LINGUIST List 6.1127

Sat Aug 19 1995

Sum: 'eye'

Editor for this issue: T. Daniel Seely <>


  1. Alexis Manaster Ramer, Summary: Adpositional uses of 'eye'

Message 1: Summary: Adpositional uses of 'eye'

Date: Sat, 19 Aug 1995 09:12:59 Summary: Adpositional uses of 'eye'
From: Alexis Manaster Ramer <amrCS.Wayne.EDU>
Subject: Summary: Adpositional uses of 'eye'

In response to my query:

>In languages where body part terms become adpositions, does
>anybody know of examples where 'eye' gives rise to some kind of
>locative, such as 'on' or 'in front of'?

I received several very useful replies, for which many thanks. It
transpires that numerous languages indeed do do this. Specifics

Alice Faber (

 Biblical Hebrew has _b'ene_ (=schwa, '=ayin), 'in front of',
 literally "in the eyes of". I'm not sure how transparent it
 would have been...

Jose Alvarez "Pipo" ( OR

 In Guajiro, an Arawakan language spoken by some 300000 people
 in Venezuela and Colombia, -'u is an inalienable noun meaning
 'eye' is also used as as a locative or temporal adposition in:
 jo'u siki, lit. 'eye of the fire', tr. 'in the fire', jo'u
 wanee ka'i, lit. 'eye of one day', tr. 'on one day' (I omit
 the numerous other examples generously provided by Dr. ALvarez
 from this summary).

Chris Culy (culyCsli.Stanford.EDU)

 Bambara (Mande) and Donno So (Dogon) are at least close to
 what you are looking for. They both use "eye" together with a
 general postposition for "in front of". Some examples (not in
 real orthography, but I can provide those as well).

 Bambara: Adama nye fe (Adama eye with) 'in front of Adama'

 Donno So: Anta giru ne (Anta eye at/to) 'in front of Anta'

Gabor Gyori (

 In Hungarian we have "szemben" 'opposite', e.g. "a hazzal
 szemben" 'opposite the house', where szem = eye + -ben = in
 (haz = house + -val [assimilated to -zal] = with)

Annette Herskovits (, referring, to
 papers by Penelope Brown and Steve Levinson on Tzeltal
 mentions the use of _sit_ ('eye') as a locative but does not
 recall the specific meaning.


 In Navajo, there is a Postpositional stem -naal (high tone on
 V, barred l) meaning 'in the presence of', etymologically
 related to -naa' (High tone on V) 'eye'. See the Young and
 Morgan dictionary (1992). Also cognates in related languages
 such as Apache. Can also be translated as: 'in front of'

Clifford L. Lutton, Jr. (lexesMindSpring.COM) suggests that the
following English usages might be relevant:

OUT THERE in the public's eye
reality is IN the eye of the beholder
OUT THERE satellites are keeping an eye ON the site
with an eye TOWARD litigation
with every eye UPON him, he then
see ghetto life THROUGH ghetto eyes [OUT THERE or IN]
IN my [MIND'S] eyes , something is the situation
hit America BETWEEN the eyes
in the [MINDs'] eyes of the Arab countries
to take pictures or to eyeball [LOCATE] it from 500 feet mentions a rather different usage, derived from
'eye', in modern Hebrew: me-'eyn (lit. from-eye-of) means 'a kind

Nicholas Ostler ( quotes some old
grammars of Chibcha/Muisca:

Delante, en presencia. Pedro ubana ... upqua-fihistan... Aunque el
primero dice presencia, el segundo dice vista, y asi dice: m-upqua
fihistan zos machiba, ponlo delante de tus ojos, llegalo a tusojos,
o, llega la cosa a tus ojos para que la veas (Gonza'lez de Pe'rez,
Mari'a Stella. 1987. 'Diccionario y Grama'tica Chibcha' - MS
ano'nimo de la Biblioteca Nacional de Colombia. Biblioteca
'Ezequiel Uricoechea' 1. Bogota': Instituto Caro y Cuervo. p. 230)

 ... Estos tres ultimos se dicen de cosa plana, y de cosa que
propiamente no tiene asiento, como el aire (Quesada Pacheco, Miguel
A. 1991. Vocabulario Mosco. 1612. Estudios de Lingu"i'stica
Chibcha, Tomo X, 29-100. Editorial de la Universidad de Costa Rica.
38v s.v. Sobre:fihista fihistaca fihistana)

 "na" or "n" is a postposition of static location "m-" is a 2nd
person singular personal prefix There is no explicit plural marking
in this language.

"uba" means "face"
"upqua" means "eye"
"fihista" properly means "chest" but is commonly used as part of=
a local periphrasis for "on".

Finally, Monica Macaulay ( tells me
 that the 15 Mixtec languages she looked at DO NOT have this
 usage, although it is interesting to see the list of other
 body part terms so used: face, hand, insides/heart, stomach,
 back (of a human), back (of an animal)/nape, head, mouth,
 side, chest, foot, buttocks, ear, waist, throat
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