Parallelism and the Composition of Oral Narratives in Banda Eli


While parallelism is easily recognizable as the source for various literary tropes, it is also important as a resource for the speakers’ dialogic engagement with the patterns of interaction and experience: they embody part of their linguistic habitus. This article explores the forms of parallelism found in a variety of speech and narrative genres in Bandanese, an Eastern Indonesian minority language with about 5,000 speakers. Bandanese abounds with parallel expressions in which speakers use part-whole relations based on social and cultural classifications to construct totalizing cognitive and value statements. At the same time, Bandanese poetics is more than just evidence of an integrated cultural world. The article analyzes interactions between tropes based on repetition and parallelism to suggest that speakers and narrators use them to create a resonance between immediate rhetorical effects and larger recognized aesthetic positions in their folk categories. A prominent example of such resonance is the use of parallelism in eloquent, public speech. When speakers use the lexical contrast between Bandanese and the regional or national majority language as a source of parallel expressions, they draw from an aesthetic in which powerful speech resonates with past and future dialogue with outsiders. Recent scholarship on parallelism and repetition encourages us to recognize that they produce potential dialogic relations on a larger scale than that of single utterances. This approach can produce valuable insights into possibilities for innovation in and revitalization of Bandanese and other minority languages threatened by demographic change and loss of use in their former domains.

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