Understanding Human Relations (Kinship Systems)

Laurent Dousset

in The Oxford Handbook of Linguistic Fieldwork

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199571888
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

 Understanding Human Relations (Kinship Systems)

More Like This

Show all results sharing these subjects:

  • Linguistics
  • Anthropological Linguistics
  • Semantics


Show Summary Details


This article provides an overview on a few central concepts and processes that are required in the investigation of human kinship. The most classic and better-defined examples for the kinds of groups or categories that constitute a social organization are clans and lineages. A society, tribe, or ethnic group may be divided into a number of groups that are called ‘clans’ if their apical ancestor is mythical or ‘lineages’ if genealogical memory traces ancestry backs to one single human being. The membership of these clans or lineages is determined by explicit rules that belong to the realm of kinship. The clan and lineages are widespread and important types of social groupings but they are only two among the many other types of categories that belong to the domain of social organization. Some constitute actual and visible corporations of people and families, while others are limited to the domain of discourse and representation but are nevertheless significant in structuring social space and practice. ‘Patrimoieties’ or ‘matrimoieties’ are other quite common category systems. They divide society into two global entities that stand to each other in a relationship of distinction and exchange. In a patrimoiety system, belonging to one or the other moiety is defined through ‘patrifiliation’, while in a matrimoiety membership is defined through the female line. A moiety may encapsulate clans, which may encapsulate lineages.

Keywords: human kinship; social organization; clans; lineages; patrimoieties; matrimoieties

Article.  12041 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Anthropological Linguistics ; Semantics

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.