Inside(r)-outside(r): Toward a Linguistics and Sociology of Space on Pitcairn Island

Joshua Nash


This article investigates how the explicit and fixed inside– outside (landward-seaward) absolute spatial axis used to describe offshore space linguistically in the Pitcairn Island language, Pitcairn, can be applied metaphorically to a more implicit and flexible social axis of insider–outsider in Pitcairn Island society. An argument merging the role of the researcher-as outsider interacting with informant-as-insider and real and perceived social threat is advanced. The piece concludes by reasoning that descriptions of grammaticalised space in the Pitcairn language are stricter and less flexible than the potentially more fluid appreciation of the constitution of the island’s insider–outsider consensus.


Cultural contact; Pitcairn Island; ethnography; fieldwork; South Pacific; spatial orientation;

Full Text:



Amoamo, Maria. 2011. 'Remoteness and Myth Making: Tourism Development on Pitcairn Island'. Tourism Planning & Development 8(1): 1-19.

Bennardo, Giovanni (ed.). 2002. Representing Space in Oceania: Culture in language and mind. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.

Birkett, Dea. 1997. Serpent in Paradise. New York: Anchor Books.

François, Alexandre. 2004. ‘Reconstructing the geocentric system of Proto Oceanic’. Oceanic Linguistics 43(1): 1-32.

Källgård, Anders. 1981. ‘Pitcairnese: A Report 30 Years after Moverley, Concentrating on the Vocabulary’. Masters dissertation, English Department, University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

Marks, Kathy. 2008. Trouble in Paradise: Uncovering Decades of Sexual Abuse on Britain’s Most Remote Island. London: HarperCollins.

Mawyer, Alexander & Richard Feinberg. 2014. ‘Senses of Space: Multiplying Models of Spatial Cognition in Oceania.’ Ethos 42(3): 243-252.

Moverley, Maida. 2007. Our Pitcairn Story. I & G Selby, New Zealand: Diane Moverley (digital copy in possession of the author).

Nash, Joshua. 2017. ‘Pitcairn Island, island toponymies, and fishing ground names: Towards the possibility of a peaceful onshore and offshore reconciliation’, Journal of Territorial and Maritime Studies, 4(1): 98-108.

Nash, Joshua. 2016, ‘Creole spatiality and Pitcairn Island: a comment on Feinberg and Mawyer’s Ethos Special Issue Senses of Space’, Ethos 44(1), 3-8.

Palmer, Bill, Gaby, Alice, Lum, Jonathon & Jonathan Schlossberg. 2016. ‘Topography and frame of reference in the threatened ecological niche of theatoll’. Paper presented at Geographic Grounding: Place, direction and landscape in the grammars of the world conference, 30 May 2016, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

Palmer, Bill. 2010. ‘Route description tasks in Kiribati’. Paper presented at the 8th conference on Oceanic Linguistics. Auckland, New Zealand, 5 January 2010.

Ross, Alan S.C. & Albert W. Moverley (eds.) 1964. The Pitcairnese Language with contributions by E. Schubert, H. E. and Alaric Maude, E. H. Flint and A. C. Gimson. London: André Deutsch.

Senft, Gunter. (ed.) 1997. Referring to space: Studies in Austronesian and Papuan languages. Oxford Studies in Anthropological Linguistics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Simmel, Georg. 1921. ‘The Sociological Significance of the ‘Stranger’’, in Robert E. Park and Ernest W. Burgess (eds.). Introduction to the Science of Sociology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 322-327.

Young, Adrian. 2016. ‘Mutiny’s Bounty: Pitcairn Islanders and the making of a natural laboratory on the edge of Britain’s Pacific empire’. PhD dissertation, Department of History, Princeton University.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2016