Hlonipho is a form of respectful behavior, widespread in southern Africa. Its linguistic manifestation has often been interpreted as a "traditional" verbal taboo, whereby married women must avoid uttering the father-in-law's name. The practice of (uku)hlonipha is not only verbal, however. Its fundamentally somatic meaning—covering, avoiding, and suppressing affect—applies broadly to bodily comportment, clothing, and the physical activity of speaking. The linguistic practice of (isi)hlonipha is itself somatic, we argue, in a Zulu ideology of language as voice. (Uku)hlonipha is best understood, we propose, in terms of a semiotic economy that contrasts it with another genre of honorification, the celebratory, exuberant, and expansive practice of (uku)bonga, praise-performance. Bonga is the inverse of hlonipha, and the two are joined in a broader sense of respect and honorific practice. These two genres have been discussed separately in the literature, which also largely assigns them to gendered domains: hlonipha to women and domestic settings, bonga to men and public settings. Combining ethnographic fieldwork with the historical archive, we show that the gender stereotyping—though interesting—overlooks important ways in which each practice can be, and historically has been, done by the other gender. Finally, we explore present-day mediations of voice via mobile phones and radio broadcasting. Hlonipha, broadly conceived as "respect," is part of "doing and being Zulu" in a multicultural and multilingual state, and offers resources for contemporary concerns with social identity. Countering narrow categorizations of performance forms and, equally, assumptions that segregate language from a material world, our discussion explores wider semiotic networks. Linguistic practices, we argue, are not only actions of the mind but also of the body; and language use binds together, differentiates, and enables its speakers.


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pp. 173-207
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