by Laurence Goldman

A continuation of Huli Talk About Talk.

The phrases expressing the nature and effects of talk or dispute constitute only part of the speech framework in which argument is conducted. Equally significant is the verbal repertoire associated with the evaluation of “accounts” (ct. Scott and Lyman 1968) – justifications, excuses, and other types of incriminatory and defensive speech patterns. Table 4 sets out the terms of common usage that pertain to negative evaluation of speech and the set of terms connoting settlement of a dispute. From an examination of Table 4 a number of important points emerge relating directly to observations made already. The transition from standard to reduplicative forms in rhetoric reiterates the point that speech is here determined by aesthetic norms. Furthermore, because these terms are figurative, we can perceive two levels of congruity: (1)that within the set of negative phrases -the metaphorical words embody two basic semantic axes discussed below; (2) that between the negative expressions and the terminology for conflict resolution – the figures derive from similar domains of social behaviour, e.g. “knotted/entangled” and “unravel/untie”, etc. Despite the lacunae of comparative data, material on the Melpa (A. Strathern personal communication) strongly suggests that occurrences of reduplicative transitions in negative speech evaluation may be common in the Highlands. In the Melpa “talk about talk”, the term ik (talk) is compounded in precisely the same way as the Huli term bi. Moreover, negative evaluation utilizes terms which reflect aspects of sound, ik ngakor ngakor (talk+creaking), ik nilyim nalyim (gossip); elements of direction, ik mbukl mbakl (talk+separate ways), ik wurung arang (talk+east-west) and covertness, ik kroya meroya (talk+crooked), ik klprpk marpk (talk+closed up). For the Huli I would contend that reduplication represents one manifestation of indigenous concepts of language potential for aesthetic elaboration or manipulation.

It is culturally routed not only in speech patterns occurring in disputes, but as a stylistic feature of most genres examined further on. Its auditory appeal -based on sequenced phonemic similarities -renders reduplication a suitable rhetorical device (and one used by modern media advertisements) with mnemonic functions alluded to in previous chapters. Verbal teasing among children is one socialisation context where opposition of these analogues prevails. Joke forms approximate to renditions of “Now you see it now you don’t” embodied in the following antonyms:

Ogolabo:Tegelabo (these two:not these two)
Ogoda:Nogoda (this one:not this one)
Mba:Mba Tau (let’s go:let’s not go)
Au:Hau (here it is:nothing here)
Bole laya:Ega bole laya (I’ll hit you:I’ll hit birds)

These verbal acts are often accompanied by actions which make an offer and then retract it -e.g.a clenched hand is opened to reveal nothing inside. The important observation is that the semantic oppositions are paralleled by linguistic oppositions (minimal pairing), contrasts of meaning are signalled by slight phonemic contrasts. This linguistic reflection of negation typifies certain insult forms later discussed. Significantly, the Huli and Melpa terms given above embody a number of semantic dimensions. These are:

Dimension of covertness -veiled talk as in F.1-5,Table 4.
Dimension of futility -through insubstantiality, ineffectiveness and impermanency:G.3,6,7/H.1-11,Table 4
Dimension of control over knowledge and speech.

I develop the analysis by explaining how these dimensions are reiterated in other speech genres occurring in disputes. In addition, I relate the above to interpretative processes of interaction and speech production in conflicts. It is not analytically critical that no indigenous term exists for these dimensions, or that we tail to find a suitable gloss for the features of meaning conveyed by Huli phrases embodying the abstracted dimensions. What seems important is that we understand the idiomatic aspects of the contrasts along any one of the axes. For example, along the dimension of substAntiality, Huli oppose talk like ‘pain’ with talk like I smoke'(bi hagua) or any of the terms H.1-11 in Table 4. At this juncture we may follow the mode of explication set out in Seitel’s(1974) analysis of Haya metaphors for speech. Below are a number of turns of phrase and proverb used in speech evaluation which function differently from those previously examined.

5.a) The snake puts out its tongue but does not always bite:nogombi po napole, yamo hege tomia bere.
b) Are you fetching water from the root of the Ere tree (octamrtus leioetala fam.mrtaceae):ere pini iba duguarebe implies that the talk is ever-flowing and ceaseless like water).
c) The talk is like pouring water on the marita nut: abare iba ale odarego (ref.D.9:354-356: water, is poured onto the fruit and then squeezed out. The phrase implies that the talk has no lasting effect).
d) Are you just masturbating? i wi gidaribe? (ref.D.7:355-356;383-384; D.9:127;277-278; D.5:100-101;144: -implies that the talk is as wasteful and fruitless as the act of masturbation). I have pointed out previously that the metalinguistic term applied to these expressions is bi mabura (talk+to go around). They precisely reflect the elements of meaning listed under the dimension of futility, and are congruous with the set of negative evaluation terms listed in Table 4. Once again these remarks invite comparison with data available on the Haya, where object-oriented forms such as fire, sand, grass, tobacco, water and mud occur as metaphorical predicates. The Huli material reveals a prevalence of action-oriented forms. In regard to the social origin of such figurative phrases used in “talk about talk”, it is the interaction with an environment rather than purely an abstraction of objects that constitutes the base for analogic processes of thought in Huli speech. This is evident from the considerable body of bi mabura presented in this chapter, though whether this applies to other Highland systems cannot as yet be judged until data of this kind are presented. The manner in which the dimension of effectiveness is utilised in rhetoric through the medium of metaphor is well illustrated in the following text. It is the speech made by a land-mediator as a preface to D.1. which I treat separately for the purposes of this analysis.

Speaker:Muguye (Official land-mediator for Koroba)

1 When we have seen the lies there, they will be pulled
out and left on the gardens over there; they were
sour like the pens of the pigs. While we are there
pulling them out, that man will have pain added
and will be cut with an axe. The talk that I am saying
is that I will see an end to the pain, and when
I have done this the land will go to the owner.
Concerning land, cunning, lies, persistence and pain
I have seen all these things. If you have some true

10 talk to tell and you hold it in, you will say later
that you should have told it out now. We will say
later the lie gave the land. The truth should be
said on the Casuarina trees, it will be seen on the
drains, on the houses of both men and women, from the
nut trees; these things are holding me. The ancestral
land (dindi kuni,ref.Table 1) belongs to one only, you
can’t pull him out and leave another there I have told
you when you hold onto the talk then that causes pain.
If you make a small talk and take a short road then

20 this big matter will be settled quickly. Painful talk
(bi tandaga) which continues to stay there is within
the clan; talk which is with another clan will be
settled quickly. Within the clan the talk will be left
like a scar, between two clans it will be good. If two
men of Koma clan argue then that creates pain; if two
men of Tobani clan argue then that creates pain.
Between two clans it doesn’t matter if you have a big
war, it will be settled. So now you talk the real talk .

Painful talk (bi tandaga) which continues to stay there is within the clan; talk which is with another clan will be settled quickly. Within the clan the talk will be left like a scar, between two clans it will be good. If two men of Koma clan argue then that creates pain; if two men of Tobani clan argue then that creates pain. Between two clans it doesn’t matter if you have a big war, it will be settled. So now you talk the real talk.

The speech illustrates a number of themes. Lines 1-7 state the relationship between I lies’ and the creation of pain (tandaga:cf.also D.1:486-487). Lines 8-11 reiterate the assumption that people will hide their talk; lines 12-17 call attention to forms of evidence and the importance of “seeing” in the forthcoming debate; lines 19- 27 locate the source of pain as an intra-clan phenomenon, thus skillfully indicating that the dispute can be settled as it is between clans. Lines 27-28 return to the theme of hiding/holding talk, enjoining the participants to tell only the “real” talk. This expectation of mendacity characterizes most of the mediators speeches in D.1.(ref.458-468;547-551) and relates to levels of anticipation / expectation in disputes that people will “cover” the talk. It is this concept of covertness in Huli speech that I next discuss.

The kind of expectations embodied in the above colloquy echo closely Melpa ideas that “people don’t reveal talk quickly, they deny and deny for a long time and only later do they reveal the facts” (Strathern 1975:96). Within this domain of hidden talk is a parallel set of proverbs to those enumerated for the axis of futility. These are:

6.a ) Women hide their breasts while men look on wali andu hendeore halu kema handagola ni yi halu kemi(ref.D.9:209-212;290-291:implies the speaker is conducting his talk in an analogous manner).
b)Are you giving water to the snake/or possum? : puya/tia iba meregobe?(ref.D.2:166;D.9:340-341 – a reference to the action of pouring water into the mouths of these animals before cooking them, so as to cleanse the intestines. The implication is that there is an attempt to wash away, or cover over the

These proverbs act to organise and structure interaction within a conflict by reference to a background of cultural expectations. M. Rosaldo in her analysis of IIongot oratory has remarked that “through talk about talking, speakers are able to orient themselves to assumptions about the relation of language and social context which are ordinarily left implicit” (1973:215). The proverbs do not represent a discrete entity in the discourse of the Iluli. They stand, in precisely the same way as the idiomatic terms of G and H in Table 4 and the associated set of proverbs outlined in 5.a-d, in relations of congruity and contrast with other speech forms and patterns. On the level of congruity they reflect the same semantic elements as the terms listed in F. 1-6 in Table 4. At the level of contrast and opposition, they fall at one end of the axis of covertness, and we must explore the terminology of positive evaluation of speech to understand the contrasting metaphors used.

Many ethnographers of speech have noted that oratorical forms are opposed to “straight” speech (cf.Rosaldo 1973:197, Strathern 1975:189). This seems to apply to the Huli. Set out below a re the five most common positive evaluation terms. J.1. bi kuni(talk+bone) -“important/real talk”; ibini (talk+itself) -“real talk”; bi tigabi (talk+right direction) -“straight/true talk”; haruane (talk+ridge-pole of house) -“straight / true talk”; tombe hea (talk+full stomach) -“satisfying talk”. The significance of choosing an idiom as kuni (bone) in the vocabulary of speech assessment can now be appreciated from contexts of use outlined in Chapter 1. The connotations of strength and permanency provide an important contrast with the insubstantial aspects of those terms of negative evaluation previously described.

The association of straight and true talk must be viewed within the context of the Huli emphasis on speech being “open” and “seen”. I have remarked upon this occurrence in the oratorical extract cited previously where the speaker commented that “the lies will be seen and pulled out”. The sphere of sense perception in terms of sight, rather than other senses, is linguistically marked in Huli language. Statements based on direct perception carry the evidence suffix -da; those based on previous knowledge the suffix; those utterances based on some other sense the suffix -bada. The figurative use of the term muguni (footprint) as a gloss for any kind of visible evidence, reinforces the importance of sight in the valuation of veracity, and provides a level of contrast with “hidden” or “closed” talk. In the wailing text cited in Appendix 8:3, the impressions left behind by a deceased woman are metaphorically spoken of as “footprints of birds” (8:3:137-174). The indigenous concept of witness is denoted by the term de hendene -“the one who saw”. To express the truth of any statement, Huli speak of “face” e.g. the talk stares you in the face (D.8:183), and the locus of truth is situated between the eyes, on the forehead. Interestingly, the term for forehead is wanekui -“daughter’s(wane) bone (kui/kuni)” which seems to express female primacy having the force of our own “on my mother’s lite”. I have shown in Chapter 1 how Aba relations are expressed as “on the forehead”, and how, in Chapter 2, feathers are centrally positioned at the forehead point. Lies are talks without “forehead/face” (ret.D.5:88-89), the same place where shame can be seen (ref.D.4:608-609). Truth is always something visible from mind and forehead (ref.D.4:517-518;981-982). A number of other communicative media reiterate this cultural perception of veracity. The following bi mabura reflects the importance of the visible domain in the assessment of discourse:

7.a) You saw the ants coming down the branch of the tree?:bai magane ugurili daligago handaridago? (In a question format it challenges an opponent to assert what visible justification he has for his statements). The notion that lies can also be inferred from red eyes, and the use of the index finger dipped in ashes to point between the eyes as a non-verbal attestation of truth, are important indices of this conception of truthfulness. The contrast between the aesthetically valued forms of bi mabura/yobage (veiled speech) and straight/true talk poses an important paradox. The enigma is resolved by understanding the way in which Huli contextualise the respective instances of language style and use; that is, those occasions on which “straight” and “covert” talk are appropriate and inappropriate. In order to prepare for this discussion I will first explore further the figurative modes in which “truth” is expressed.

One constituent of the map of linguistic co-ordinates is the set of locative terms outlined below. These function place discourse within the historical aetiology of the conflict, or the structure of argument in progress. K.1. bi tene (talk+origin/base of tree) -“source of the talk 2. bi irane (talk+trunk of tree/stem of plant) -“import talk”; 3. bi magane (talk+branch) -“part of the talk”; 4.b gane (talk+splinter) -“small piece of talk”; amane (ta+base of the banana or sugar-cane plant) -“main, first talk” 6. bi hanuni (talk+middle) -“compromise or unbiased talk 7. bi kugi (talk+left-over rubbish-scraps) -“talk left- from before/unsettled matters); 8. bi daliga (talk+above) – “superficiRl talk only”; 9. bi dindi ha (talk+below) -“ta
secret to a group, or talk underneath as opposed to main talk”; haguene(talk+head) -“main talk or issue introductory talk; 11. bi talini (talk+threshold of house) – “first talk or topic, as opposed to extraneous issues. This set of locative terms forms the basis for a number of comparative points which can be made between the Huli and Melpa systems. M.Strathern’s study of official and un official courts among the Melpa (1972) called attention to the centrality of such phrases as ik ki -“to dig out the talk” (cf.Table 4 and the Huli equivalents ali(to dig) and goda( to extract), ik pukl -“root of the talk and ik peng – head of the talk”. The Melpa term pukl (base) is more than a statement of fact; it connected events in a manner that suggested their explanation. In the judicial context could be glossed as truth”( 1972:20). These comments seem applicable to the parallel Huli term tene. The important contexts in which the term occurs are set out below:

Tene Source Talk by Laurence Goldman.

(1) Hega: You have spread the talk on the road and that is why he became angry and hit you. Are you going to pay him shame compensation (taga abi)?
Wolumbu: That is what happened but I don’t want to talk on it. The ma is here but I am throwing it away and going. I am alone, my breast has been eaten by a dog, my son is dead.
Hega: You haven’t heard my talk and are talking on. Are you going to give shame compensation?
Walumbu: If he asks for the money I will give it, he will say if he wants it. The other women were behind me so we will all give a pig.
Egeria: If they say they laughed and tell us the reason then we will throw it away. First there was one woman only and then the rest came. They laughed and I went where there is no track (haria nawi).
Walumbu: They were laughing, it was not my idea (i mini nawi). I was going stright home but they laughed and that is why we are having this talk.
(20) Kabo: Hega has told us the source (tene). When someone makes a joke and you laugh like a frog, as has happened, they you are the source of the talk (bi tene). The ones behind you laughed at what you were saying. The man is saying, “I don’t know what you were laughing about. I didn’t say anything and I ran to where there was no track.” The sister wanted to make a joke and they laughed.
Walumbu: I was going there and wanted to make small joke (yamo tabirene) but the others came behind me and laughed.
Hega: An important talk (bi galone) was made this morning. There were many of you and he was telling one Mana (about what do to when the flood comes.) He became angry and hit you. If someone hits you then they mean to kill you but you are his sister and he was sorry for you.
Kabo: Enough. The Village Court and others that are down there are not going to settle this, we are here and we will do it. The ones that were behind laughed and he ate shame (taga pani nedo), this is what you are going to pay for. For his anger too we will have a talk.
Egeria: When all the women that were behind come we will talk about the laughter and how I got sore (dere). It is said you can’t laugh. It was not like I was a smelly man; when you have told why you laughed then I will throw it away.
(40) Kabo: This is what you have said – the source is the sister. They laughed and you were on the shame (i tagani), come back and hit your sister. Can you throw it away? Nothing has happened why are we talking like this? There is a small space (ara emene) and we can settle this. The women are there and they know the reason why they laughed so let them tell us.
Walumbu: I was coming without any purpose and they just laughed so if you want to get compensation from them you go, do what you want.
Kabo: The sister is the source of this (tene i mbalini) the others laughed at what she said. If you want compensation then do we collect from your sister or from all the ones that laughed?
Egeria: I had no track down to go on and I made my own. They must say the reason why they laughed, tell the others to come.
Hega: There is a Mana for laughing (Oba naga mana wiyagoni). The sources is the sister. Egeria said your leg is going to be cut (i.e., the flood will sweep you away) and when the woman said this the others laughed. This is the stem (bi irane) of the talk and from there you hit her. Are we throwing away (wa hamabe) this talk? There is something that can finish (tonogo) this quarrel…
(60) Walumbu: This is nothing. Throw it away. You are staying amongst the pitpit (i gambe te ha – ‘confused’.) You are talking a little and leaving some of the talk for later.
Egeria: The women that laughed behind you have gone, we should have talked about this before.
Walumbu: They are not just my friends, they are your relatives, sister, mother, sister-in-law…
Hega: No, the source of the talk is the laughing.
Walumbu: No I was just talking and they started to laugh.
Hega: Was it that or were you thinking of the Mana he told you?
Walumbu: They just laughed at what I was saying.
Egeria: This is how it was. I had no track and I broke through.
They continued to laugh and only stopped when they came to Waiyabe’s
fence. I bent down, held my neck and went into the bush.
Hega: Did they talk about anything and what is the reason they were laughing?
Egeria: They just kept laughing and I went.
Hega: The beginning was like this. When the flood comes it is going to cut off your leg. You were talking about this and then they laughed.
(80) Walumbu: That is true. We were talking about cutting the leg and stretching the leg, but this was near my home and we laughed about it then.
Egeria: Enough, there were seven women there. I am throwing it away. We will see if there is any Mana for this laughing.
Egari: All of you pay 50toya each and give it to him.
Walumbu: Not 50 toya, we’ll pay two Kina.
Hega: It doesnt matter what you pay, there is a big Mana there.
Walumbu: All the talk is on the side of the man (uruni agali naga dge la haga)…
Egeria: You are talking nonsense (bi ko), throw it away…
Walumbu: It is not me, it is you making a bad talk. I didn’t say anything, the sources is being covered (tene mo yi hama). We didn’t insult (la hirama) you.
Hega: Which is the source (tene) we are covering? The source we have talked about; did another woman talk then? You were talking about legs being cut off and pigs being led away. We make Mana and Gamu (spells) for wild pigs and this was being told to you by that man.
Wulumbu: We were talking about this. He married two wives and one of them is there. His Kiane (WZ) is (100) there. You said the flood is going to cut my leg and I was going to give sweet-potato to the pigs. I left my bag in the house and I called the pigs and went.
Hega: You have spread the talk on the road with these women. It is not like water which can come back again (i.e., wash away the talk.)
Walumbu: There were many of us on the road and his relatives so how could we insult (mege) him?
Hega: This is going bad. You brought the talk from home out (tagira) onto this cleared place (hamani). For this he should have hit you. What are you going to do? Your talk is still making it sore (bi dere mo la), so which track is it going to go on?
Walumbu: You think you are near your house and your are insulting me as if I was a lazy woman. Egeria he used to do like this.
Hega: I am saying an important talk (ina galone laro). All relatives, like sister, father and brother used to argue. The talk is sleeping inside you (bi ha pada). It will come like water (plentiful). Now you are deceiving yourselves (madane) so you think on it.
Egeria: She said I used to insult her so ask her wait I said.
(120) Hega: The talk will come like water. It will wash away like the things carried by water in a flood. Then, when it is in the middle of the water how can you retrieve it (i.e., the talk)?
Walumbu: This is how we came so listen. We he came were talking about one pig he gave me. That is Degondo’s daughter’s pig from her marraige. You were looking for pig, you were masturbating (gida hinaga – idiomatic expression for “searching for pig”). My pig was killed and given to them two days ago, but he was looking for pig for Homenego (funeral rites) in my house. I haven’t any pig in my house and so you go and look in your house. This what I told him.
Egeria: The pig that you gave, half was given back to you, and I gave 10Kina for that half.
Kumuria: This talk now is the source of it all.
Walumbu: Wen we talked of this so he it me.
Kumuria: Can you see this is like a war here?
Walumbu: I am here so what can I say? If he asks for payment I will give it. I don’t have to look for it, I will give.
Egari: His wife and these other women are relatives (damene). It is not good to ask your sister only for (140) money. You were talking about the flood. He told you to go, carry pigs, ties up your children. This is the Mana he was saying and then the others came and laughed. The ones behind put it into their minds and laughed.
Walumbu: When I was talking it caused them to laugh (mo ne haria).
Egari: When they laughed he then got shame.
Walumbu: He went and when he came back he kept hitting the mother of the dog (i.e., son).
Hega: We will ask those three women if they laughed at that talk or a different talk.
Egeria: We have shared the talk but some of the women are not here so they will go to court.
Walumbu: You are not an old rotten tree, you are a young one. We are here but now your bottom is wrinkled up (here pedegele ebere) and tomorrow you will be old and rotten (hulu nambi), so throw it away.
Kabo: From your lips and tongue is coming rubbish (ti handa hambu hege la). Women don’t think about being a woman when going along. Boys, don’t think about being boys; girls, don’t think about being girls. The talk from your mouth we will say is rolled up (here mberabi) like a bottom, your eyes are closed up (de hagerabi) and you will say someone is not well-built. This is the talk you will make, and you will go to (160) court a second time. This too is a court. What is coming from your mouth is going out (into public). Don’t do like this. The source Egeria has said – the flood will cut off the legs. From this the women and others behind her laughed.
Walumbu: Those women laughed, he got shame and ran away.
Egeria: There were seven there and they were laughing and then I broke into where there was no track.
Walumbu: When women came men too used to leave the road. This is what Egeria did I am saying.
Manari: His sister was talking about the water and putting a rope around the pigs and making them calm. She said the flood will cut the legs off. I had carried sweet-potato for the pigs and then I came down and was talking with his wife about the flood.
Walumbu: When I was talking like this and then the others laughed. There was no other talk, it is true what I am saying. They laughed at what we were talking about.
Dalu: When we think of it this man never talks with his wife and sisters. He never brings the talk outside does he?
All: No
Dalu: Does that man ever come outside and talk? You all think on it. You laughed and he is talking now. (180) He is now talking with is sister, with his wife, with his daughter; you know if he is lying or not. He is going to get compensation from these – he has got shame from the talk.
Egeria: I don’t want to carry or steal the money for nothing. There is a Mana for laughing so we will see it. If not we will go to court.
Dalu: For theft I have spoken. We all know that man and he never mad a bad talk with his brothers, sisters or other relatives. He never fights or argues on the public places.
Walumbu: If he asks then we will give it, that is the way it is.
Egeria: One shouldn’t steal the things of people. For insult we can carry (hana). I am going to make the compensation to rub on the sore (i dere biao domole naga mo hanarogoni). We will hear if they are going to give.
Dalu: You said you are going to give compensation, but if only you give it will make your heavy (genda-angry). We will tell all the women to give ten toya each. If only you give you might make a know (pongo – argument) with those other women. What did the man do there? When the flood comes he told you to do these things. The ones behind laughed like frogs and he got shame.
Walumbu: I have two Kina so I’ll give it to him.
Egeria: When there are many men and only one woman do we ever laugh and joke like this?
Kabo: We never do like this.
Walumbu: You hit me. I’ll give you this money and they you pay me for hitting.
Dalu: Did he hit you with weeds or sticks?
Walumbu: He hit me, blood didn’t come out; I fell in the garden.
Dalu: Blood didn’t come out so throw it away.
Kabo: Can you hear, we are you giving you two Kina.
Walumbu: We are under the leg of man so we are giving (agagli ge pouni ha harimago meremago).
Egeria: You yourselves can have the money, the next time we will go to court. We have showed you where there is a Mana there for laughing.
Kabo: I am saying one thing. When somebody or a relative says something and you are about to laugh, don’t. The Mana is there. When someone is not wearing his front apron (dambale) or back-covering (payabu – leaves which cover one’s bottom) in the right way don’t laugh or you will have to kill a pig.

To be continued..

(An extract from Talk Never Dies: An Analysis of Disputes Among the Huli. A thesis submitted by Laurence R. Goldman for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, University College, London. February, 1982., p. 152-163.)

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