Small stories and associated identities in Neverver

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For the Neverver-speaking people of Malekula Island in Vanuatu, name avoidance is a central part of everyday life. Name avoidance permeates all types of discourse, including nimitl (traditional legends) and nossorian lele (little stories) that arise in more and less formal contexts. I examine name avoidance by tracing four women through a large corpus of recorded speech events. I consider a traditional folk figure, a young woman who worked closely with me, her paternal aunt, and myself. Drawing on a variety of narrative types and my associated ethnographic observations, I look at the choices that speakers make in context to talk about and to these women (including myself), revealing that naming choices embed speakers fully in their society.


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