Social Structure, Space and Possession in Tongan Culture and Language

An ethnolinguistic study

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This interdisciplinary study investigates the relationship between culture, language and cognition based on the aspects of social structure, space and possession in Tonga, Polynesia. Grounded on extensive field research, Völkel explores the subject from an anthropological as well as from a linguistic perspective. The book provides new insights into the language of respect, an honorific system which is deeply anchored in the societal hierarchy, spatial descriptions that are determined by socio-cultural and geocentric parameters, kinship terminology and possessive categories that perfectly express the system of social status inequalities among relatives. These examples impressively show that language is deeply anchored in its cultural context. Moreover, the linguistic structures reflect the underlying cognitive frame of its speakers. Just as several cultural practices (sitting order, access to land and gift exchange processes) the linguistic means are not only expressions of stratified social networks but also tools to maintain or negotiate the underlying socio-cultural system.

Subjects: Sociolinguistics and Dialectology; Semantics; Austronesian languages; Anthropological Linguistics; Psycholinguistics; Pragmatics

  • Affiliations: 1: University of Mainz

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