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Symbolization and Conceptualization of Cardinal Directions in Central Eurasia

Penglin Wang


This paper is a comparative analysis of the cognitive correlation between the direction words and the direction symbols, involving Altaic, Sino-Tibetan, and Indo-European in its etymological explanations. In ancient mythology the scaly and shell-covered animals such as turtle, toad, and snake served to be a symbol for the north. This symbolization helped early people in the region to conceptualize the northern direction with the words for these animals. For example, Uigur paka 'toad' corresponds to Chinese pak 'north', and Chinese kui 'turtle' - Mongolian koina 'north'. It is only when our understanding of the nature of the direction symbols deepens, that their correlation with the direction words will become known.