This interdisciplinary study investigates the relationship between culture,
language and cognition based on the aspects of social structure, space and
possession in Tonga, Polynesia. Grounded on extensive field research,
Völkel explores the subject from an anthropological as well as from a
linguistic perspective. The book provides new insights into the language of
respect, an honorific system which is deeply anchored in the societal
hierarchy, spatial descriptions that are determined by socio-cultural and
geocentric parameters, kinship terminology and possessive categories that
perfectly express the system of social status inequalities among relatives.
These examples impressively show that language is deeply anchored in its
cultural context. Moreover, the linguistic structures reflect the underlying
cognitive frame of its speakers. Just as several cultural practices (sitting
order, access to land and gift exchange processes) the linguistic means are
not only expressions of stratified social networks but also tools to
negotiate the underlying socio-cultural system.