A noun classifier marks on the verb some information about the form of one of its arguments. For example, Atili has a handful of "stationary" classifiers that produce semantic distinctions:

Emanyo bu-vahkin-us azven<k>o.
Emanyo ball-cook-P/3;PFV cow<3>
Emanyo cooked the meatball.


Emanyo mal-vahkin-us azven<k>o.
Emanyo board-cook-P/3;PFV cow<3>
Emanyo cooked the brisket.

Atili also has "motile" classifiers that indicate manner of motion:

Yeredol many-az-a ranhal<k>o la.
Yeredol run-go-P;IPFV beach<3> to
Yeredol runs to the beach.


Yeredol ib-az-a ranhal<k>o la.
Yeredol climb-go-P;IPFV beach<3> to.
Yeredol climbs (down) to the beach.

Is it attested for a language to use a similar system for encoding whether motion is towards or away from the speaker, as in the following hypothetical examples?

Yeredol ko-az-a ranhal<k>o la.
Yeredol go-go-P;IPFV beach<3> to
Yeredol goes (away) to the beach.


Yeredol kom-az-a ranhal<k>o la.
Yeredol come-go-P;IPFV beach<3> to
Yeredol comes to the beach.
  • Do the cislocative and translocative preverbs ko and kom occupy the same slot in the verb template as bu (ball) and ib (climb)? Can you combine them giving something like ? Emanyo bukom[throw]a azvenko (Emanyo threw the meatball towards me.) Also, do bu (ball) and ib (climb) occupy the same slot in the verb template? Commented Oct 4, 2020 at 22:45
  • Yes, the idea is that all three of these things occupy the same slot and if you need to combine them you'd need some sort of circumlocution like "There (ball)was a cow and Emanyo (ven)threw it." or "Emanyo (ball)threw the cow towards me." I prefer the latter form in general, but bear in mind that in discourse, if the meatball was already introduced, the sentence "Emanyo (ven)threw the cow." would suffice since we already know what form the cow is in (a ball). Mostly the "motile" classifiers are restricted to animate referents and the "stationary" classifiers to inanimate referents. Commented Oct 4, 2020 at 23:32

1 Answer 1


Such a system is indeed attested! And not only that, it’s actually surprisingly common. Usually the category is called andative and venitive, for ‘going’ and ‘coming’ respectively (though I prefer ‘translocative’ and ‘cislocative’). Here’s an example from Komnzo (Döhler 2018):

They hold him away.

y-          fath     -wr -o   -th
3SG.MASC.α- hold.EXT -ND -AND -2|3NSG

And one from Lucas Quiaviní Zapotec (Oto-Manguean, Anderson 2017):

Rata rsily rityug Lia Petr gyia.
Every morning Petra goes and cuts flowers.

rata  rsily   r-  i-  tyug Lia  Petr  gyia
every morning HAB-AND-cut  Miss Petra flowers

Many languages have even more elaborate systems, distinguishing many different directions beyond just ‘coming’ and ‘going’. For instance, Yagua distinguishes ‘upriver’ and ‘downriver’ directions (Payne 1997):

Sąąnaa suutiimuníí.
Wash him/her downriver.

sąąna -a   suuti -imu -níí
2DL   -IRR wash  -DR  -3SG

While Southern Pomo has an exceedingly large array of around 15 directional suffixes, which may be applied to verbs of motion (Walker 2013):

climb down from above

ʔapʰː -alamečʼ -Vn
carry -DIR     -SG.IMP

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