Unravelling murder and mayhem: An interdisciplinary study of a Wiru divination account, Papua New Guinea

1987 1987

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Abstract (summary)

The endeavor to understand another emic view of reality offers a conceptual challenge to any observer-analyst. This paper presents the author's reflections upon his encounter with another culture and language and his endeavor to understand the cognitive world view of the Wiru, a non-Austronesian language group in the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea. The focus of the study is upon a divination rite during which a long pole, called yomo kopini, was ritually activated and through its subsequent "motions" retraced the steps of an assailant who had raped and murdered a young girl. The transcription of an eyewitness account of the divination is regarded as the "cultural object" (Cassirer 1960) that is analyzed throughout the study.

Chapter One lays a background for the study by (1) briefly discussing the prehistory of the Wiru, (2) reviewing previous research studies that have focused on the Wiru culture and language, and (3) presenting a thumbnail sketch of the Wiru language with emphasis upon verb structure and function in discourse. In Chapter Two there is a discussion of the author's underlying assumptions, an excursus on Husserl's analysis on Whole and part as it pertains to an object-in-context, and a delineation of the methodology to be followed to the study. Chapter Three presents the "cultural object," both in its textual form and in a two-dimensional, emic sketching.

In Chapter Four the author reflects upon "clashes" in world views; using the Basic Values model (Mayers 1979) he then formulates a "composite profile" for Wiru society and projects a cognitive basis for divination among the Wiru. Chapter Five attends to a textlinguistic and semiotic unravelling of the eyewitness text. (1) The four elements of the macrostructure are delineated; (2) story schema and structural evidence are marshalled for a natural articulation of the narrative into its constituent "chunks"; (3) a saliency scheme of verb ranking is developed from an accounting of the verb structure/function as pertaining to the twin time trajectories and on/off-the-storyline; and (4) semiotic mediation provides the mechanism which unravels the yomo kopini itself, as well as the murder.

Indexing (details)

Cultural anthropology
0290: Linguistics
0332: History
0326: Cultural anthropology
Identifier / keyword
Social sciences; Language, literature and linguistics
Unravelling murder and mayhem: An interdisciplinary study of a Wiru divination account, Papua New Guinea
Fullingim, John Michael
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 49/06, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
Longacre, Robert E.
The University of Texas at Arlington
University location
United States -- Texas
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
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