Volume 39, Issue 1
  • ISSN 0378-4177
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9978
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In many languages, terms denoting the human body and its parts constitute a closed subclass of nouns with special grammatical properties. Many if not all parts of the human body may acquire dimensions of meanings with ethnographic importance. I focus on a tri-partite division of visible and invisible parts of a human and their attributes in Manambu, a Ndu language spoken in the East Sepik province of Papua New Guinea. The trichotomy of ‘body’ (səp), ‘mind’ (mawul) and ‘spirit’ (kayik) in Manambu reflects a culturally embedded conceptualization of what a human is. Each of the three taxonomic units has specific grammatical properties. The physical and mental profile of a human being in Manambu (as in many other languages) cannot be appreciated without understanding the grammar. Conversely, a structural analysis of a language is incomplete unless it makes reference to the system of belief and concepts encoded in it.


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