The Concept of Taboo in Raga, Vanuatu: Semantic Mapping and Etymology

Marie-France Duhamel

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    This article discusses the two terms that convey the concept of taboo in Raga, the language of north-central Vanuatu originally spoken in north Pentecost, and provides linguistic evidence expanding on the information published previously by the anthropologists Masanori Yoshioka and John Patrick Taylor. Based on the corpus collected in north Pentecost in the period 2015–2017, and on older ethnographic and religious written material, a semantic map is proposed for the two taboo-related Raga terms: sabuga and gogona. Reviewing the terms that designate the concept of ‘taboo’ in the neighbouring languages, the study also explores the possibility of borrowing and semantic interference from other languages, and proposes that sabuga is a reflex of Proto Oceanic *tabu, albeit an irregular reflex, and gogona a reflex of Proto North and Central Vanuatu*kona ‘sacred, taboo’.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)26-46
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2021


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