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Reviewed by:
  • Representing Space in Oceania: Culture in Language and Mind
  • Frantisek Lichtenberk
Giovanni Bennardo , ed. 2002. Representing Space in Oceania: Culture in Language and Mind. No. 523. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics. ISBN 0-85883-454-5. vii + 260 pp. Aus$59.00, paper.

The editor identifies three major goals of the volume under review: (i) "to contribute to research on space, in particular to the linguistic, mental, and cultural representations of spatial relationships"; (ii) "to provide for the first time a survey of the research on space in one specific cultural area, that is, Oceania; and (iii) "to suggest strongly within the research on space the value of cross-linguistic and cross-cultural research as well as the surveys of cultural areas" (1). It comes as something of a surprise to see Oceania characterized as a single cultural area. And the geographic and linguistic coverage of Oceania is somewhat uneven. Polynesia and Polynesian languages are well represented (Niue, Tonga, Hawaii, and Samoa [two articles]). There are two articles that deal exclusively with two languages/cultures in geographical Melanesia (Ambae and Fiji), and one article that includes discussion of data from several languages of Melanesia (Tolo, Longgu, Nemi, Tolai, Iaai, Kokota, and Manam) and also from one Polynesian language (Tokelauan). One contribution deals with a Micronesian culture (Pohnpei). And one article concerns a language that is not part of Oceania (Alune, spoken in Eastern Indonesia).

The linguistic, mental, and cultural aspects of the first major goal are reflected in the division of the volume into three main sections: Language and space, Space in mind, and Space and culture. In addition to the articles in the three sections, there is a brief introduction by the editor, in which the contents of the individual contributions are foreshadowed, and a concluding chapter, in which the contents of the contributions are summarized.

According to the editor, "this book is not about space as a metaphor" (1, fn. 2), but all three articles in the last section are about how social relations in the respective societies are conceptualized in terms of spatial relations, and the last contribution in that section is explicitly about the Samoan house serving as a metaphor for social relations.

The first section, Language and space, contains four articles that consider space and spatial concepts from a linguistic perspective, looking at terms having to do with space in the individual languages and (in most cases) investigating in some detail their uses. Margaret Florey and Barbara Kelly (Spatial reference in Alune) identify six directionals on three planes for local space in Alune: seawards/inland, upwards/downwards, and two opposing transverse directions. Local space is "the zone in which ego dwells—the realm of everyday interactions and experiences" (15). Beyond local space, Alune recognizes three further zones progressively farther and farther from local space. For each of these three zones there is only one directional, one of the six used for local space, but a different one in each case. It is a pity the authors do not try to explain why those particular directionals are used; for example, [End Page 258] why for zone 4 (locations beyond Maluku) it is the directional that in local space signifies upward directionality. Included also is detailed discussion of the various directional/locative constructions with examples from texts.

Catriona Hyslop (Hiding behind trees on Ambae: Spatial reference in an Oceanic language of Vanuatu) identifies the vertical axis as the relevant one for Ambae: there are directionals for up/landward, down/seaward, and across/traverse. Interestingly, Hyslop says that for the former two it is the notions up and down that are primary, rather than landward and seaward, respectively, the latter two having been "equated" with them, due to the physical layout of the island. As we will see later, Ambae is not unique in this respect. In addition to the three directionals there are two others, one for direction toward the deictic center and one toward the addressee (and also toward a past or future deictic center). The members of the two sets combine to express notions such as direction up toward the deictic center, a pattern familiar from many Oceanic languages. The directionals up, down, and across...