Volume 75 1966 > Volume 75, No. 1 > Notes and news, p 2 - 5
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On September 30th, 1965 Maoris throughout New Zealand mourned the passing of Hoani Retimana Waititi, Maori Education Officer, aged 39 years, whose work among his people had made him known throughout the length and breadth of the land. They were joined in their sorrow by his many Pakeha friends. The cathedral at Auckland was unable to contain the gathering at the memorial service, and all day the Maori Community Centre remained crowded as party after party of visiting mourners paid their respects before the coffin. In the ensuing days, at marae after marae on the long journey home to Whangaparaoa at Cape Runaway the local people paid their last farewells to ‘John’, of whom Harry Dansey has said:

“His greatest gift . . . was his ability to be a friend of high and low, rich and poor, Maori and Pakeha, because of his utter sincerity. He valued the friendship accorded him by great and important people but valued equally the confidence of men serving prison sentences. I have seen him in Government House, I have been with him when he visited Auckland Prison. His manner was no different in either place. He was in the flesh the biblical character without guile.”

Committees have been set up at Cape Runaway, at Auckland, and at a number of other places to raise money for a memorial scholarship to John Waititi. Readers of this Journal who wish to subscribe to his fund should send their contributions to The Secretary, John Waititi Memorial Scholarship Committee, 52 Millen Ave., Pakuranga, Auckland.

Mr. Andrew Sharp supplies the following:

“On pp. 264-265 of the September 1965 issue of the Journal of the Polynesian Society, Dr. David Lewis announced his tentative plans for sailing from Eastern Polynesia to New Zealand, including the use of Admiralty Chart 5216 of the South Pacific and the tables and diagrams in Gatty's Raft Book. He conceded that he would ‘have the benefit of today's geographical knowledge,” but would sail without using instruments. The prehistoric Polynesians, however, did not have copies of the profuse European material consulted by Dr. Lewis, including the precise and detailed knowledge of longitudes, latitudes and bearings compiled over several centuries. In due course, in December 1965, Dr. Lewis reached New Zealand, to the accompaniment of Press reports that he had sailed from Rarotonga to New Zealand using ancient Polynesian navigational methods. This was an over-simplification for which I hope and trust Dr. Lewis himself was not responsible. The prehistoric Polynesians did not have copies of Admiralty Chart 5216 or Gatty's Raft Book. Even if Dr. Lewis had not used such detailed European material either in planning his voyage or conducting it, I do not think his voyage would have provided a valid test of prehistoric navigation. No mariner today can free his mind of the European geographical knowledge embodied in European maps.”

Readers' attention is drawn to the article by Dr. Lewis in this issue of the Journal.

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Professor Isidore Dyen, of Yale University, writes:

I think that I must protest. In the review of Stimson and Marshall's Tuamotuan Dictionary (J.P.S. 74 : 377), you say:

. . . Stimson talks of a Reao dialect which “may be an extremely archaic form . . . not a congener of the other widespread and closely related speech groups” (p. 23) Dyen found no other Polynesian language that shared more than 44.7% of cognates with his (incomplete) Tuamotuan basic wordlist.4 It has become something of a linguistic folktale that there is a mysterious non-Polynesian element in Tuamotuan.

I believe that even a careful reader would conclude that I agree with what you call “a linguistic folktale.” I had never heard of this formulation before in connection with Tuamotuan and I object very strongly to having this view imputed to me. It may be that all that is involved is an unfortunate collocation. Certainly after having reread the passage in my book you refer to, I am at a loss to see how one can manage to involve my views in the way that you apparently have. It is quite clear that something is queer about the lexicostatistics, but that is a far cry from positing a non-Polynesian element. I think a corrective note is in order.

It was not intended to imply that Professor Dyen held the view that there is a non-Polynesian element in Tuamotuan and we are happy to print his disclaimer.

The theory that there is such an element in the language of the Tuamotu archipelago was first proposed by Horatio Hale, in 1846, who said, on pp. 143-44 of United States Exploring Expedition vol. 6, “. . . the whole language is constituted of two elements—the one similar to the Tahitian, the other peculiar, and unlike any that we find elsewhere. The words which come under the latter description are not only numerous but they are such as are usually original in a language, and very rarely introduced from abroad,—such as man, woman, fire, water, good, bad, and the like. They seem to form a part of some primitive tongue, which has been corrupted and partially destroyed by an infusion of Tahitian . . . From what source this foreign element which is here apparent was derived, cannot now be determined. A comparison of the peculiar words in the Paumotuan with the corresponding terms in various other languages of Oceanica has led to no satisfactory result.”

In the introduction to The Maori Comparative Dictionary. Edward Tregear says, “This dialect (Tuamotuan) although in bulk Polynesian, has been crossed with some foreign tongue in a very remarkable manner. The numerals, and many of the vital words are utterly strange to the Maori linguist”. On p. 519 of volume 3 of The Cambridge Anthropological Expedition to Torres Straits S. H. Ray apparently entertains the idea that Tuamotuan contains a Papuan substratum, and Robert Heine-Geldern, in a letter to this Journal (67 : 171), refers to “the non-Polynesian elements, said to occur in the dialects of the Tuamotu and Marquesas Islands. . . ”.

In an unpublished manuscript (1963) Ralph White says, “The peculiarly aberrant characteristics of Tuamotuan were noted long before . . . glottochronology. Edward Tregear noticed them 70 years or more ago; J. Frank Stimson, Kenneth Emory and others gave the matter their attention in the 1930's. Two explanations have been advanced:1) a substratum language which existed in the Tuamotus before the advent of Polynesian people, 2) rapid differentiation by metaphorical substitution, due to peculiarities of geographical and social conditions. There is a third possibility: purposive substitution of high-frequency vocabulary items so as to make the speech unintelligible to (other) Polynesians . . . My own bias is in favour of the substratum hypothesis, but I think that the other two factors enter into the picture, too.”

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In an unpublished dissertation entitled Vergleichende Untersuchungen über die Sprache der Osterinsel (Hamburg University, 1963), Hans-Georg Bergmann shows, however, that many of the words which Tregear found ‘utterly strange’ do, in fact, have cognates in other parts of Polynesia, though accretive formatives, and semantic change have somewhat obscured this. As was indicated in the review referred to by Professor Dyen, the substratum hypothesis is an unnecessary one, in spite of the fact that it has been widely accepted over a long period of time.