Chuuk Lexicon

This linguistic/biological paper presents a major compilation of names of organisms in the Lagoon and Outer Islands of Chuuk, Federated States of Micronesia, and is a significant contribution to the documentation of indigenous knowledge. Mr. Davis spent many years in Chuuk and accumulated an impressive collection of names, many of which have not been recorded before. The author's abstract and a tiny sample of the work are given below. [Please note that some of the diacritic marks used may not show correctly in your browser.]

A Preliminary List of Animal Names
in the Chuuk District, Micronesia, with some notes on plant names

Alan E. Davis
Micronesica 31(1): 1-245
Abstract--This is an unfinished list of animal names, including many unverified names, from dialects / languages commonly heard in Chuuk Lagoon, the Mortlock Islands, Hall Islands, Western Islands (Pattiw) and Nominweito, constituting the Eastern end of a chain of related dialects and cultures extending from Sonsorol and Tobi to Chuuk Lagoon. This list may emphasize a relatively small number of dialects; names are listed, however, from throughout the district. Animal names are ordered phylogenetically, divided, into three separate parts according to classification. The first part is devoted to the invertebrates--worms, sponges, crabs, insects, and molluscs, for example--divided into separate chapters by category. Fishes are the subject of the second part; they are lumped together in one large chapter, divided into sections by family. Other vertebrates, the birds, reptiles and amphibians, and mammals, are covered in part three. Two appendices include some notes on botanical names: Appendix A covers the fungi and algae; Appendix B consists of notes on names of higher plants. This list includes extensive notes and remarks on cultural values, use, and knowledge, gleaned from many local sources. Notes are included to help identify the organisms or names, when they are not certain. An index lists all the names in an alphabetical order by local name.

6.6 CEPHALOPODS: OCTOPUSES AND SQUIDS  [This sample is but 5 of 45 entries under this category.]
'afátemas Octopus that crawls up onto land; often said to have fewer than eight legs. Also the name of the bird Eudynamis taitensis (page 172). ALT: afetamas.        Munien; Wonip; Fósón.
ammót Because of the superficial similarities in external coloration of shells of Nautilus sp. and Trochus niloticus, this name, that of T. niloticus, has been elicited more than once as the name of the Nautilus.

amwmwú Possibly a brittle-armed octopus. SYN: rowófémwmwú; nikamwmwú. An arm dropping octopus, recently described by Mark Norman, is new to science. Such octopuses do not have ink glands; their protection comes from being able to autotomize an arm and run away, just as a lizard drops off its tail. These octopuses may be known to Chuukese, as octopuses whose arms break off easily, including rowófémwmwú, nikamwmwú, and amwmwú. One man seemed to understand that such octopuses do not have ink sacs. In Farré Village, on Tol, they are fished before dawn, while the other small octopuses, the nighttime octopuses, are fished in early evening.            Eét.

kúhan leeror A description that is probably reliable: "a black colored octopus the size of a full grown spider. When you catch it, it easily breaks. Black and grey. Hardly see stripes [but he thinks there are stripes]. The largest are about 1 cm in diameter at head. A bit larger." A name similar to this one has been given for brittle stars. Likely a name for brittle stars. SEE: Echinodermata: Ophiuroidea, page 86.                Puluwat.

kúhan mayi An octopus on banks, in deep water. Very large, hard, chewy tentacles, black. This species is speared and caught with a line. Pulusuk fishermen use squid jigs.                Pullap.

1. Davis, A.E. 1999. A Preliminary List of Animal Names in the Chuuk District, Micronesia (with some notes on plant names). Micronesica. 31(1): 1-245. Date Revised/Accepted: 01 February 1998.