Metaphors of an endangered forest people, the Yanomae (N. Brazil)

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Among the Yanomae-speakers of Brazilian Amazonia the close relationship between language, culture and the environment is revealed in the use of metaphor, metonymy, and euphemism in a wide range of words and phrases. For example, euphemistic metonymy demonstrates how not speaking of the dead can provide insights into Yanomami culture as the deceased are referred to by specific items of material culture that identify each individual’s role in traditional Yanomami society. This paper provides abundant examples from field data to demonstrate how the traditional culture and rain forest lifestyle are reflected in images created by the Yanomae language. Deeply rooted in rain forest culture, the language will continue to thrive only as long as Yanomami lands remain protected from outside exploitation.


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