Volume 22, Issue 2
  • ISSN 0920-9034
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9870
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Notwithstanding limited micro-sociolinguistic information on who spoke what, how, when, where, and in what other relevant circumstances, Melville’s two major semi-autobiographical novels of the Pacific, Typee and Omoo, invite an analysis in terms of an ethnohistory of speaking, i.e. the restoration of historical linguistic attestations by triangulation with comparative evidence following philological principles and the critical interpretation of extralinguistic, sociohistorical factors by ethnological criteria. In spite of their Anglophone spellings, Melville’s attestations of Maritime Polynesian Pidgin are reconstitutable by comparative evidence from Polynesian source languages, especially Hawaiian, Marquesan, and Tahitian. These recordings deserve recognition for their accuracy on grounds of their overall structural consistency with independent historical data. While the novelist did not explain how he had obtained these recordings, linguistic contrasts suggest that Hawaiian served as a prime (although not exclusive) source of information in full or pidginized form.


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