Directional listening

I’ve been translating and annotating Bardi in preparation for my upcoming trip and something occurred to me this morning. In several texts the hero is creeping through the scrub and making sure he’s not being followed (or about to be attacked), or he’s tracking someone. At each point, the hero is described as doing something like the following:

Barnimin biligiji nilamarra inamana jarr ingalamankana jirrm injoona.
on.all.sides really ear he.put this he.heard sing he.did

Barnambooroo ingalamankana.
in.all.directions he.listened

Nyoonoo ingalamankana gardi.
here he.listened still

That is, the same array of directional terms that are used for visual ‘looking out’ (e.g. barnimin ‘in all directions’) are used for auditory ‘hearing out’ too. But they sounds weird to me in English:

?He listened this way and that.
??He listened in all directions.
??He listened that way.

It’s not that English doesn’t talk about the directions of sounds (e.g. where’s the sound coming from), it’s that we seem to talk about the variable directional source of the sound, not the perceptual differentiation of direction. innaresting.

2 responses to “Directional listening

  1. David Marjanović

    Did that work with “hark(en)”? Because it more or less works with German horchen — but not with zuhören/zuhorchen, which is a more precise translation of “listen”.

  2. hmm, good point. The only instances I can think of with ‘hark(en)’ involve hark unto X where X is a person or ‘a cry’ (e.g. in the burial service). The OED has no examples of the sort: it has ‘hark to’ (mostly ‘to me’), hark as a transitive (90% of which have phrasal complements, like Harkið hwat se haligast seið. (Vices and Virtues) ‘hark what the Holy Ghost says’, or hark how…)

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