Gunter Senft

Publications

Displaying 1 - 5 of 5
  • Gerrits, F., Senft, G., & Wisse, D. (2018). Bomiyoyeva and bomduvadoya: Two rare structures on the Trobriand Islands exclusively reserved for Tabalu chiefs. Anthropos, 113, 93-113. doi:10.5771/0257-9774-2018-1-93.

    Abstract

    This article presents information about two so far undescribed buildings made by the Trobriand Islanders, the bomiyoyeva and the bomduvadova. These structures are connected to the highest-ranking chiefs living in Labai and Omarakana on Kiriwina Island. They highlight the power and eminence of these chiefs. After a brief report on the history of this project, the structure of the two houses, their function, and their use is described and information on their construction and their mythical background is provided. Finally, everyday as well as ritual, social, and political functions of both buildings are discussed. [Melanesia, Trobriand Islands, Tabalu chiefs, yams houses, bomiyoyeva, bomduvadova, authoritative capacities]

    Supplementary material

    link to journal
  • Majid, A., Roberts, S. G., Cilissen, L., Emmorey, K., Nicodemus, B., O'Grady, L., Woll, B., LeLan, B., De Sousa, H., Cansler, B. L., Shayan, S., De Vos, C., Senft, G., Enfield, N. J., Razak, R. A., Fedden, S., Tufvesson, S., Dingemanse, M., Ozturk, O., Brown, P., Hill, C., Le Guen, O., Hirtzel, V., Van Gijn, R., Sicoli, M. A., & Levinson, S. C. (2018). Differential coding of perception in the world’s languages. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 115(45), 11369-11376. doi:10.1073/pnas.1720419115.

    Abstract

    Is there a universal hierarchy of the senses, such that some senses (e.g., vision) are more accessible to consciousness and linguistic description than others (e.g., smell)? The long-standing presumption in Western thought has been that vision and audition are more objective than the other senses, serving as the basis of knowledge and understanding, whereas touch, taste, and smell are crude and of little value. This predicts that humans ought to be better at communicating about sight and hearing than the other senses, and decades of work based on English and related languages certainly suggests this is true. However, how well does this reflect the diversity of languages and communities worldwide? To test whether there is a universal hierarchy of the senses, stimuli from the five basic senses were used to elicit descriptions in 20 diverse languages, including 3 unrelated sign languages. We found that languages differ fundamentally in which sensory domains they linguistically code systematically, and how they do so. The tendency for better coding in some domains can be explained in part by cultural preoccupations. Although languages seem free to elaborate specific sensory domains, some general tendencies emerge: for example, with some exceptions, smell is poorly coded. The surprise is that, despite the gradual phylogenetic accumulation of the senses, and the imbalances in the neural tissue dedicated to them, no single hierarchy of the senses imposes itself upon language.
  • Senft, B., & Senft, G. (2018). Growing up on the Trobriand Islands in Papua New Guinea - Childhood and educational ideologies in Tauwema. Amsterdam: Benjamins. doi:10.1075/clu.21.

    Abstract

    This volume deals with the children’s socialization on the Trobriands. After a survey of ethnographic studies on childhood, the book zooms in on indigenous ideas of conception and birth-giving, the children’s early development, their integration into playgroups, their games and their education within their `own little community’ until they reach the age of seven years. During this time children enjoy much autonomy and independence. Attempts of parental education are confined to a minimum. However, parents use subtle means to raise their children. Educational ideologies are manifest in narratives and in speeches addressed to children. They provide guidelines for their integration into the Trobrianders’ “balanced society” which is characterized by cooperation and competition. It does not allow individual accumulation of wealth – surplus property gained has to be redistributed – but it values the fame acquired by individuals in competitive rituals. Fame is not regarded as threatening the balance of their society.
  • Senft, G. (2018). Pragmatics and anthropology - The Trobriand Islanders' Ways of Speaking. In C. Ilie, & N. Norrick (Eds.), Pragmatics and its Interfaces (pp. 185-211). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

    Abstract

    Bronislaw Malinowski – based on his experience during his field research on the Trobriand Islands – pointed out that language is first and foremost a tool for creating social bonds. It is a mode of behavior and the meaning of an utterance is constituted by its pragmatic function. Malinowski’s ideas finally led to the formation of the subdiscipline “anthropological linguistics”. This paper presents three observations of the Trobrianders’ attitude to their language Kilivila and their language use in social interactions. They illustrate that whoever wants to successfully research the role of language, culture and cognition in social interaction must be on ‘common ground’ with the researched community.
  • Senft, G. (2018). Theory meets Practice - H. Paul Grice's Maxims of Quality and Manner and the Trobriand Islanders' Language Use. In A. Capone, M. Carapezza, & F. Lo Piparo (Eds.), Further Advances in Pragmatics and Philosophy Part 1: From Theory to Practice (pp. 203-220). Cham: Springer.

    Abstract

    As I have already pointed out elsewhere (Senft 2008; 2010; 2014), the Gricean conversational maxims of Quality – “Try to make your contribution one that is true” – and Manner “Be perspicuous”, specifically “Avoid obscurity of expression” and “Avoid ambiguity” (Grice 1967; 1975; 1978) – are not observed by the Trobriand Islanders of Papua New Guinea, neither in forms of their ritualized communication nor in forms and ways of everyday conversation and other ordinary verbal interactions. The speakers of the Austronesian language Kilivila metalinguistically differentiate eight specific non-diatopical registers which I have called “situational-intentional” varieties. One of these varieties is called “biga sopa”. This label can be glossed as “joking or lying speech, indirect speech, speech which is not vouched for”. The biga sopa constitutes the default register of Trobriand discourse and conversation. This contribution to the workshop on philosophy and pragmatics presents the Trobriand Islanders’ indigenous typology of non-diatopical registers, especially elaborating on the concept of sopa, describing its features, discussing its functions and illustrating its use within Trobriand society. It will be shown that the Gricean maxims of quality and manner are irrelevant for and thus not observed by the speakers of Kilivila. On the basis of the presented findings the Gricean maxims and especially Grice’s claim that his theory of conversational implicature is “universal in application” is critically discussed from a general anthropological-linguistic point of view.

Share this page