Accepted Paper:

Semiotic shift of texts in Fiji  


Yuichi Asai (Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology)

Paper short abstract:

This paper attempts to examine two Fijian discourse styles; colonial age documents and narratives about mythical past in the Dawasamu district, Fiji. It concludes that this stylistic difference of discourse from hypotaxis to parataxis indexes the semiotic shift from colonial to post-colonial age in Fiji.

Paper long abstract:

In the early twentieth century, the Native Lands Commission (NLC) of the colonial government in Fiji identified a group category called mataqali as a land-owning unit, and arranged native Fijian society into a three-layered structure: yavusa (clan), mataqali (lineage) and tokatoka (family), forming a district confederation of clans with the paramount chief. In doing so, the NLC compiled two kinds of documents, Ai tukutuku raraba and iVola ni kawa bula; the former archived the historical origins of each clan and their hierarchical order among lineages and families. The latter registered the successive members of clans.

Firstly, the paper analyses how Ai tukutuku raraba ontologically identifies or discursively created the materiality of 'clan' with historic origins and its 'hypotactic' writing style textualizes "district" as spontaneously developed as a result of clan gatherings over the course of history. Secondly, the paper examines how the narrative style of mythical past in Dawasamu shows 'parataxis', which describes the district as it came into existence when one of the clans brought the first paramount chief, i.e., stranger king, there. The paper concludes that this stylistic difference of discourse indexes the semiotic shift from colonial to post-colonial age in Fiji, in which the hierarchical order of group categories has been socio-culturally internalized through member registration in iVola ni kawa bula, which functions as indexical locus or secular 'ritual' to repeatedly evoke the serial order of cultural categories, or myth, as written in Ai tukutuku raraba.

Panel P072
Linguistic anthropology: contributions to the future (Commission on Linguistic Anthropology)