Home Institution

University of Puget Sound

Publication Date

Spring 2007

Program Name

Samoa: Pacific Islands Studies


Due to the absence of a written language, prior to 1830, Samoa has always had a strong oral tradition where histories, family genealogies, songs, and traditional knowledge have been passed down from one generation to the next. Verbal discourse between family members and especially female generations has been essential in continuing traditional practices and ways of living. As the fa’asamoa (the Samoan way) adapts to the forces of modernity and globalization, verbal discourse between female generations is in transition. Younger female generations are becoming better educated than their mothers and grandmothers, an increased number of Samoan females are migrating to urban settings and abroad, and teenage girls are more readily adopting Western values and styles. All of these factors are contributing to new forms of mother-daughter communication. Despite changing patterns of verbal discourse and its impact on Samoa’s oral tradition, mother-daughter communication continues to be rooted in the fa’asamoa; shaped by its underlying concept of respect and identity with one’s aiga (family).

This paper utilizes ethnographic fieldwork, personal interviews, surveys, and secondary literary and academic sources to investigate the ongoing nature of verbal discourse that exists in Samoa between mothers and daughters, and to determine whether existing and changing communication patterns contribute in altering Samoan cultural identity.


Anthropology | Linguistic Anthropology | Social and Cultural Anthropology


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