Bika & lete: A matter of sides

English, as well as most other languages, make use of six basic directions in relation to oneself. Some arise quite naturally, down is the direction Earth’s gravity pulls us toward, up is the opposite. Forward and backwards are also easily defined (towards the front and towards the back, respectively). The other two, the right and the left, however, are somewhat more complicated as a result of human beings’ lateral simerty. For instance, how many 5-year old children recognize the other directions perfectly and nonetheless fail to identify which is the right side and which is the left? Furthermore, there is a condition among adults called left-right confusion which makes it very difficult for those people to tell which is the right and which is the left.

It seems that right and left aren’t such natural, instinctive concepts after all; so it wouldn’t be so strange for a conlang not to use them (or, for the matter, use them differently). Actually, such languages do exist in the real world, with Guugu Yimithirr, an aboriginal Australian language, being one of the most widely known examples. This language doesn’t employ any of those relative directions, relying on cardinal directions (such as North or South-East) instead. Other languages indicate directions in relation to geographic characteristics, for example distinguishing between sea-wards and towards inland. Needless to say that there must be at least a dozen conlangs which such ‘alternative’ directions-system.

Thus, the concepts of bika and lete (also ‘rete‘) wouldn’t be neither very innovative nor as radical as Guugu Yimithirr. These words, which are used in Eharthen as well as other related conlangs, are used where left or right would be used in English.

  • Comparison between English and Eharthen’s lateral directions.

Basically, bika is the left and lete is the right for all objects which are in front of us while it works the other way round for objects behind us.

Suppose you were standing in a line that went from South to North, and then you headed the North-East (at your right, that is, forward-lete). Then, the opposing direction (South-West) would also be lete!

While a line that runs at your right would never meet a line running on your left (they would be parallel), a line running through your lete would always intersect with one which passes through your bika:

If an object is neither in front of us nor behind us but exactly besides us, it’s considered the same as if it was in front of us. This also includes our own bodies: one’s left shoulder would always be bika, no matter whether it’s seen from the back or from the front.

I’m afraid many people would think that such a system would be much more complex than ours… and that will probably be true! People who confuse right and left would just be more messed up if they were to use bika and lete. However, that doesn’t mean such a system would never emerge in a natural language!

I had stated earlier that this pair of words were not used only in Eharthen but also in  other conlangs of its con-linguistic family. While the word for bika is pronounced more or less the same in each language, the word for lete (which would actually be just a variant of more common rete) varies greatly:



rete (or lete)











Posted on 2011/08/06, in Eharthen (en), English. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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