Volume 28, Issue 1
  • ISSN 0929-0907
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9943
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The Tongan language has honorific registers, called a ‘language of respect’ (Churchward 1953). These are two limited sets of lexemes used to refer to people of chiefly and kingly rank and thus honour the societal stratification. Anthropological-linguistic research reveals that these honorifics are a -motivated linguistic practice. The Polynesian concept of (source of the loanword ) means that entities with more (‘supernatural power’) such as persons of higher rank and their personal belongings are ‘sacred’, and it is ‘forbidden’ to get in physical touch with them. The respectful terminology ( and ) is restricted to such entities (signifiers), and its generic character shows that direct verbal contact with the common signifier is avoided. Thus, the honorific registers function as a verbal taboo in its emic sense.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): anthropological linguistics; culture and cognition; honorifics; pragmatics; semantics
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