JOPOL 5(2021)

The Sloped World(s) of the Reta Language: The Expression of Elevation in a Montane Language Community
Jeroen Willemsen

Reta, a Papuan language spoken in Eastern Indonesia, has lexicalised the expression of elevation in both a set of motion verbs and a large set of spatially-marked demonstratives. Its system of elevational marking fits the concept of a semplate (Levinson & Burenhult 2009), as the notion of a slope is reflected in unrelated sets of lexemes: both spatiallymarked demonstratives and motion verbs are subject to a three-way distinction between LOW, LEVEL and HIGH. The slope as a semplate is not restricted to the immediate environment in which Reta is spoken, but is reflected in the grammar at three different levels. At the MICRO-level, represented by the slope on which Reta is spoken, elevation is calculated based on an axis running from the summit to the seashore. At the MESO-level, roughly represented by the Alor Archipelago, elevation is calculated based on cardinal orientation. At the MACRO-level, represented by the unknown world beyond speakers’ topographical knowledge, any location outside the MESO-level is treated as LOW.

Keywords: Elevation, Alor–Pantar, semplate, demonstrative, slope, cardinal direction