A Quick Guide to Kinship systems

A forum for guides, lessons and sharing of useful information.
User avatar
Micamo
MVP
MVP
Posts: 7148
Joined: Sun 05 Sep 2010, 18:48

A Quick Guide to Kinship systems

Post by Micamo » Thu 10 Nov 2011, 13:29

I need something to distract myself, so I'm gonna give a quick guide to some possibilities in kinship systems. This is not exhaustive, nor do I give any attention to kinship term systems in conlangs (maybe I'll do that one if I need distracting again). Hopefully this gives you guys a few conculture ideas. If not, then some of you will at least have some new anthropological vocabulary under your belt.

Lineality is the system by which a person's lineage is determined. Lineage determines a person's societal status, the line of succession and inheritance, and which extended familial group they belong to. Blood relatives which are not also members of a person's lineage are, at best, considered secondary.

Patrilineal systems trace lineage through the father's (that is, the paternal) side. It is important to note that maternal relatives are not necessarily disregarded in patrilineal systems, though this is certainly the case in some societies. What matters for defining lineality is which extended family group is primary. The west today is mostly patrilineal, a few recent exceptions notwithstanding.

Matrilineal systems trace lineage through the mother's (maternal) side. Importantly, matrilineal societies are not necessarily feminist or otherwise lack male-dominance, and indeed many matrilineal societies are heavily male-dominated. In a male-dominated matrilineal society, this means that succession passes from uncle to nephew, rather than from father to son.

Bilineal systems hold both sides of a family to be more or less equally important with neither considered primary.

Ambilineal systems trace lineage through either the mother's or the father's side, but not both. In an ambilineal society the individual chooses which lineage they belong to.

Locality is the system of where a new married couple is expected to live when they start their new family.

Virilocal systems have the wife move into the household of her husband's parents with him.

Uxorilocal systems have the husband move in with his wife's parents with her. Both virilocal systems and uxorilocal systems lead to extended kin groups of multiple generations living under a single household.

Neolocal systems expect the husband and wife to move out of their parents' households to start their own. This leads to the "nuclear family" structure found often in the west these days.

Finally, in Natalocal systems the husband and wife don't live together at all but instead live separately. This system is quite common in New Guinea (or at least, in the West Sepik region) with mothers and children having their own huts while all the men of a village live together in a giant men's house. The father is not necessarily distant in these systems: What counts is that interactions between the husband and wife, as well as between the father and children, are always temporary, if highly frequent.

Every society has rules about which choices and individual has for marriage and which choices they do not. A society is said to be endogamous in the groups that an individual is allowed to marry, and exogamous in the groups that they are not. The systems are defined relatively, not absolutely. More factors than simple blood relation can factor into such distinctions: Race, Education, Caste/Class, and even Language can matter here.

Last thing I wanted to talk about: Some societies have defined systems of marriage where an individual (or their parents) isn't given full choice. Here are a couple to give you some starting ideas:

Sister Exchange is where two men are expected to each marry each other's sisters.

Cross Cousin Marriage is where an individual is expected to marry their cross-cousin. A cross-cousin is an offspring of either your father's sister or your mother's brother. (Similarly, children of your father's brother or mother's sister are called parallel cousins. Marriage expected between parallel cousins also exists but is much rarer: For an example, the ancient hebrews in the days of the old testament followed this system IIRC.) Some systems restrict it even further and require a man to only marry one of his mother's brother's daughters, or to only marry one of his father's sister's daughters.
Solarius
roman
roman
Posts: 1192
Joined: Mon 30 Aug 2010, 00:23

Re: A Quick Guide to Kinship systems

Post by Solarius » Sun 13 Nov 2011, 02:11

This looks quite useful.
Alife speakers are Matrilineal, Polygamous, and frequently practice Sister Exchange.They are largely Virilocal. It should be noted that the Alife place great importance on knowing one ancestry and one's family; this impacts precisely who the couple moves in with.
Micamo wrote: Neolocal systems expect the husband and wife to move out of their parents' households to start their own. This leads to the "nuclear family" structure found often in the west these days.
Are there any other examples?
Check out Ussaria!
User avatar
Micamo
MVP
MVP
Posts: 7148
Joined: Sun 05 Sep 2010, 18:48

Re: A Quick Guide to Kinship systems

Post by Micamo » Tue 15 Nov 2011, 01:16

IIRC, the Inuit were neolocal before european contact.
User avatar
Chagen
mongolian
mongolian
Posts: 3993
Joined: Sat 03 Sep 2011, 04:14
Location: Texas

Re: A Quick Guide to Kinship systems

Post by Chagen » Tue 15 Nov 2011, 14:55

Most of my concultures are ambilineal.

Mainly because people always assume that you are sexist if your conculture happens to be sexist.
Nūdenku waga honji ma naku honyasi ne ika-ika ichamase!
female-appearance=despite boy-voice=PAT hold boy-youth=TOP very be.cute-3PL
Honyasi zō honyasi ma naidasu.
boy-youth=AGT boy-youth=PAT love.romantically-3S
User avatar
Ànradh
mayan
mayan
Posts: 2087
Joined: Thu 28 Jul 2011, 02:57
Location: Cumbernauld, Scotland

Re: A Quick Guide to Kinship systems

Post by Ànradh » Tue 15 Nov 2011, 16:24

Chagen wrote:Most of my concultures are ambilineal.

Mainly because people always assume that you are sexist if your conculture happens to be sexist.
Make several cultures with differing opinions?
Or rant their ear off if they start on you; most of those who'll complain about it are just trying to show how 'sensitive' and 'egalitarian' they are and probably haven't read your work anyway.
Sin ar Pàrras agus nì sinne mar a thogras sinn. Choisinn sinn e agus ’s urrainn dhuinn ga loisgeadh.
User avatar
Thakowsaizmu
puremetal
puremetal
Posts: 3821
Joined: Fri 13 Aug 2010, 17:57
Contact:

Re: A Quick Guide to Kinship systems

Post by Thakowsaizmu » Tue 15 Nov 2011, 16:30

Chagen wrote:Most of my concultures are ambilineal.

Mainly because people always assume that you are sexist if your conculture happens to be sexist.
Don't let what other people perceive change the way you want to do something. Unless they are paying you to create something for them within a specific parameter, you aren't designing anything for anyone but yourself. Don't stifle yourself because you are worried some shmo on the internet might get butt-hurt over some made up society.
User avatar
Chagen
mongolian
mongolian
Posts: 3993
Joined: Sat 03 Sep 2011, 04:14
Location: Texas

Re: A Quick Guide to Kinship systems

Post by Chagen » Tue 15 Nov 2011, 18:20

Well, I also like my concultures to be civilized and rational.....and sexism is neither one of those.
Nūdenku waga honji ma naku honyasi ne ika-ika ichamase!
female-appearance=despite boy-voice=PAT hold boy-youth=TOP very be.cute-3PL
Honyasi zō honyasi ma naidasu.
boy-youth=AGT boy-youth=PAT love.romantically-3S
User avatar
Thakowsaizmu
puremetal
puremetal
Posts: 3821
Joined: Fri 13 Aug 2010, 17:57
Contact:

Re: A Quick Guide to Kinship systems

Post by Thakowsaizmu » Tue 15 Nov 2011, 18:43

Chagen wrote:Well, I also like my concultures to be civilized and rational.....and sexism is neither one of those.
To the conculture sexism may well be both perfectly civilized and rational. It's not like every culture that ever was sexist was doing so just to be a collective jack-ass. There were perfectly rational and civilized reasons for sexism (or any other -ism) to exist in the culture, as far as said culture is/was concerned. Keep in mind a certain amount of cultural relativity, and also try to be aware of the irrationalities and uncivilized practices in your own culture, and how many in your own culture may well see these as perfectly rational and civilized.
User avatar
Micamo
MVP
MVP
Posts: 7148
Joined: Sun 05 Sep 2010, 18:48

Re: A Quick Guide to Kinship systems

Post by Micamo » Tue 15 Nov 2011, 20:56

Chagen wrote:Well, I also like my concultures to be civilized and rational.....and sexism is neither one of those.
Firstly, lineality has nothing to do with sexism. There are several highly misogynistic peoples that are, yet, matrilineal.

Secondly, the only people who will call you sexist just for having a sexist conculture are idiots who think all writings are intended to be utopian. Depiction is not an endorsement, and anyone who can't understand that doesn't have a very valuable opinion.

Finally, utopian cultures are boring! Stamping something out of a conculture because you personally dislike it, or worse, because it might possibly be associated with something you personally dislike, is a surefire way to remove any depth or potential for interesting conflicts. Yes, these things aren't so good to have in real life but your job a writer is to invent a place that's interesting to read about, not a place that would be a good place to live.
User avatar
Ilaeriu
sinic
sinic
Posts: 313
Joined: Thu 12 Aug 2010, 01:42
Location: Canada, eh?

Re: A Quick Guide to Kinship systems

Post by Ilaeriu » Sun 20 Nov 2011, 03:17

Is there a word for a locality that mixes virilocal and uxorilocal? To be more specific, a system where the couple can choose to move into either the husband or wife's parents' household, but is expected to choose one of the two and not live on their own?
Image

(in order of proficiency from greatest to least)
Native :eng: | Fluent :tgl: | Learning :esp: · :kor: · :zho: · :qbc: | Want to learn :lat: · :jpn: · :ara:
User avatar
Micamo
MVP
MVP
Posts: 7148
Joined: Sun 05 Sep 2010, 18:48

Re: A Quick Guide to Kinship systems

Post by Micamo » Sun 20 Nov 2011, 03:52

Ilaeriu wrote:Is there a word for a locality that mixes virilocal and uxorilocal? To be more specific, a system where the couple can choose to move into either the husband or wife's parents' household, but is expected to choose one of the two and not live on their own?
Well there's the obvious ambilocal but I've never encountered this term in anthropological literature. Use at your own peril.
User avatar
Micamo
MVP
MVP
Posts: 7148
Joined: Sun 05 Sep 2010, 18:48

Re: A Quick Guide to Kinship systems

Post by Micamo » Sun 20 Nov 2011, 05:14

Alright, here's that overview on kinship terms for conlangs I promised. Keep in mind this is just fodder for ideas, and is not meant to be exhaustive: Just because I don't list it here doesn't make it impossible or even a bad idea. Many phenomena occur in natlangs that I don't cover here, but this overview does cover the really common stuff.

Firstly, some standard abbreviations used in the study of kinship terms:

E - Ego (the "deictic center" in the kinship term system)
B - Brother
Z - Sister
S - Son
D - Daughter
F - Father
M - Mother

These abbreviations can be combined as such: FZ = Father's sister, FZD = Father's sister's daughter.

Here I will focus only on the kinship terms of those who are only one or two generations of distance away from Ego, as these are the terms most likely to be non-derived. There are patterns and interesting going-ons in terms farther out on the generational tree (grandson, second cousin) but these are generally derived from the closer kinship terms in some way. Not only that, but more distant terms receive much less study, so I have less to say about them. A specialized construction for kin of 4 or more generations away will receive extremely rare use, and will likely be forgotten and replaced with phrasal constructions. Specialized non-blood kinship terms (son-in-law, half-brother, godfather) will be ignored for identical reasons.

Firstly, there are languages which have no distinguishing of kinship terms at all aside from generational. All female adults of a generation above you are called "mother", all females a generation below you "daughter", and so on. This system is common in polynesian languages. Keep in mind that just because there isn't any linguistic differentiation doesn't mean there isn't behavioral distinctions. People in these societies still treat their parents differently from unrelated adults, and their children differently from unrelated children. This goes for all term conflations, really.

Secondly, not all languages use these types of gender distinctions. Some languages rather than using absolute distinctions of male and female, instead use "same sex" and "opposite sex." I know of systems which use this system for same-generational terms (so a male sibling is called differently depending on whether you're male or female), but none that use this for extra-generational terms (same-sexed child, different-sexed child, etc.). Not to say this is impossible, however. For the current guide I'll ignore this and give attention only to the more common, absolute gender kinship systems.

Kinship terms, as do general kinship systems, also have a concept of lineality. Here I call a language's lineality its "focus." Societal lineality and linguistic lineality are generally the same, but this is not always so. A language with a different lineality than the society that uses it indicates either a new language put onto an old society in the form of loans, creole formation, or even total linguistic conquest, or an old language that has undergone a recent societal change. For example, medieval europe was mostly bilineal. Although the west is patrilineal now (recent fads notwithstanding), the languages of europe are still bilineal.

There are four main types of focus that can be distinguished:

Patrifocused languages tend to conflate maternal relatives and distinguish paternal ones.

Matrifocused languages tend to conflate paternal relatives and distinguish maternal ones.

Bifocused languages tend to not bother distinguishing between maternal and paternal kin and treat them both the same. Any conflation patterns present will affect both sides.

Afocused languages don't have a defined focus because they have little to no conflation. These could be interpreted as a type of bifocusing, but I find the distinction between systems like that in Turkish and that of modern English very useful.

Regardless of focusing, more distant terms are always more likely to be conflated than closer ones.

Modern English is a prototypical example of bifocusing with few other conflations (the only others being the conflation of male and female cousins). Take the following list:

Mother - M
Father - F
Uncle - MB, FB
Aunt - MZ, FZ
Brother - B
Sister - Z
Cousin - MBS, MBD, FBS, FBD, MZS, MZD, FZS, FZD
Son - S
Daughter - D
Niece - BD, ZD
Nephew - BS, ZS

Afocused kinship systems, by contrast, have up to 8 terms where English only uses "cousin."

To wrap this up, here are some common conflation patterns in languages:

1. The conflation of different-sexed siblings. Turkish does this with its cousin terms: FB is "Emme" while FBS and FBD are both "Emme Usaki." Unfortunately I don't know a good vocabulary term for this, but you see it everywhere.

2. Bifurcate Merging is the conflation of siblings with parallel cousins, and of parents with their same-sexed siblings. This merges M and MZ, as well as Z and MZD.

3. Skewing is the conflation of same-sexed relatives across different generations. For example, the merging of FB and FBS.

As an example, here's a patrifocused kinship system with partial bifurcate merging and skewing of maternal relatives:

numasa - F, FB
kumi - FZ
sina - M, MZ, MBD, MZD
puta - MB, MBS, MZS
taku - Z, FBD, FZD
nanuka - B, FBS, FZS
kimi - S, BS
nipa - D, BD
kamu - ZS
sita - ZD
Khemehekis
mayan
mayan
Posts: 1991
Joined: Sat 14 Aug 2010, 08:36
Location: California über alles

Re: A Quick Guide to Kinship systems

Post by Khemehekis » Tue 22 Nov 2011, 09:08

Micamo wrote: Locality is the system of where a new married couple is expected to live when they start their new family.

Virilocal systems have the wife move into the household of her husband's parents with him.

Uxorilocal systems have the husband move in with his wife's parents with her. Both virilocal systems and uxorilocal systems lead to extended kin groups of multiple generations living under a single household.

Neolocal systems expect the husband and wife to move out of their parents' households to start their own. This leads to the "nuclear family" structure found often in the west these days.

Finally, in Natalocal systems the husband and wife don't live together at all but instead live separately. This system is quite common in New Guinea (or at least, in the West Sepik region) with mothers and children having their own huts while all the men of a village live together in a giant men's house. The father is not necessarily distant in these systems: What counts is that interactions between the husband and wife, as well as between the father and children, are always temporary, if highly frequent.
What is the Latin word for either-local? On Kankonia, couples may move into either the wife's parents' house or the husband's parents' house . . . and gay marriage and polygamy are practiced too.
♂♥♂♀

Squirrels chase koi . . . chase squirrels

My Kankonian-English dictionary: 56,000 words and counting

31,416: The number of the conlanging beast!
User avatar
Micamo
MVP
MVP
Posts: 7148
Joined: Sun 05 Sep 2010, 18:48

Re: A Quick Guide to Kinship systems

Post by Micamo » Tue 22 Nov 2011, 09:31

Khemehekis wrote:What is the Latin word for either-local? On Kankonia, couples may move into either the wife's parents' house or the husband's parents' house . . . and gay marriage and polygamy are practiced too.
Micamo wrote:Well there's the obvious ambilocal but I've never encountered this term in anthropological literature. Use at your own peril.
User avatar
sangi39
moderator
moderator
Posts: 2824
Joined: Thu 12 Aug 2010, 00:53
Location: North Yorkshire, UK

Re: A Quick Guide to Kinship systems

Post by sangi39 » Wed 23 Nov 2011, 02:49

Micamo wrote:
Khemehekis wrote:What is the Latin word for either-local? On Kankonia, couples may move into either the wife's parents' house or the husband's parents' house . . . and gay marriage and polygamy are practiced too.
Micamo wrote:Well there's the obvious ambilocal but I've never encountered this term in anthropological literature. Use at your own peril.
Well I found a wikipedia article regarding it made at some time around 2008-2009 with a link to a PDF that mentions it:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ambilocal_residence

It's also mentioned here: http://anthro.palomar.edu/marriage/marriage_5.htm. It states that around 9% of the world's societies employ this system (and that's "societies" rather than what percentage of the entire human population employs such a system).

it's similarly mentioned here: http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~anthrop/tu ... rules.html

So it seems the word does exist but due to its apparent rarity as a system of residency it might not turn much in anthropological publications.
You can tell the same lie a thousand times,
But it never gets any more true,
So close your eyes once more and once more believe
That they all still believe in you.
Just one time.
User avatar
Micamo
MVP
MVP
Posts: 7148
Joined: Sun 05 Sep 2010, 18:48

Re: A Quick Guide to Kinship systems

Post by Micamo » Wed 23 Nov 2011, 03:14

Hmm, fair enough. Thanks Sangi!
Solarius
roman
roman
Posts: 1192
Joined: Mon 30 Aug 2010, 00:23

Re: A Quick Guide to Kinship systems

Post by Solarius » Mon 04 Jun 2012, 01:01

In cultures with moiety systems, how is moiety determined?
Check out Ussaria!
User avatar
Micamo
MVP
MVP
Posts: 7148
Joined: Sun 05 Sep 2010, 18:48

Re: A Quick Guide to Kinship systems

Post by Micamo » Mon 04 Jun 2012, 04:51

Solarius wrote:In cultures with moiety systems, how is moiety determined?
Depends. Generally, it's inherited from the same parent that determines lineage, but if not, it's inherited from the other parent.

I know of no bilineal or ambilineal systems that have a clan/moiety system.
taylorS
greek
greek
Posts: 458
Joined: Thu 12 Aug 2010, 04:06
Location: Moorhead, MN, USA

Re: A Quick Guide to Kinship systems

Post by taylorS » Mon 04 Jun 2012, 07:22

In the sci-fi universe where Mekoshan is spoken lineage is bilineal, each person has a paternal and maternal surname, each tracing direct paternal and maternal descent, respectively.

The society is neolocal.
User avatar
eldin raigmore
fire
fire
Posts: 5909
Joined: Sat 14 Aug 2010, 18:38
Location: SouthEast Michigan

Re: A Quick Guide to Kinship systems

Post by eldin raigmore » Mon 04 Jun 2012, 22:15

Micamo wrote:
Solarius wrote:In cultures with moiety systems, how is moiety determined?
Depends. Generally, it's inherited from the same parent that determines lineage, but if not, it's inherited from the other parent.
Isn't there at least one in which it is not hereditary, but generational? Every person is in the opposite moiety from his/her parents?

Or does it count as "moiety" only if marriage is one of the things that can only happen between people in opposite moieties?
Post Reply