The pragmatics of palavering in Kikoongo
Studies in African languages beyond the common core of linguistics are lacking. This motivates this dissertation which investigates the use of Kikoongo, a Bantu language, focusing on natural data produced by the Maniaanga of BesiNgombe region, Bas-Zaire, Zaire. The data are referred to as palavers. These consist of three complex speech events namely, wedding, bereavement and reconciliation viewed as instances of
conflict' management. Each of them is taken not only as a speech event but also as a highly structured sociocultural unit with linguistic implications.The study of palavering as a speech behavior aimed at resolving disputes (Frake 1979) contributes to Pragmatics as defined by Levinson (1983) and Leech (1983). This study provides a body of information that supports the new discipline as an adequate means for demonstrating that any language is an entity that is divisible into units of a higher order than sentences and/or utterances. The fundamental approach adopted to analyze this unit is that of ethnographyof speaking' (Hymes 1972) and discourse or text analysis, especially, conversation analysis (CA). This approach is descriptively adequate for this study because palavering is basically an extended verbal exchange between two representatives (spokesmen) of two parties who may allow duetting (Falk 1979) and audience involvement or response elicitation whenever appropriate. Speaking publicly, the main participants generate most of the speech intended to achieve their goals as geared toward dispute resolution. The involved speakers operate systematically, following an elaborate code of conduct.This study demonstrates that the pragmatic competence required for palavering consists of paralinguistic and linguistic behaviors which make a palaver an essential institutionalized instrument of survival in Koongo society. In the end of such an event the speakers project a structurally and functionally coherent macro-unit. This appears through the use of metalinguistic terms that also demonstrate that their activity consists in an attempt to find a compromise according to established norms. The participants perform their speech acts within the confines of a mind-unifying event.