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MoG Man & Society vol. 11              Order this book on-line

Fortescue, M. 1988.
Eskimo orientation systems.
30 pp. 2 figs. 1 plate. 6 maps. 63 DKK.

Data concerning local terms for cardinal and wind directions have been gathered from all areas of the Eskimo-speaking Arctic, selectively presented in the form of maps, and analyzed into underlying parameters. Focus has been placed on terms that apply over wider geographical areas than those of the well-known common system of Eskimo demonstrative stems as applied to the immediate surroundings. An extension of a subset of the latter is nevertheless central to the generalized system of three basic orthogonal parameters in terms of which the highly heterogenous data is analyzed. It is argued that this abstracted system whether in its coastal or riverine variants may be a more reliable guide to Eskimos discussing journeys over complex Arctic terrain than compass orientation can provide. The origins of the system in relation to the alignment of the walls and entrance of the traditional Eskimo house is discussed in diachronic terms.