A Word. Palaver and Its Transferal Residues

Shah, Mira (2014). A Word. Palaver and Its Transferal Residues. Word and Text. A Journal of Literary Studies and Linguistics, IV(2), pp. 67-83. Universitatea Petrol-Gaze din Ploieşti

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The word 'palaver' is colloquially associated with useless verbiage and the nuisance of a tediously long, aimless and superfluous debate. At the same time, it insinuates an uncivilized culture of discourse beyond reason. Thus it appears to be of vaguely exotic origin but still firmly set in the European lexicon. Yet behind this contemporary meaning there lies a long history of linguistic and cultural transfers which is encased in a context of different usages of language and their intersections.
By tracing the usage and semantics of 'palaver' in various encyclopaedias, glossaries and dictionaries of English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, the following article explores the rich history of this word. Moreover, it also regards the travelling semantics of the term 'palaver' as a process of cultural transfer that can be likened to the microcellular workings of a (retro)virus. Viral reproduction and evolution work through processes of transfer that enable the alteration of the host to adjust it to the replication and reproduction of the virus. In some cases, these processes also allow for the mutation or modification of the virus, making it suitable for transfer from one host to another.
The virus is thus offered here as a vital model for cultural transfer: It not only encompasses the necessary adoption and adaption of contents or objects of cultural transfer in different contexts. It contributes to a conceptual understanding of the transferal residue that the transferred content is endowed with by its diversifying contexts. This model thereby surpasses an understanding of cultural transfer as literal translation or transmission: it conceptualizes cultural transfer as an agent of evolutionary processes, allowing for mutational effects of transfer as endowment.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Linguistics and Literary Studies > Institute of Germanic Languages
06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Linguistics and Literary Studies > Institute of Germanic Languages > Modern German Literary Studies

UniBE Contributor:

Shah, Mira


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 390 Customs, etiquette & folklore
400 Language > 420 English & Old English languages
400 Language > 430 German & related languages
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400 Language > 460 Spanish & Portuguese languages
400 Language > 470 Latin & Italic languages
500 Science
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700 Arts
800 Literature, rhetoric & criticism
800 Literature, rhetoric & criticism > 820 English & Old English literatures
800 Literature, rhetoric & criticism > 830 German & related literatures
900 History
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900 History > 960 History of Africa


2069-9271, 2247–9163


Universitatea Petrol-Gaze din Ploieşti




Mira Shah

Date Deposited:

31 Mar 2016 09:16

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:52





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