Indexical Speech across Samoan Communities

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Abstract

By extending the work of linguistic anthropologists on indexicality to transnational communities, this article shows how a simple instruction to "sit down" can be a way of making physically distant worlds emotionally and ethically close. Comparison of the use and context of this expression among Samoan speakers in two communities, a Western Samoan village and a suburban neighborhood in southern California, illustrates the power of language to bridge the gap. "Talking space" is at the same time a socialization strategy to teach children proper ways of behaving in front of adults and an attempt to provide cultural and socioethical continuity despite the distance between the islands from which immigrant Samoans come and the new environment in which they live and raise their children.

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