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While reading Marvirinstrato, I came across an interesting sentence: "Ili veturis laŭ la rivero," my best translation being "They traveled along the river." Can we use "laŭ" to translate as "along?"

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Yes. I would even go as far as saying that that is the normal definition of the word. The other meanings are probably derived metaphorically from this definition. PIV has the following as its first definition:

laŭ Iradon de unu ĝis alia fino de objekto longforma, kies direkton oni sekvas: ŝi malleviĝis laŭ la trunko; li venas laŭ la ŝtuparo mallaŭte; karesi katon laŭ la haroj; li veturigos nin laŭ Rejno supren; li ekiris laŭ tiu ĉi rivero; […]

Rough translation:

Movement from one side to another of a long-shaped object whose direction is being followed.

Note that the last example almost exactly matches the one from Marvirinstrato.

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  • Does "laŭlonge de" work as well? "Ili veturis laŭlonge de la rivero." I'm just wondering since it's a word I learned previously. – Chris McDowell Sep 24 '16 at 11:28

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