'Double talk': parallel structures in Manambu songs, and their origin

Aikhenvald, Alexandra Y. (2014) 'Double talk': parallel structures in Manambu songs, and their origin. Language & Linguistics in Melanesia, 32 (2). pp. 86-109.

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The Manambu language belongs to the Ndu language family, and is spoken by over 2500 people in five villages located on the Sepik River (Ambunti district, East Sepik province), in addition to a few hundred expatriates living in other areas of PNG. The language is still in active use (see Aikhenvald 2008). However, a substantial amount of ritual and traditional religious knowledge has been lost, challenging the continuity of the Manambu heritage. The speakers' competence in composing songs of any genre is rapidly dwindling. Traditionally, the Manambu had three song types:

• mourning songs gra-kudi (sung by women after someone's death and during the mortuary rite Keketep which may take place a year later);

• laments about foiled marriages and missing or endangered relatives (namay and sui), sung by men and by women.

Each of these poetic literary forms (improvised by performers) consists of two parallel stanzas. The first one (referred to as apEk 'side') typically consists of a sentence interspersed with totemic address terms and names (relating to the clan of the addressee or the protagonist of the song). The second stanza restates the first one in different wording using what the Manambu speakers call the 'other side' (agEkem 'on the (other) side of two'). This reflects binarism, or 'parallelism', a pervasive feature of the Sepik culture (Bateson 1936/1958: 239; Harrison 1983: 20). This paper investigates the structure and the origin of the 'other side' song register. A number of forms can be shown to originate in the neighbouring Ndu languages (especially Western Iatmul and also Abelam (or Wosera), and may reflect traditional patterns of diglossia and exchange of words and spells characteristic of the Manambu culture.

Item ID: 37329
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 0023-1959
Date Deposited: 27 May 2015 00:13
FoR Codes: 20 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 2004 Linguistics > 200408 Linguistic Structures (incl Grammar, Phonology, Lexicon, Semantics) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970120 Expanding Knowledge in Language, Communication and Culture @ 100%
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