To Polynesian Experts

Jeff Marck jeff.marck at
Fri Feb 5 01:16:21 UTC 1999

Probably not really great interpretations.

>" In eastern Polynesia the senior sibling is tuakana constructed upon tua
>cognate with atua or deity (cf. Tregear 1891).

*tua- is a bonafide prefix with the cross-sex sibling terms PPn
*tua-ngaqane and *tua-fafine but the etymology of *tuakana is *tuaka+na.
The *tuaka bit is ancient within Oceanic at least while the *-na is the 3s
possessive which got incorporated into many of the PPn kin terms. Wouldn't
seem to have anything to do with atua.

>The reciprocal of tuakana
>is teina which Elbert (1957) has defined from the Hawaiian as "weak
>person," "trying to walk," "moving slowly."  The reciprocals thus oppose
>god-like power to human weakness" (Goldman p. 460).
>Is Goldman's interpretation of these Polynesian sibling terms legitimate?

I had a good walk through the Polynesian kin terms recently and I don't
think the special sense Haw kai-kaina (from *taina 'younger same-sex
sibling' which often became teina) mentioned by Elbert is common in other
Polynesian languages. But the point may be generally valid, elder same-sex
siblings being genealogically closer to the gods and having greater mana
than their younger siblings. Even around Micronesia people are simply
afraid of their elder siblings. To go against them is to go against the
supernatural order.

All the best,


>Any help gratefully appreciated.
>Per Hage
>Department of Anthropology
>University of Utah
>Salt Lake City, Utah 84112, USA
Jeff Marck BA MA MA PhD              61-2-6249-5626 (w)
Health Transition Centre             61-2-6249-5614 (fax)
National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health
Australian National University       61-2-6249-1454 (h)
Canberra ACT 0200 Australia

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