5. Attractiveness and adornment

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This contribution is based on the author’s lexicographical work in two Papuan speech communities as well as on published and unpublished narratives, songs, and instances of everyday speech. About a dozen dictionaries of Papuan languages and the ethnographic literature was checked. There is a discrepancy between the important messages transferred via the olfactory and visual channels of communication and the poor linguistic means referring to them. The signals used in olfactory and visual communication are not necessarily transformed into meaningful acoustic signals, they form part of the signaling behavior in the functional cycles of eating, pair formation, fight and threat. Words and idioms come into being in relaxed meta-practical activities like the artist’s work or during speaking about being attracted or repelled, examining food, growth, freshness and decay and by exploring the environment for signs of dangerous or useful and beautiful things and humans.


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