by Gabriel Lomas

(An extract from The Huli Language of Papua New Guinea. A thesis submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the School of English and Linguistics. MacQuarrie University, 1988., pp. 19-21)

This word is used to designate the means employed by a society to control its environment and enhance its well-being. Under this heading I would like to consider briefly gamu, gardening, animal husbandry, and houses and other artifacts.
2.4.1 gamu This term is used generically of religious formulae, which are directed primarily towards achieving material well-being through the manipulation of non-material controlling forces. Thus there are gamu associated with nearly every situation to be encountered in daily life, and a simple working knowledge of these is considered normal. There are also gamu performed at clan and subclan levels, led by those that have the specialist knowledge required such as the kebeali already mentioned (cf above).
2.4.2 mabu There is a variety of gamu to accompany the important practice of gardening. Gardens, called mabu, are made by clearing the bush and digging over and composting the soil before planting. Each person has a large garden in an area of cleared bush, drained by deep ditches and protected from stray pigs by wooden fences. The initial heavy work of clearing the bush is done by the man, but the woman will then do the mounding and planting if the garden is meant for her, otherwise the man usually completes the work by himself.
2.4.3 anda A similar division of labour is observed in constructing anda ‘houses’. The man cuts down the trees and adzes the planks from which the walls and rafters are made, and the woman brings bundles of swordgrass to be used for thatching. Usually houses are not situated by the owner’s main garden, but scattered through the bush> each house having its own gama ‘small garden’ around it. A typical anda is about 1.5 metres in height, 2 metres wide, and 3.5 metres long, with a dirt floor that has a scooped out fireplace in the middle.
2.4.4 Some artifacts. Essential artifacts for Huli undertakings are the stone axe, aju, and the hardwood digging stick, keba. String is made by rolling tree fibres together, and is used to bind the axe head to the haft. It is also used for a variety of other purposes, one of them being to make the woven string bags, nu, carried by men and women alike. Men weave it into an apron or sporran to cover their genitals, using sprigs of leaves to cover the buttocks. Most men wear a manda ‘wig’, woven from human hair, and most have a danda ‘bow’ and timu arrows for hunting and for warfare. Women dress in hurwa ‘skirts’, made from dried reeds and, like men, will frequently carry a dalu tu ‘raincape’ in their bags. Women seldom smoke, and those that do use pipes made of bamboo (mundu be) , just as the men do. Other important artifacts are the tabage ‘drum’, played by dancers, and the gawa ‘mouth bow’ and hirijule ‘jaws harp’, mentioned in
2.4.5 Animal husbandry. The most important domesticated animal is the pig, nogo. It is easily cared for, being allowed to roam free during the day, or simply left tethered to a clump of grass while its owner is busy in the garden. At night, pigs are herded into a separate part of the woman’s house, into a pen called a golia, and there shut in and fed on sweet potato.

Other animals domesticated for food are chickens, which were introduced by white people, and cassowaries, although the latter are regarded as exceptional, since they do not play a significant role in the Huli economy. Dogs are kept for hunting purposes, or as household pets, and are not considered to be edible meat.

2.5 Social Behavior

The social behaviour of the Huli cannot be described in detail here, and I shall concentrate on brief descriptions of the behavioural patterns of women and of men, and on the notion of taga ‘loss of face’.
2.5.2 wali A woman’s daily round involves herding the pigs, looking after the children, and weeding and gathering food from her’ garden. She prepares food for herself and her children by baking sweet potatoes in hot embers, or steaming them in an oven made by heating stones and then placing the food on them before covering them over with banana leaves and earth. She works away little by little at tasks such as rolling string and making it into pig ropes or string bags, and at making skirts for herself and for her daughters.

She spends much time socializing with other women, establishing a network of relationships and dependencies through casual barter and exchange, or through simple phatic communion. She acquires knowledge of gamu in this way, and uses it as the needs arise. She may also practice on and become skilled in playing the gawa or the hirijule.

She joins the other women of her kindred to wail and mourn at burial ceremonies, and may become a leader of dugu chants. She is similarly present and involved at clan and subclan rituals, and will expect her husband to give her vegetables and pig meat cooked in the long earthen ovens dug out for the occasion by the menfolk.

Her daughters receive no formal education from her or from the other women of her group, but copy their mother and assist her from an early age with the domestic chores. When her daughters reach puberty they will be instructed briefly by their mother or by older women on the need to hide during menstruation, and on the gamu to be used to secure a strong husband and to protect him when he is away hunting or at war. They will begin to notice young men, especially the haroli, whom they will see from time to time at ceremonies and celebrations.

A girl may become a man’s first or second wife, and will usually leave her subclan to join his. She will have her own house, to which her husband never comes, and will meet him in the bush to consummate their union. Older women will assist her at childbirth and supply advice on the gamu and other measures necessary for childbearing.

2.5.3 agali A young Huli boy leaves his mother’s house when he is about nine years old and goes to live with his father and male relatives. He ceases to accept food cooked by women, and begins to learn from his father important things like gardening, hunting, cooking, and warfare. He learns who his enemies are and where the subclan and clan boundaries lie.

He learns to respect and obey the older men, who reward him for minor services and generally protect him, giving him food and shelter when he needs them. He gradually and informally begins to acquire skills, and in his early teens will begin to make his own garden and look after himself. He will be given small pigs by friends, and will either herd them himself or get his mother or sisters to herd them for him.

He may or may not become a haroli, and if he does he will have to rely on his network of relationships within his sublcan when arranging for his garden and pigs to be cared for while he is away. In return for this care he is expected to pay pigs and food.

While with the haroli his knowledge of sacred myths, lore and gamu is deepened. He learns how to conduct himself in a manly way, to put up with unusual privations, and to negotiate the difficult and sometimes dangerous task of surviving in the dense bush. He is taught the strategies necessary to combat the evil influences of women, and how to weave the upwards-curving manda ‘wig’ that is worn by the haroli.

When he leaves the bachelor cult he becomes a warrior, returning to his subclan but ready to join in warfare between other subclans, even when he has no personal interest in the matters under dispute, for to be brave and daring is to earn esteem. Thus he becomes involved in the chain of conflict and revenge that is endemic in Huli society. He will not be significant in subsequent peace negotiations, but will attend the mourning feasts for those killed. He will not be allowed to remain for the evening courting parties that follows these feasts, at which only married men and unmarried . women may be present.

Indeed, he will not have much influence in these affairs, nor in decision making at subclan level, but will follow the decisions and directions laid down by older men. He will also join hunting parties that from time to time go to the high bush to seek game and to harvest pandanus nuts, and will learn the tajanda bi ‘bush language ‘used by his subclan to confound the dama and dinini.

He will soon marry, having little part in the negotiations over the bridewealth, but being responsible for assembling the number of pigs eventually decided upon. If he cannot meet the price he has to rely on his kinsfolk and friends to assist him, and will incur debts that he must eventually repay in full. But he will not be pressed to make repayments, and within the delicate and complex web of interpersonal relationships will remain always to some degree in debt, with others always to some degree in debt to him, for the rest of his life.

He may begin to specialize in certain forms of gamu, paying pigs to others for the knowledge they impart. If he pursues his specializations, he may eventually become acknowledged as a manaji, and in his turn will begin to command fees for his services.

Generally, his interests expand and his individual initiative begins to develop as he starts to reside multilocally and to participate in the affairs of a number of subclans simultaneously. When conflicting claims arise amongst these subclans, he may adopt a neutral, position by withdrawning to another place or he may espouse the cause of one particular group (cf Glasse 1968: 136).

As his wealth increases he has to acquire more and larger gardens for his pigs, which in turn means more wives to take care of these assets. More demands will be made on him for as resistance, and he will become recognized as a homogo. He becomes an important man, known beyond the confines of his own clan, and he will begin to wield an influence throughout a wide area. (cf Glasse 1968: 136.)

Such a homogo has to have considerable interpersonal skills, knowing the right things to say and the correct registers to select when addressing people. Others, less endowed with these talents, will achieve influence in the other modes of leadership outlined in 2.3.2. specializing in the registers associated with these pursuits. (Cf Glasse 1968: 135-136; Peters 1975: 1-17; Cheetham 1979: 88-89.)

2.5.4. Taga This word can be glossed as ‘shame’ or ‘loss of face’, and, together with turu ‘well-being’ or ‘maintenance of face’, is central to a behavioural norm that says one. should avoid inducing taga in another and foster his/her turu. Failure to observe the prohibitive aspect of the norm can have serious consequences, since taga always has to be repaired or assuaged.

If the taga is private, then the experiencer can normally be compensated in private. However, if taga is caused publically, the aggrieved party will usually seek some form of public redress, such as a moot at which the compensation can be fixed (eg Goldman 1980: 219-220). If taga is experienced by whole subclans, the compensation claimed can be high, and war may ensue if the claim is not met.

Turu is seen as a condition that each person should be allowed to maintain in himself or herself. To ensure that one does not destroy this condition in another by causing taga, even accidentally, requires circumspection in a society where most words and actions are in the public domain. To foster turu in another requires dara ’empathy* or ‘sympathy’, and certain associated skills.

Brown and Levinson have proposed a universal, highly abstract notion of ‘face’ which consists of two specific kinds of desires (‘face-wants’) attributed by interactants to one another: the desire to be unimpeded in one’s actions (negative face) and the desire (in some respects) to be approved of (positive face). (1987: 13) Given that every utterance is potentially face-threatening for both speaker and hearer, the speaker employs a range of politeness strategies to cope with this problem (Brown & Levinson 1987 67 et seq) . These include whether or not to do the face ‘threatening ‘act (FTA); whether to do it off record (ambiguously) or on record (unambiguously) ; whether to to it baldly (explicitly and clearly) on record or to redress the hearer’s positive face (positive politeness) or negative face (negative politeness).

This fairly comprehensive description provides a template for surveying a speech community’s politeness strategies. It is possible to cross-reference it to the broad categories of Huli taga avoidance (face saving) strategies and turu-fostering (face giving/maintaining/enhancing) strategies.

Taga avoidance may address the hearer’s positive or negative face. It is operative, for example, in the use bage ‘veiled talk’ (cf – circumlocutions and covert references when airing grievances, and in the careful use of softeners, such as the enclitic (-) be (cf 5.5.1), when addressing people one is not sure of, or who are evidently more powerful than oneself. This latter category includes older people of both sexes.

Turu-fostering strategies usually attend to the negative face of the hearer, and include prompting devices such as sup-sportive anaphoric bridging (cf;, and also affirming utterances such as:

Agali hegeneme bajwa ore birida (you’re not just a talker; you’ve acted on what you said.

Ai Daraba (ah, I feel empathy with you) – said on coming upon someone enjoying a sunset.

Included under turu-fostering are strategies to repair taga, which may be used to signal supportive acceptance of the hearer even when the taga was not caused by the speaker. Thus, ai daraba (ah empathy-MOD) – ah, I feel empathy with you/ sorry for you – (said when the hearer fell off his motorbike) can be seen as a repair strategy.

Besides humans, dama and dinini also have to be taken into account. If they are offended, they will feel not taga, but wrath. However, their negative face can be addressed and they can be made to feel turu by propitious behaviour.

The question of politeness strategies is a fascinating one, and deserves a study in its own right. The work of Piirainen-Marsh and Marsh (1987) illustrates that such an undertaking requires a careful analysis of a very considerable amount of authentic data. In this present thesis this matter cannot be given such detailed attention, but it is taken up again in the sections cited above, and in the exploration of texts in chapter 12.

(Photo courtesy of Trans NiuGini Tours)

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