Kennings, difrasismo, and tertium comparationes

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As I was drifting off to sleep the other night (one of the most fruitful
times for me), it occurred to me that there seems to be a clear connection
between Norse kennings and Nahuatl difrasismo.

For example, the shopworn

  gold             silver
--------   =     ----------
  sun              moon

gives four kennings:

  gold = sun-silver
  sun = gold-moon
  silver = moon-gold
  moon = silver-sun

What became apparent is that it also gives two difrasismo:

  gold + silver = precious metal
  sun + moon = heavenly body

These two artificially generated difrasismo do not seem different in
principle from the Nahuatl "flower and song" for "poetry" or "water and
hill" for "town." (This is barring the possibility, as Mark Line suggested,
that they are periphrastic genitives -- "the flower of the song" and "the
water of the hill" -- an issue which, I take it, is not yet settled.)

Note that what the two artificial difrasismo refer to is what Mark Line
calls the "tertium comparationes" of the two terms.

So we can get difrasismo from kennings. With a little nudge, we can get
kennings from difrasismo too. Take "flower and song." Treat the two parts
of this difrasismo as the "numerators" in a kenning analogy:

  flower          song
  --------  =   ---------
  stem            voice

... seems to work out pretty well:

  flower = stem-song
  stem = flower-voice
  song = voice-flower
  voice = song-stem

In discussions at the Bamboo Garden, Mark has pointed out to me that many
languages have periphrasis like difrasismo. He gave one example in, I
think, Malay: the tertium comparationes of "table and chair" is
"furniture." Let's try that one:

  chair       table
 -------- =  ---------
  sitting     setting

  chair = sitting-table
  sitting = chair-setting
  table = setting-chair
  setting = table-sitting

All right. I should admit at this point that I have not been able to come
up with a kenning for "water and hill" that does not seem utterly forced.

Here's a snippet I just sent to an active Lojbanist who is also interested
in the GBG:

>My game, Kennexions, uses BEL (Bliss-Encoded Lojban, working name), which
>is >an ideographic coding of Lojban using mostly
>Semantography/Blissymbolics, a >sort of pasigraphy. The basic Kennexions
>"bead" is the kennexion, or kenning >expression, based on the Old Norse
>poetic form of the kenning, which can be >nicely translated into Lojban by
>lujvo and tanru.

That may be gobbledygook to most GBGers, which is why I haven't said much
about Lojban on the lists so far. Suffice it to say that _lujvo_ and
_tanru_, which are types of Lojban words comparable to compound nouns in
English, nicely translate kennings in a completely grammatical way. I
realised a few months ago as I was perusing the new Lojban reference
grammar that Lojban has lujvo and tanru that are natural difrasismo too --
for example, the Lojban for "worm beetle" means "bug."

Ron Hale-Evans

p.s. Upcoming posts will include results of my experiments with abacus and
actual coloured beads -- you *can* translate kennings into beads -- and a
post about "golden-ratio kennings" and the ascending/descending metaphor

BTW, some of my posts may have been coming off as a bit authoritarian. As I
said, I am turning these posts into sections of my GBG book, and the voice
that one adopts for a book is not quite the same as the one wants for
Internet discourse, so there is sometimes a surface conflict. But
everything I say is open to discussion. --R

Ron Hale-Evans
Founder, Center for Ludic Synergy
Gamemaster, Kennexions
Charter Member, Bamboo Garden of Seattle

Kennexions GBG | Center for Ludic Synergy

Ron Hale-Evans

Last modified: 23 September 1999