metaphor and the metalanguage: “groups” in northeast Arnhem Land

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Abstract

Ethnographic description often involves the substitution in an anthropological metalanguage of expressions embedding one set of metaphors for indigenous expressions that incorporate quite different tropes. In this article I examine metaphors implicit in the language of “clan” and related expressions, especially the corporate “body” or “person,” “boundaries,” “segments,” and the “levels” of taxonomic hierarchy. I then show why the use of such expressions has led to anomalies in descriptions of the construction of Yolngu “Murngin” patrifilial groups. These are constituted through tropes related to ancestors, the body and plants, and connections through ancestral journeys and creative acts. [metaphor, translation, lineage theory, Murngin, Yolngu, Australian Aborigines]

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