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Potent roots and the origin of kava

Lynch, John D. (2002) Potent roots and the origin of kava. Oceanic Linguistics, 41 (2). pp. 493-513. ISSN 0029-8115

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Abstract

Botanical evidence suggests that kava, Piper methysticum, may have first been domesticated in northern Vanuatu, and this implies that no Proto-Oceanic term can be reconstructed with this meaning. The dissimilarities between widespread terms for 'kava' like maloku in northern Vanuatu, yaqona in Fiji, and kava in Polynesia have complicated the issue, making it unclear what the earliest reconstruction might be. I show in this paper, however, that the term kava apparently derives from a Proto-Oceanic term *kawaRi, which referred to a root with special psychoactive and/or ritual properties: probably a species of ginger (Zingiber zerumbet), and possibly also to "wild" kava (Piper wichmannii) and to plants used in stupefying fish. This form apparently underwent a semantic and formal change, and was applied to kava when it was first domesticated. Later lexical changes in Vanuatu and Fiji are investigated, and a chronological sequence for the spread of kava--including spread from some Polynesian source to New Guinea--is proposed.

Item Type: Journal Article
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PL Languages and literatures of Eastern Asia, Africa, Oceania
Divisions: Faculty of Arts, Law and Education (FALE) > Pacific Languages Unit
Depositing User: Ms Shalni Sanjana
Date Deposited: 29 Aug 2002 16:10
Last Modified: 29 Aug 2012 16:10
URI: http://repository.usp.ac.fj/id/eprint/5228
UNSPECIFIED

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