer to the physical activity of walking, i.e. to the act of making one step after the other, there’s another, specific verb for that: jugejugej, from uge: “step, footstep”. So once again here is a place where Moten and English divide the semantic space differently: “to walk” must be translated differently depending on whether one refers to the physical activity of walking, or the act of travelling on foot.

And to complicate matters, jugejugej can also be translated as “to step”, i.e. “to go through a list of actions”. Confused already? ;)


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