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Kinship terminology refers to specific systems of familial relationships. Kinship terminologies include the terms of address used in different languages or communities for different relatives and the terms of reference used to identify the relationship of these relatives to ego or to each other.

Societies in different parts of the world and using different languages may share the same basic terminology patterns; in such cases, one can very easily translate the kinship terms of one language into another, although connotations may vary. But translators usually find it impossible to translate directly the kinship terms of a society that uses one system into the language of a society that uses a different system.

Contents

Historical view

Anthropologist Lewis Henry Morgan (1818–1881) performed the first survey of kinship terminologies in use around the world. Though much of his work is now considered dated, he argued that kinship terminologies reflect different sets of distinctions. For example, most kinship terminologies distinguish between sexes (the difference between a brother and a sister) and between generations (the difference between a child and a parent). Moreover, he argued, kinship terminologies distinguish between relatives by blood and marriage (although recently some anthropologists have argued that many societies define kinship in terms other than blood).

However, Morgan also observed that different languages (and, by extension, societies) organize these distinctions differently. He proposed to describe kin terms and terminologies as either descriptive or classificatory. When a descriptive term is used, it can only represent one type of relationship between two people, while a classificatory term represents one of many different types of relationships. For example, the word brother in English-speaking societies indicates a son of the same parent; thus, English-speaking societies use the word brother as a descriptive term. But a person's male first cousin could be the mother's brother's son, mother's sister's son, father's brother's son, father's sister's son, and so on; English-speaking societies therefore use the word cousin as a classificatory term.

Morgan discovered that a descriptive term in one society can become a classificatory term in another society. For example, in some societies, one would refer to many different people as "mother" (the woman who gave birth to oneself, as well as her sister and husband's sister, and also one's father's sister). Moreover, some societies do not group together relatives which the English-speaking societies classify together. For example, some languages have no one-word equivalent to cousin, because different terms refer to mother's sister's children and to father's sister's children.

Armed with these different terms, Morgan identified six basic patterns of kinship terminologies:

  • Hawaiian kinship: the most classificatory; only distinguishes between sex and generation. Thus, siblings and cousins are not distinguished (the same terms are used for both types of relatives).
  • Sudanese kinship: the most descriptive; no two types of relatives share the same term. Siblings are distinguished from cousins, and different terms are used for each type of cousin (i.e. father's brother's children, father's sister's children, mother's sister's children and mother's brother's children).
  • Eskimo kinship: has both classificatory and descriptive terms; in addition to sex and generation, it also distinguishes between lineal relatives (those related directly by a line of descent) and collateral relatives (those related by blood, but not directly in the line of descent). Lineal relatives have highly descriptive terms; collateral relatives have highly classificatory terms. Thus, siblings are distinguished from cousins, while all types of cousins are grouped together.
  • Iroquois kinship: has both classificatory and descriptive terms; in addition to sex and generation, it also distinguishes between siblings of opposite sexes in the parental generation. A genealogical relationship traced through a pair of siblings of the same sex is classed as a blood relationship, but one traced though a pair of siblings of the opposite sex can be considered an in-law relationship. In other words, siblings are grouped together with parallel cousins, while separate terms are used for cross-cousins. Also, one calls one's mother's sister "mother" and one's father's brother "father". However, one refers to one's mother's brother and one's father's sister by separate terms (often the terms for "father-in-law" and "mother-in-law", since cross-cousins can be preferential marriage partners).
  • Crow kinship: like Iroquois, but further distinguishes between mother's side and father's side. Relatives on the mother's side of the family have more descriptive terms, and relatives on the father's side have more classificatory terms. Thus, Crow kinship is like Iroquois kinship, with the addition that a number of relatives belonging to one's father's matrilineage are grouped together, ignoring generational differences, so that the same term is used for both one's father's sister and one's father's sister's daughter, etc.
  • Omaha kinship: like Iroquois, but further distinguishes between mother's side and father's side. Relatives on the mother's side of the family have more classificatory terms, and relatives on the father's side have more descriptive terms. Thus, Omaha kinship is like Iroquois, with the addition that a number of relatives belonging to one's mother's patrilineage are grouped together, ignoring generational differences, so that the same term is used for both one's mother's brother and one's mother's brother's son, etc.

Relative age

Some languages, such as Tamil, Sinhalese, Chinese (see Chinese kinship), Japanese, Hungarian, Bulgarian and Nepalese add another dimension to some relations: relative age. Rather than one term for "brother", there exist, for example, different words for "older brother" and "younger brother". In Nepali, an older male sibling is referred to as daju or dai and a younger male sibling as bhai, whereas older and younger female sibilings are called didi and bahini respectively.

Identification of alternating generations

Other languages, such as Chiricahua, use the same terms of address for alternating generations. So a Chiricahua child (male or female) calls her paternal grandmother -ch’iné, and likewise this grandmother will call her son's child -ch’iné. Terms that recognize alternating generations and the prohibition of marriage within one's own set of alternate generation relatives (0, ±2, ±4, ±6, etc.) are common in Australian Aboriginal kinship.

Relative age and identification of alternating generations

Tagalog borrows the relative age system of the Chinese kinship and follows the generation system of kinship. Philippine Kinship distinguishes between generation, age and in some cases gender.

Discovery of Dravidian kinship terminology

Floyd Lounsbury (1964) discovered a seventh, Dravidian type of terminological system that had been conflated with Iroquois in Morgan’s typology of kin-term systems because both systems distinguish relatives by marriage from relatives by descent, although both are classificatory categories rather than based on biological descent. Kay (1967), Scheffler (1971), and Tjon Sie Fat (1981) gave variant criteria for Dravidian classificatory logic, but the basic idea is that of applying an even/odd distinction to relatives that takes into account the gender of every linking relative for ego’s kin relation to any given person. A MFBD(C), for example, is a mother’s father’s brother’s daughter’s child. If each female link (M,D) is assigned a 0 and each male (F,B) a 1, the number of 1s is either even or odd; in this case, even. In a Dravidian system with a patrilineal modulo-2 counting system, marriage is prohibited with this relative, and a marriageable relative must be modulo-2 odd. There exists also a version of this logic with a matrilineal bias. Discoveries of systems that use modulo-2 logic, as in South Asia, Australia, and many other parts of the world, marked a major advance in the understanding of kinship terminologies that differ from kin relations and terminologies employed by Europeans.

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On Dravidian kinship

The Dravidian kinship system involves selective "cousinhood." One's father's brother's children and one's mother's sister's children are NOT cousins but brothers and sisters "one step removed." They are considered "consanguinous" ("pangali") and marriage with them is strictly forbidden as it is "incestuous." However, one's father's sister's children and one's mother's brother's children are considered cousins and potential mates ("muraicherugu"). Marriages between such cousins are allowed and encouraged. There is a clear distinction between "cross" cousins who are one's true cousins and parallel cousins who are in fact "siblings". Like Iroquois people, Dravidians refer to their father's sister as "mother-in-law" and their mother's brother as "father-in-law."

Some Dravidian communities also practise uncle-niece marriages where the mother's younger brother may marry his niece (his elder sister's daughter).

Abbreviations for genealogical relationships

The genealogical terminology used in many genealogical charts describes relatives of the subject in question. Using the abbreviations below, genealogical relationships may be distinguished by single or compound relationships, such as BC for a brother's children, MBD for a mother's brother's daughter, and so forth.

  • B = Brother
  • C = Child(ren)
  • D = Daughter
  • F = Father
  • GC = Grandchild(ren)
  • GP = Grandparent(s)
  • P = Parent
  • S = Son
  • Z = Sister
  • W = Wife
  • H = Husband
  • SP = Spouse
  • LA = In-law
  • SI = Siblings
  • M = Mother
  • (m.s.) = male speaking
  • (f.s.) = female speaking

References

  • Murdock, G. P. (1949). Social Structure. New York: Macmillan.
  • Kryukov, M. V. (1968). Historical Interpretation of Kinship Terminology. Moscow: Institute of Ethnography, USSR Academy of Sciences.
  • Pasternak, B. (1976). Introduction to Kinship and Social Organization. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
  • Pasternak, B., Ember, M., & Ember, C. (1997). Sex, Gender, and Kinship: A Cross-Cultural Perspective. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
  • Kay, P. (1967). "On the multiplicity of cross/parallel distinctions". American Anthropologist 69: 83-85.
  • Lounsbury, Floyd G. (1964), "A Formal Account of the Crow- and Omaha-Type Kinship Terminologies", in Ward H. Goodenough (ed.), Explorations in Cultural Anthropology: Essays in Honor of George Peter Murdock, New York: McGraw-Hill, pp. 351–393 .
  • Scheffler, H. W. 1971. "Dravidian-Iroquois: The Melanesian evidence", Anthropology in Oceania. Edited by L. R. Hiatt and E. Jayawardena, pp. 231-54. Sydney: Angus and Robertson.
  • Tjon Sie Fat, Franklin E. 1981. "More Complex Formulae of Generalized Exchange". Current Anthropology 22(4): 377-399.

See also

External links


Genealogy

Up to date as of February 01, 2010

From Familypedia

Kinship terminology refers to the words used in a specific culture to describe a specific system of familial relationships. Kinship terminologies include the terms of address used in different languages or communities for different relatives and the terms of reference used to identify the relationship of these relatives to ego or to each other.

Societies in different parts of the world and using different languages may share the same basic terminology patterns; in such cases one can very easily translate the kinship terms of one language into another, although connotations may vary. But translators usually find it impossible to translate directly the kinship terms of a society that uses one system into the language of a society that uses a different system.

Contents

Historical view

Anthropologist Lewis Henry Morgan (1818–1881) performed the first survey of kinship terminologies in use around the world. Though much of his work is now considered dated (for updates see Category:Kinship terminology), he argued that kinship terminologies reflect different sets of distinctions. For example, most kinship terminologies distinguish between sexes (the difference between a brother and a sister) and between generations (the difference between a child and a parent). Moreover, he argued, kinship terminologies distinguish between relatives by blood and marriage (although recently some anthropologists have argued that many societies define kinship in terms other than "blood").

However, Morgan also observed that different languages (and, by extension, societies) organize these distinctions differently. He proposed to describe kin terms and terminologies as either descriptive or classificatory. When a "descriptive" term is used, it can only represent one type of relationship between two people, while a "classificatory" term represents one of many different types of relationships. For example, the word brother in Western societies indicates a son of the same parent; thus, Western societies use the word "brother" as a descriptive term. But a person's male first-cousin could be the mother's brother's son, mother's sister's son, father's brother's son, father's sister's son, and so on; Western societies therefore use the word "cousin" as a classificatory term.

Morgan discovered that a descriptive term in one society can become a classificatory term in another society. For example, in some societies one would refer to many different people as "mother" (the woman who gave birth to oneself, as well as her sister and husband's sister, and also one's father's sister). Moreover, some societies do not lump together relatives that the West classifies together. For example, some languages have no one word equivalent to "cousin", because different terms refer to mother's sister's children and to father's sister's children.

Armed with these different terms, Morgan identified six basic patterns of kinship terminologies:

  • Hawaiian kinship: the most classificatory; only distinguishes between sex and generation.
  • Sudanese kinship: the most descriptive; no two relatives share the same term.
  • Eskimo: has both classificatory and descriptive terms; in addition to sex and generation, also distinguishes between lineal relatives (those related directly by a line of descent) and collateral relatives (those related by blood, but not directly in the line of descent). Lineal relatives have highly descriptive terms, collateral relatives have highly classificatory terms.
  • Iroquois: has both classificatory and descriptive terms; in addition to sex and generation, also distinguishes between siblings of opposite sexes in the parental generation. Siblings of the same sex class as blood relatives, but siblings of the opposite sex count as relatives by marriage. Thus, one calls one's mother's sister "mother", and one's father's brother "father"; however, one refers to one's mother's brother as "father-in-law", and to one's father's sister as "mother-in-law".
  • Crow: like Iroquois, but further distinguishes between mother's side and father's side. Relatives on the mother's side of the family have more descriptive terms, and relatives on the father's side have more classificatory terms.
  • Omaha: like Iroquois, but further distinguishes between mother's side and father's side. Relatives on the mother's side of the family have more classificatory terms, and relatives on the father's side have more descriptive terms.

Relative age

Some languages, such as Chinese (see Chinese kinship), Japanese, and Hungarian, add another dimension to some relations: relative age. There exist, for example, different words for "older brother" and "younger brother". Thus, although Westerners may "naturally" agree with Morgan in seeing the term "brother" as descriptive rather than classificatory, speakers of these languages might disagree.

Identification of Alternating generations

Other languages, such as Chiricahua, use the same terms of address for alternating generations. So, a Chiricahua child (male or female) calls her paternal grandmother -ch’iné and likewise this grandmother will call her son's child -ch’iné. Terms that recognize alternating generations and the prohibition of marriage within one's own set of alternate generation relatives (0, +/-2, +/-4, +/-6 etc.) are common in Australian Aboriginal kinship.

Relative age and Identification of Alternating generations

Tagalog borrows the relative age system of the Chinese kinship and follows the Generation System of kinship. Philippine Kinship distinguishes between generation, age and in some cases gender.

Discovery of Dravidian kinship terminology

Floyd Lounsbury (1964) discovered a seventh, "Dravidian" type of terminological system that had been confused with Iroquois in Morgan’s typology of kin-term systems because both systems distinguish relatives by marriage from relatives by descent, although both are classificatory categories rather than based on biological descent. Kay (1967), Scheffler (1971), and Tjon Sie Fat (1981) gave variant criteria for Dravidian classificatory logic, but the basic idea is that of applying an even/odd distinction to relatives that takes into account the gender of every linking relative for ego’s kin relation to any given person. A MFBD(C), for example, is a mother’s father’s brother’s daughter’s child. If each female link (M,D) is assigned a 0 and each male (F,B) a 1, the number of 1s is either even or odd; in this case, even. In a Dravidian system with a patrilineal modulo-2 counting system, marriage is prohibited with this relative, and a marriageable relative must be modulo-2 odd. There exists also a version of this logic with a matrilineal bias. Discoveries of systems that use modulo-2 logic, as in South Asia, Australia, and many other parts of the world, marked a major advance in the understanding of kinship terminologies that differ in major ways from assumptions about kin relations and terminologies employed by Europeans.

Abbreviations for genealogical relationships

The genealogical terminology used in many genealogical charts describes relatives of the subject in question. Using the abbreviations below, genealogical relationships may be distinguished by single or compound relationships, such as BC for a brother's children, MBD for a mother's brother's daughter, and so forth.

  • B = Brother
  • C = Child(ren)
  • D = Daughter
  • F = Father
  • GC = Grandchild(ren)
  • GP = Grandparent(s)
  • P = Parent
  • S = Son
  • Z = Sister
  • W = Wife
  • H = Husband
  • SP = Spouse
  • LA = In-law
  • SI = Sibling
  • M = Mother
  • (m.s.) = male speaking
  • (f.s.) = female speaking

References

  • Murdock, G. P. (1949). Social Structure. New York: Macmillan.
  • Kryukov, M. V.(1968). Historical Interpretation of Kinship Terminology. Moscow: Institute of Ethnography, USSR Academy of Sciences.
  • Pasternak, B. (1976). Introduction to Kinship and Social Organization. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
  • Pasternak, B., Ember, M., & Ember, C. (1997). Sex, Gender, and Kinship: A Cross-Cultural Perspective. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
  • Kay, P. (1967). On the multiplicity of cross/parallel distinctions. American Anthropologist 69: 83-85.
  • Lounsbury, F. 1964. A formal account of the Crow- and Omaha type kinship terminology, in Explorations in cultural anthropology. Edited by W. Goodenough. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  • Scheffler, H. W. 1971. Dravidian-Iroquois: The Melanesian evidence, Anthropology in Oceania. Edited by L. R. Hiatt and E. Jayawardena, pp. 231-54. Sydney: Angus and Robertson.
  • Tjon Sie Fat, Franklin E. 1981. More Complex Formulae of Generalized Exchange. Current Anthropology 22(4): 377-399.

See also


This page uses content from the English language Wikipedia. The original content was at Kinship terminology. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with this Familypedia wiki, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons License.

This article uses material from the "Kinship terminology" article on the Genealogy wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.

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