[An-lang] respect vocabulary

Ross Clark (FOA DALSL) r.clark at auckland.ac.nz
Mon Nov 8 05:19:30 UTC 2004

-----Original Message-----
From: Ken Cook [mailto:kencook at hawaii.edu]
Sent: Monday, 8 November 2004 2:05 p.m.
To: AN-LANG at anu.edu.au
Subject: [An-lang] respect vocabulary

In some languages (e.g., Dyirbal, Guguyimidjir, Javanese, and Samoan),
particular words are chosen to show respect for the addressee or referent.
In Samoan (Polynesian), for example, about 450 respect words replace
everyday terms when one addresses or refers to chiefs and orators (Milner
1961). For instance, the ordinary word fale 'house' is replaced by maota
when referring to the house of a chief, while it is substituted with laoa
when one speaks of the house of an orator.

Can anyone tell me how extensive this phenomenon is? I'm really only
familiar with the Samoan version of it, i.e. 'upu fa'aaloalo 'respectful
words'. In which other Polynesian languages does it occur? I know it doesn't
in contemporary Hawaiian, and I don't see any mention of it in Churchward's
Tongan-English dictionary.

There is a brief discussion in the last chapter of Churchward's Tongan
grammar. In the dictionary, individual words are marked as polite,
honorific, regal (used for the sovereign or God) and derogatory.

To what extent does it exist beyond Polynesia?

Maurice Lenormand has described a chiefly vocabulary called "Miny" used in
Drehu (Lifou, Loyalty Islands), in various journal articles and a little
book "Le Miny, Langue des chefs de l'ile de Lifou" (Noumea, Edipop, 1990).

Ross Clark

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