Qualitative study of cultural contact


Investigator: Marian Klamer


Little is known about the history of dispersal of speakers of Papuan languages on Alor and Pantar, and about interactions of the Austronesian languages Lamaholot and Alorese on the one hand, and Papuan neighbouring languages, on the other. In P1, we study linguistic traces of cultural contact, collecting and synthesising survey data from across the region, including evidence from the languages studied in P2-P3-P4 (Abui, Adang, Western Pantar, Teiwa, Alorese and Lamaholot). We focus on kinship terminologies, place names, and words and structures of ritual languages.


The Lamaholot-Pantar-Alor (LPA) region shows enormous variation in kinship terminology and practice, even though many language communities are linked through marriage ties (Barnes 1996, Stokhof 1977, Steinhauer 1993). Kinship terms vary between languages according to ancestor-descendant relationships. The more closely related two languages are, the more likely they are to share cognate forms, and the more likely it is that the meanings of the terms coincide. As a social construct, kinship practice may be influenced by language contact, with concomitant changes in the shape or meaning of the kin terms. There are many studies on Austronesian kinship terminologies, their relation to culture, and historical evolution (e.g., Van Wouden 1968, Barnes 1973, Blust 1993a, Fox 1995), but Holton (to appear a) is the first comparative study on kinship in the Alor-Pantar (AP) family. Building on this, we compare kinship terminologies of AP languages with each other as well as with those of the Austronesian Alorese and Lamaholot varieties, seeking evidence for borrowing or retention of kin terms. This, in turn, can support cultural contact scenarios.


Through place names, languages can be linked to geographical locations. Charting the linguistic shapes of place names is another tool for reconstructing current and former social networks and group migrations. Also, place names are often intimately connected to origin stories. In the origin narratives of Austronesian languages in eastern Indonesia, history is represented as walking along a particular path that is verbally expressed as a list of toponyms (Fox 2005). It remains to be investigated if and how the Papuan societies on Pantar and Alor connect topogenies and genealogies; and how the AP terminologies compare to those used by Austronesian Alorese and Lamaholot speakers.


Most eastern Indonesian societies have a special ritual language for prayer, oration, poetry, and song, and special registers for hunting and fishing, avoidance vocabulary, and word tabooing. All these registers reflect social and cultural features of the societies in which they are used. Many salient ritual phenomena in the LPA region involve elaborations or restrictions on particular words. Similarities in ritual words across languages point to common cultural heritage, and thus provide a window on cultural and linguistic contacts from a lexical point of view.


References Link


Project 1: Traces of cultural contact and socio-cultural history

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Exploring the difference between linguistic borrowing and inheritance ...