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Week 8 - Interdisciplinary archaeo-linguistic approaches

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Interdisciplinary archaeo-linguistic approach to intercultural exchanges: the integration of Polynesian communities in Central Vanuatu

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Aymeric Hermann and Mary Walworth @ CNRS & MPI

Central Vanuatu is known for its chiefdoms based on titles and clan affiliations, which are reminiscent of the typical social organization in Polynesia. Moreover, the presence of several Polynesian-speaking communities in the outliers of Mele, Ifira and Emae proves that migrations from Polynesian islands occurred centuries before European contact. In this paper, we analyse available linguistic data (both historical and contemporary) and examine multiple sources of information to document the semantic values of the discussed forms, including ethnographic and archaeological sources. These investigations allow us to identify loanwords between Polynesian and non-Polynesian languages in an effort to uncover the specific domains and directionality of cultural exchanges between these peoples. This approach, inspired by the ‘triangulation method’ developed by P. Kirch and R. Green, provides evidence for specific patterns of interaction that created a unique cultural sphere in central Vanuatu. Furthermore, this paper provides insight into the kinds of material that should be present in the archaeological signatures of Polynesian occupations in this region.

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