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On Wed, 6 Aug 2003, Arthaey Angosii wrote:

> Saw this message on the CogLing mailing list and thought it might make good
> fodder for us conlangers:
>
> >Message 1: Words for "death"
> >Date: Mon, 30 Jun 2003 19:22:06 +0000
> >From: D. Alan Shewmon <[log in to unmask]>
> >Subject: Words for "death"
> >
> >For a medical paper on brain death we are wondering whether there are
> >languages with
> >
> >(1) more than one word for the phenomenon we call ''death''
> >(2) no equivalent for the English word ''death''
> >
> >Re: (1), we are not thinking of joking, euphemistic or substandard
> >substitutes for the ''serious'' word for death.
> >
> >Any help would be greatly appreciated!
> >
> >D. Alan Shewmon, MD
> >Department of Neurology
> >David Geffen School of Medicine
> >University of California, Los Angeles
>
> So, anyone with a conlang like that?

From John Leland:
As I think I've mentioned before, Rihana-ye has two words for death,
one for natural death and one for deliberate killing by a sentient being
(usually human or animal, but also  gods, demons, monsters). Actually, the
basic distinction is in the verbs,"wono" to die naturally, and "biwo"
roughly "to kill", with derived forms "wonoha" and "biwoha" (natural death
and unnatural death) etc. It should be noted that while "wono" is often
intransitive and "biwo" is transitive, the distinction is not exactly the
same as between English "die" and "kill" since in English we can say, for
example, "The storm killed him." but in Rihana-ye this is a natural death
and would be expressed by "wono" with the passive verb suffix, that is
"Veba fimara-je wiwono-si." He storm-by died-was, or by "wono" active with
storm in a prepositional phrase, e.g. "Veba fimara-me wiwono." He storm-in
died. These distinctions carry through a number of derived words, e.g.
"wonosa" die-naturally stone, the gravestone of one who died naturally
etc. The most important distinction in the derived forms is between
wonova, the ghost of someone who died naturally, and biwova, the ghost of
someone who was slain deliberately. The biwova spends the afterlife
in constant heroic warfare (like the Japanese shura or the Norse hero who
went to Valhalla) and also tends to have an active interest in avenging
his/her own death, like the ghost of Hamlet's father; there is an example
of this in the Di Zilali, which I hope will soon be available on Thomas
Leigh's website. (Though I must confess the Di Zilali was compiled at the
time I was envolving these distinctions, and the ghost in question is
sometimes referred to as a wonova.) It is also worth noting, in contrast
to the Norse contempt for a natural "straw death" and the shameful fate
of those who died by it, that to be a wonova is a honorable condition;
wonova-fe are believed to live pleasant peaceful lives in the afterworld,
and may be invoked by the living for aid against the type of disease or
accident which caused the natural death of the spirit in question, while a
biwova would be invoked for victory in battle or the like.
In regard to the moral issues surrounding brain death, a person who died
without a direct human cause would be considered to die naturally ("wono")
even if that involved withholding treatment. On the other hand, a human
who died by direct action of a human, even if under circumstances that
might be morally justified, would be said to be killed "biwo." One partial
exception: a person who suffered severe brain damage in an attack by a
another human and then later was permitted to die after a comatose period
would probably be described with "biwo." It may be noted that these brain
death issues would rarely arise in Rihana-ye conculture, as the medical
system is not sufficiently advanced to keep comatose persons alive for any
long period in most cases.