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Reference and 'référence dangereuse' to persons in Kilivila: An overview and a case study


Senft,  Gunter
Language and Cognition Group, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
Multimodal Interaction, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;

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Senft, G. (2007). Reference and 'référence dangereuse' to persons in Kilivila: An overview and a case study. In N. Enfield, & T. Stivers (Eds.), Person reference in interaction: Linguistic, cultural, and social perspectives (pp. 309-337). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0013-1BB8-9
Based on the conversation analysts’ insights into the various forms of third person reference in English, this paper first presents the inventory of forms Kilivila, the Austronesian language of the Trobriand Islanders of Papua New Guinea, offers its speakers for making such references. To illustrate such references to third persons in talk-in-interaction in Kilivila, a case study on gossiping is presented in the second part of the paper. This case study shows that ambiguous anaphoric references to two first mentioned third persons turn out to not only exceed and even violate the frame of a clearly defined situational-intentional variety of Kilivila that is constituted by the genre “gossip”, but also that these references are extremely dangerous for speakers in the Trobriand Islanders’ society. I illustrate how this culturally dangerous situation escalates and how other participants of the group of gossiping men try to “repair” this violation of the frame of a culturally defined and metalinguistically labelled “way of speaking”. The paper ends with some general remarks on how the understanding of forms of person reference in a language is dependent on the culture specific context in which they are produced.