Felix Ahlner – The Elfdalian River Compass


Elfdalian is a vernacular spoken in Upper Dalecarlia in central Sweden. The Elfdalian area is dominated by a big river, and in the vernacular, the cardinal directions ‘north’ and ‘south’ have been partly usurped by the river’s flow, to mean ‘upstream’ and ‘downstream’, respectively. This system, based in physiography, has influenced Elfdalian motion description, prepositions, and even place names. I present some examples of this, both from earlier written data and from spoken data that I have collected. This shows how a speech community can take existing spatial terms and make them “their own” by mapping them onto the surrounding landscape.


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