Holistic reconstruction of the Polynesian ake/a`e 'scented, hardwood, mostly plant name' group with help from Horatio Hale.

Ethnobotany 1
Date and Time: 
Thursday, 17 March, 2016 - 10:30
, Puanani - University of Hawai`i, Dept. of Botany

How does a Western Polynesian name for a tree end up meaning ‘wooden bat’ and ‘type of odor’ at Polynesia’s eastern edge?  The answer lies in the phylogeny of the Polynesian word ake which, together with its linguistic cognate a`e, forms a pan-Pacific plant taxon and a lexemic protoform.  It’s meanings include: Zanthoxylum, Dodonaea, Sapindus, Xylosma, Olearia and Microsorum, as well as products made from other species and words unrelated to plants.  This investigation gathered ake/a`e words from Polynesian dictionaries, combined them with indigenous names for the named genera, and found additional ake/a`e words using comparative linguistic practices.  It then elucidated how and why the word and its meanings changed by integrating data regarding the morphology, characteristic properties, distribution and use of the included species, the pathways of Polynesian migration, and the effects of colonization and cultural hegemony.  Finally, it identifies seven factors that together make this one related group.