“Holo what?” or, The Exceptional Business of Naming: A Dialogue

Mareike Neuhaus


North American Indigenous literatures use what I call the relational word bundle, a rhetorical structure that is exceptional both in form — it functions as synecdoche writ large — and origin — it derives from the holophrase (one-word sentence), a significant Indigenous language structure. This article explores the rhetoric of the relational word bundle, from the perspective of both classical rhetoric and Indigenous rhetorics, focusing particularly on Canadian contexts. In the spirit of the exceptionality of the relational word bundle, the article takes the form of a fictional dialogue between two critics. Their conversation points to the relational word bundle as the rhetorical embodiment of Indigenous notions of community and storytelling. Tracing the story of the relational word bundle’s evolution, this dialogue also explores the ethics of reading, thus foregrounding questions often lingering in the background: what do critics do, how, and why do they do it?


Indigenous rhetorics; Indigenous literatures

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