University of Chicago Press
In the Western Polynesian society of Samoa, cultural learning and the acquisition of competency in many domains is substantially influenced by the hierarchical structure of social relations and interactions. From a population-level perspective, this pattern of intergenerational transmission of culture can generate differential distribution of competencies based on children’s relative household rank for many domains of cultural knowledge. As the local primary school provides children with opportunities to learn without regard to household rank, the possibility exists that it may act as a countervailing force in the distribution of cultural competency. This report examines this possibility through the analysis of children’s developing competency with the Samoan honorific lexicon, a basic yet important element of the larger category of respectful behavior that all adults are expected to acquire. A multiple-choice test of the Samoan honorific lexicon was administered to a sample of early adolescent school children aged 10 - 14 years (n = 64) at a single, rural primary school. Analysis of this data set supports the interpretation that the primary school functions to reduce the levels of variation in competencies across the population of children, and thus operates as a leveling mechanism in this domain of cultural knowledge.
honorific lexicon, cultural learning, psychological anthropology, Samoa
Anthropological Linguistics and Sociolinguistics | Anthropology | Developmental Psychology | Linguistic Anthropology | Other Anthropology
Harold L. Odden (2011).
The Impact of Primary Schools on the Differential Distribution of Samoan Adolescents' Competence with Honorific Language. Current Anthropology.52 (4), 597-606. University of Chicago Press.