CONCEPTUALIZING ‘FRONT’ AND ‘BACK’: FRAMES OF REFERENCE AND TAUMAKO REPRESENTATIONS OF SPACE
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.5070/SD991031890
The study of navigation involves questions about the conceptualization of space and ways in which people share their spatial understandings with others. This article focuses on one aspect of spatial cognition, a phenomenon commonly known as “frames of reference” (FoRs). It explores the myriad ways in which Taumako islanders in the southeastern Solomons talk about spatial relations that English speakers term ‘front’ and ‘back.’ I examine how Taumako notions of ‘front’ and ‘back’ articulate with FoRs that are well established in the anthropological literature, and I explore the challenge of applying commonly-accepted FoR typologies to actual Taumako usage. In some contexts, there was little disagreement among my interlocutors as to proper use of the salient terms. In others, there was considerable divergence; and in certain instances even the same person appeared to be inconsistent from one occasion to the next. I will attempt to identify those areas in which I found widespread consensus as well as those in which disagreements were pervasive, and I will consider possible reasons for that difference.