From mountain talk to hidden talk: Continuity and change in Awiakay registers

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    When the Awiakay of East Sepik Province in Papua New Guinea left their village or bush camps and went to the mountains, they used a different linguistic register, ‘mountain talk’, in which several lexical items are replaced by their avoidance terms. In this way the Awiakay would prevent mountain spirits from sending sickness or dense fog in which they would get lost on their journeys. Over the last decade people’s trips to the mountain have become more frequent due to the eaglewood business. However, Christianity caused a decline in the use of ‘mountain talk’. Yet a linguistic register similar in its form and function has sprung up in a different setting: kay menda, ‘different talk’, or what people sometimes call ‘hidden talk’, is used when the Awiakay go to the town to sell eaglewood and buy goods. Like other cultural phenomena, linguistic registers are historical formations, which change in form and value over time. This paper aims to show how although in a different social setting, with an expanded repertoire and a slightly different function, kay menda is in a way a continuity of the ‘mountain talk’.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationMelanesian Languages on the Edge of Asia: Challenges for the 21st Century
    Editors Nicholas Evans and Marian Klamer
    Place of PublicationHonolulu Hawaii
    PublisherUniversity of Hawaii Press
    ISBN (Print)9780985621124
    Publication statusPublished - 2012


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