Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationVirginia, U. of
Grant numberGr. 9602
Approve DateApril 13, 2018
Project TitleHoequist, Ida M., U. of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA - To aid research on 'Speech Surrogate Use in the Torricelli Mountains of Papua New Guinea,' supervised by Dr. Lise Dobrin
Preliminary abstract: My research describes an undocumented and typologically unusual speech surrogate system used in Wamsok, a village in the East Sepik Province of Papua New Guinea. In a region where there is widespread shift away from local languages to the national creole lingua franca Tok Pisin, residents of Wamsok not only continue to speak their language, they also whistle, call out, and blow conch shells to communicate across the steep, slippery rainforest mountains they live in — and they do so in a way that seems to defy current models of how surrogates correspond to spoken language. My description of this system of communication situates it in the communicative ecology of Wamsok, which both shapes it an is illuminated by it. The speech surrogates combine musical and linguistic features, illuminating local constructions of both music and language; they coexist with other long-distance communication forms, such as cell phones and slit-gong drums; they are an unusual case of resilience to language shift; and they seem to be an areal phenomenon, shared across neighboring villages and neighboring, genealogically unrelated languages, thus illuminating language contact processes. My work therefore combines ethnography with language documentation and analysis, and, motivated by features of the speech surrogate system itself, takes a multimodal approach to the study of language use rather than taking language to be an abstract, reified object. At its core, the description of this surrogate system, situated in its communicative ecology, demonstrates the co-emergence of forms of interaction (that is, sociality) with forms of speaking.