“... to grasp the native's point of view ...” — A plea for a holistic documentation of the Trobriand Islanders' language, culture and cognition

Senft, G. (2020). “.. to grasp the native's point of view..” — A plea for a holistic documentation of the Trobriand Islanders' language, culture and cognition. Russian Journal of Linguistics, 24(1), 7-30. doi:10.22363/2687-0088-2020-24-1-7-30.
In his famous introduction to his monograph “Argonauts of the Western Pacific” Bronislaw Malinowski (1922: 24f.) points out that a “collection of ethnographic statements, characteristic narratives, typical utterances, items of folk-lore and magical formulae has to be given as a corpus inscriptionum, as documents of native mentality”. This is one of the prerequisites to “grasp the native's point of view, his relation to life, to realize his vision of his world”. Malinowski managed to document a “Corpus Inscriptionum Agriculturae Quriviniensis” in his second volume of “Coral Gardens and their Magic” (1935 Vol II: 79-342). But he himself did not manage to come up with a holistic corpus inscriptionum for the Trobriand Islanders. One of the main aims I have been pursuing in my research on the Trobriand Islanders' language, culture, and cognition has been to fill this ethnolinguistic niche. In this essay, I report what I had to do to carry out this complex and ambitious project, what forms and kinds of linguistic and cultural competence I had to acquire, and how I planned my data collection during 16 long- and short-term field trips to the Trobriand Islands between 1982 and 2012. The paper ends with a critical assessment of my Trobriand endeavor.
Publication type
Journal article
Publication date
2020

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