archaic greek mating patterns and kinship terms

i’ve got this idea that the more specific a group’s mating patterns, the more specific their kinship terms — and vice versa.

so, if you’re the arabs, and you prefer father’s brother’s daughter (fbd) marriage, you’ll have some rather specific kinship terms for all of your different aunts and uncles and cousins, because you want to be able to identify who your bint ‘amm is. if you’re the chinese, and you have an historic preference for mother’s brother’s daughter (mbd) marriage, you’ll also have specific kinship terms for all of your relatives. in fact, both of these societies have the most complicated of kinship terminology systems: the sudanese kinship system.

on the other hand, if you’re not picky about which cousin you can marry OR if all of your cousins are off-limits (like in christian europe), then you might not bother to designate any differences between your cousins (or other relatives). in the hawaiian kinship system, for instance, the only differentiation between relatives is sex and age, so all your brothers and male cousins are just “brother” and all your sisters and female cousins are just “sister.” and in traditional hawaiian society, marriage was very flexible.

meanwhile, in pre-christian europe, most all european populations had different terms for male and female, paternal and maternal cousins — like the arabs or chinese. after converting to christianity and adopting the church’s cousin marriage bans, the kinship terminology shifted to one in which cousins were no longer individually identified (see, for example, German Kinship Terms, 750-1500: Documentation and Analysis and this previous post). as michael mitterauer describes, this process took a few hundred years to happen [pgs. 68-69]:

“Fundamental trends in the changing kinship systems in Europe can best be deduced from the modified kinship terms in various European languages. Initially, terminological analyses will only yield very general clues that other indicators can differentiate and refine. Above all, these analyses cannot allow us to conclude anything about how some of the concepts used mirror a certain contemporaneous social order. Kinship terminology often outlasted by hundreds of years the conditions that gave rise to it. We frequently come upon phenomena of cultural lag when tapping this linguistic source in the attempt to learn about historical kinship systems, but that a change in a social situation must have preceded a change in vocabulary lies beyond a shadow of doubt.

so what does any of this have to do with archaic greece (800 BC – 480 BC)? (or classical greece and athens for that matter?)

well, from mitterauer again we have [pg. 69]:

“Greek was the first European language to eliminate the terminological distinction between the father’s and mother’s side, a transition that began as early as between the fifth and third century BC.35

so that’s just at the transition point between archaic greece and classical greece. but starting at least in the early part of the archaic period and lasting throughout to the classical period the archaic greeks were outbreeding! at least the upper class ones were — difficult/impossible to know about the lower classes. from Women in Ancient Greece [pg. 67]:

“Marriages were arranged by the prospective groom and the prospective bride’s guardian, and the wife usually (although not always) went to live with her husband’s family. In the early Archaic Age [800 BC – 480 BC], to judge from the evidence of Homer’s poems (e.g. ‘Odyssey’ 4.5), male members of the upper classes generally married women who were not related to them, and who came from different areas. This upper-class habit of exogamy — marrying outside the community — was related to the political importance which marriage possessed in these circles. Marriage exchanges were one of the means by which noble families created political alliances with groups living in other areas, and in this way they made a considerable contribution to the aristocracy’s stranglehold on power. This practice survived to the end of the Archaic Age. However, with the emergence of the *polis*, exogamy began to give way in some places to endogamy — to marriage within the community. For the upper classes, this meant marriage within a tight circle of aristocratic families living in the same *polis*.”

so there was outbreeding in archaic greece for a few hundred years (at least amongst the upper classes), and, then, eventually — after about 400 years or so — there was a linguistic shift to more general kinship terms which reflected that outbreeding. in other words, there was a lag time between the “social situation” (or mating patterns) and the linguistic shift in the kinship terms. in medieval german, the shift to more general terms for cousins began in the 1100s, about 300-600 years after the cousin marriage bans arrived in northern europe (depending on what region you look at).

that’s all for now. more anon!

previously: loosening of genetic ties in europe started before christianity? and demokratia

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loosening of genetic ties in europe started before christianity?

several of my previous posts discuss how, during the medieval period, the christian church in europe — along with tptb of the dayaltered the mating patterns of europeans by (at least trying to) put a stop to cousin marriage amongst the natives, a practice that would lead to a loosening of the genetic ties between the members of the population(s).

jack goody suggests that this was a new and strange policy without precedent invented by the church fathers, i.e. there was no foundation for banning cousin marriage in the bible or in roman society from whence a lot of the church fathers came.

that seems to be pretty right from what i’ve read, but michael mitterauer says that this move toward greater outbreeding might’ve started earlier in ancient greece (was it related to this?) and that the holy roman catholic church’s policies may have simply been part of a wider trend.

mitterauer, who i’m going to quote at length below because i just found what he had to say so doggone interesting, sums up all the linguistic changes related to kinship that happened across europe after the mating laws changed. i mentioned before that i thought that kinship terms indicate who you can and cannot marry — now it seems, from what mitterauer has to say, that they mostly indicate who you cannot marry. (so, back to hawaii for a sec, since everyone of your age [in your village, presumably] were called either “brother” or “sister,” this must have meant that you couldn’t marry any of them. and this makes sense, because any of them could’ve been your real brother or sister!)

ok. big quote from mitterauer [pgs. 68-74]:

“Fundamental trends in the changing kinship systems in Europe can best be deduced from the modified kinship terms in various European languages…. Three major transformational processes illustrate this statement with regard to European kinship systems.

“We can describe the first fundamental trend in the shifting of European kinship terms as the gradual appearance of the same, or parallel, terms for paternal and maternal relatives, which is best shown in the expressions for a parent’s siblings. All the Indo-European languages of Europe originally distinguished between the father’s brother or sister and the mother’s brother or sister. Take Latin as an example: the father’s siblings were called patruus and amita, and on the mother’s side, avunculus and matertera. In Middle High German the terms were Vetter and Base, Oheim and Muhme. As the history of almost every European language evolved, distinctions between paternal and maternal relatives became neutral. And so French used oncle for both parents’ brother (derived from the Latin word for a maternal uncle, avunculus) and tante for either parent’s sister (following from the Latin word amita, a paternal sister). These bilaterally applied terms spilled over into other languages, for instance, English and German. Similar parallel nomenclatures developed that were based on kinship terms in one’s own language, in Polish, for example. Greek was the first European language to eliminate the terminological distinction between the father’s and the mother’s side, a transition that began as early as between the fifth and third century BC. Vulgar Latin in late antiquity was next. All the Romance languages derived from Vulgar Latin have the same terms for both sides of the family: Italian, Sardic, Rhaeto-Romance, Provencal, French, Catalan, Spanish, Portugese, Sephardic Spanish, Aromunian, and Rumanian. This process was therefore complete by the early Middle Ages throughout the territory of the old Roman Empire. The first Germanic language to undergo this change was English, beginning with the Norman Conquest. Basically the same change occurred in German in early modern times. There were two different developments in the Scandinavian languages. One tended to completely equate the father’s and mother’s siblings by using the same terms; the other did too, but formed compound words to differentiate the sides of the family. This was the case, for example, with farbror and morbror in Swedish, and with analogous forms in Icelandic and Scottish English. These descriptive compounds were fundamentally different from the completely independent terms for each parent’s siblings in the early phases of Indo-European languages. It was not a matter of eliminating the opposition between the paternal and the maternal sides but of essentially equating them, as is apparent from the structure of the terms themselves. And in the majority of the Slavic languages, too, the process of parallelizing outlined above took place, first in Czech and Polish, relatively late in Russian. The Slavic languages in the Balkans, on the other hand, have retained a differentiating terminology for kinship to this day: Bulgarian, Macedonian, Serbian, and Bosnian still have concepts distinguishing between a paternal and a maternal brother. The same holds for Albanian, where even parents’ sisters are differentiated. In this region the great process of transforming European kinship terminology, which emanated from southeastern Europe 2,500 year ago, has not yet reached its end.

A second fundamental trend in the transformation of European kinship terminology is the use of identical terms for blood relatives and in-laws. This paralleling process was also at work in Vulgar Latin during late antiquity. The term cognati at first referred to blood relatives who were not under the authority of the pater familias. Sometime around the fourth century, this concept underwent a substantial expansion: it came to include ‘affined’ relationships (the Latin affinis refers to persons related by marriage). The word affinis therefore fell into disuse in late antiquity and was replaced by cognati. In-law now became, through marriage, like blood relatives. This sense of cognati survives in kinship terms in the Romance languages. The trend of using the same terms is even more pronounced in another terminological complex. French, Dutch, English, and German have a suite of concepts for relatives by marriage that is formed from compounds made from the designations for nuclear family members. Beau-pere corresponds to schoonvader, ‘father-in-law’ to Schwiegervater, belle-mere to ‘mother-in-law.’ The same goes for beau-frer, belle-soeur, beau-fils, and belle-fille. All these related people had no names in Latin or Old High German that were in any way similar to the names for their closest blood relatives. Originally, the terms in all Indo-European languages for relatives by marriage were unmistakably different from those for blood relatives….

“The third basic trend in the transformation of the European kinship terminology is unique by its very nature and therefore especially instructive for understanding the whole process of change: the increasing number of parallels in the nomenclature of blood relatives and so-called spiritual relatives. A spiritual kinship was originally established by sponsorship at baptism. Then, in the wake of this model, other relationships came into existence that were created around other sacraments — relationships that eventually were regarded as kinship. In general, ties that were instituted on a religious basis were conceived of as kinship ties…. Inside Europe, it is found during the Middle Ages only in societies converted to Christianity….

The decisive factor in this great transformation of kinship terminology in Europe was the influence of Christianity. This is more obvious in the parallel terms for blood and spiritual kinship than it is in the two basic trends discussed earlier. From an analytical perspective, we can distinguish three levels of influence: first, direct and intentional influence on kinship systems via canon law; second, indirect structural changes to fundamental elements of Christianity; and finally, the ramifications of traditions from classical antiquity that cannot be considered specifically Christian but that Christianity passed on to medieval societies.

The first type of influence incorporates first and foremost the church bans on marriage between relatives. These began in the fourth century and reached their zenith in the eleventh. The influence of the canonical norms is perfectly evident in the English terms for relatives through marriage such as ‘father-in-law,’ ‘daughter-in-law,’ and so forth. What is meant in these terms by the word ‘law’ is canon law. Even though a ‘law’ is not mentioned by name in similar, parallel terms, canon law is the motivating force behind them. The basic principles guiding the changes in terminology, or the assimilation of terms, were exactly the same as those in Christian churches that prohibited marriage between relatives. The development of unions categorized as incestuous was a highly complicated affair in the various Christian churches and was in no way uniform at all times and in all places. But these unions share some basic tendencies: the equating of the paternal and the maternal lines, of blood kin and kin by marriage, and the inclusion of spiritual kin in the family. It was easily recognized from the relevant bans on marriage who was seen in the early Middle Ages as being related to whom from a Christian standpoint, and the bans were added to, step by step, right up into the High Middle Ages. We find it difficult to comprehend today just how preoccupied the era was with the fear of incest — and not only in the various Christian churches but in Jewish circles as well….

That the great transformational process of European kinship terminology must also have had pre-Christian roots is clear from a sequence of events over a long period of time. The rudimentary beginnings are found in the Greek language from the fifth to the third century BC, and it is very likely that broader considerations further influenced these processes. Traditional ancient Greek kinship terminology was probably transmitted just the way ancient Greek traditions were, by and large within a Christian context. The term ‘brother’ can serve as a concrete example. The expansion of the concept of ‘brother’ beyond blood kinship in several Romance languages led to the emergence of a new term for the biological brother. This can surely be traced back to a Christian influence, but the phenomenon itself is not genuinely Christian. In various Eastern religious communities, strangers became ‘brothers’ by means of initiation ceremonies. The teachings of the Stoics spread the term even further. The use of ‘brother’ in urban contexts for a brother in office or a fraternity brother goes back a long way. Hellenistic urban cultures may be regarded as the social foil for this phenomenon, which, thanks to Christianity, continued to live and have an effect on medieval European societies….”

edit: boilerplate and boilerplate 2.0

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what is a tribe?

now that tribes are all popular and trendy again, i feel it would be good to clarify exactly what a tribe is. everybody’s throwing the word around a lot (including yours truly), and i’m not sure that we’re all using the word in the same way. in fact, i’m not sure that everybody’s using the word in the same way consistently (i have a bad feeling i’ve been guilty of this).

so, what is a tribe?

well, first of all, as a very wise commenter once said:

“At one level it’s easier to talk in terms of clans, tribes and nations but at another level it maybe makes more sense to see it as a ten point scale where 1 is clan, 10 is nation and 2-8 are gradually increasing tribal size.”

exactly! what we’re looking at here is the range of sizes of the extended family, starting from — i’d say — the nuclear family on up to a race (a very extended family) — and really all the way up to the species level (the human race).

i’d say the scale looks something like this:

individual >> nuclear family >> extended family >> band or sub-clan >> clan or lineage >> tribe or chiefdom >> nation or ethny >> race >> human race ( >> primates >> mammals >> eukarya >> life on earth)

what did i miss? prolly something a LOT.

anyway, so a tribal society is: “organized largely on the basis of kinship, especially corporate descent groups (see clan and kinship).”

gaddafi defines a tribe as such, btw — and you think he oughta know! [pg. 299]: “A tribe is a family which has grown as a result of procreation. It follows that a tribe is a big family….”

so, there you go!

the thing that i think is confusing is that tribes are different in character because they are based on different kinship or mating systems. tribes are, by definition, endogamous in their mating patterns, but they have different ways of going about arranging marriage/other mating.

for example, on the one hand you’ve got the slightly crazed, patrilineal tribes of the arabs that are dominated by the men-folk and that seem to be at war with one another. all. the. time. they are the way they are (i think) because of their mating patterns (father’s brother’s daughter marriage). their behaviors and institutions and ideologies are quite different from matrilineal tribes like, say, the iroquois. these differences are, i think, due in part to the mating patterns and that is how tribes need to be evaluated.

btw, roman tribes? not real tribes. athenian (attican) tribes? not real tribes. (the founding latin and greek tribes of rome and athens were actual tribes; these later ones were not.)

previously: whatever happened to european tribes?

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punalua

i’ve been trying to get my head around the different types of kinship terminologies that people around the world use. i remember from anthro 101 that anthropologists seem to be particularly obsessed with kinship terminologies, but at the time i couldn’t figure out why. i still can’t figure out why, actually, ’cause from what i can tell, most anthropologists don’t seem to be bothered by actual genetic relationships or how related different individuals within a society are to one another and how marriage patterns can affect that. maybe i’m doing anthropologists a disservice — do let me know if i’m wrong about this — but i don’t think i am.

anyway, for instance — let’s take the hawaiian kinship system first. it’s one of the easiest to remember: everyone of your own generation is called ‘brother’ or ‘sister’ (in hawaiian, of course), and everyone of your parents’ generation is called ‘father’ or ‘mother.’ cool, huh?

but i can’t find anyone anywhere explaining why the hawaiians (and some other malayo-polynesians) should use this system. oh, sure, there’s lots of talk about communal living and how, traditionally, kids were raised by groups of adults … but really … that’s the best you got?

how about this: traditionally, a certain portion (dunno how much) of hawaiian marriages were group marriages. (kinky, huh?) groups of brothers would share their wives in common; or groups of sisters would share their husbands. it might even be that it was a group of brothers PLUS a group of sisters.

soooo … if we envision this group as everyone in a small village or hamlet, then you may as well call all the adults mom and dad ’cause you can’t be sure which ones really are your mom and dad!

well, actually, it’s usually pretty obvious who your mom is … but it might be very hard to tell who your dad is if your mom has been sleeping around (not YOUR mom, of course. she would never do that!). and if she’s been sleeping around with a bunch of brothers, it might be hard to pick out which one you look like (and, therefore, which one is prolly your dad) ’cause the brothers prolly all look kinda alike.

and as for everyone in your generation — well, any number of them might actually be your half- or full- brothers and sisters, so you may as well just call them all “brother” or “sister.”

(in reality, a lot of the adult “brothers” and “sisters” — i.e. the dads and the moms — might be cousins not siblings, or not just siblings, so then all the kids are half brothers and sisters and|or cousins. or something like that. i dunno. it’s very complicated.)

here, from westermarck (yes, the incest guy) [pgs. 239-40]:

“We now come to another type of group-unions, where a group of brothers are represented as married or having access to a group of sisters; and since these groups are said to consist of brothers and sisters in the classificatory sense, they would be of considerable size.

“The classical instance of this sort of group-unions is the punalua system of the Sandwich Islanders [Hawaiians]. Judge Lorin Andrews wrote in 1860 to Morgan:β€” “The relationship of punalua is rather amphibious. It arose from the fact that two or more brothers with their wives, or two or more sisters with their husbands, were inclined to possess each other in common; but the modern use of the word is that of dear friend or intimate companion.” The Rev. A. Bishop, who sent Morgan a schedule of the Hawaian system of relationship terms, observed that the “confusion of relationships” was “the result of the ancient custom among relatives of the living together of husbands and wives in common.” Dr. Bartlett wrote, “Husbands had many wives and wives many husbands, and exchanged with each other at pleasure.” Dr. Rivers remarks that side by side with the presence of individual marriage as a social institution there existed among the Sandwich Islanders much laxity, and also “a definite system of cicisbeism in which the paramours had a recognised status. Of these paramours those who would seem to have had the most definite status were certain relatives, viz. the brothers of the husband and the sisters of the wife. These formed a group within which all the males had marital rights over all the females”; and Dr. Rivers was told that even now, nearly a century after the general acceptance of Christianity, the rights of punalua “are still sometimes recognised, and give rise to cases which come before the law courts where they are treated as cases of adultery. In addition to these punalua who had a recognised status owing to their relationship to the married couple, there were often other paramours apparently chosen freely at the will of the husband and wife.”

westermarck expresses some doubts about the accuracy of the reports on the hawaiians, but he was also doubtful about reports on australian aboriginal systems of kinship and marriage and they turned out to be correct (i.e. that you couldn’t marry within your own moiety). it could very well be that the punalua system in hawaii was real, but westermarck had a hard time believing it to be true.

engels (yes, that engels!) wrote about another group of people who seem to have had the same kinship naming system as the hawaiians and a similar marriage practice:

“At the session of October 10 (Old Style; October 22, New Style) of the Anthropological Section of the Society of the Friends of Natural Science, N. A. Yanchuk read an interesting communication from Mr. Sternberg on the Gilyaks, a little-studied tribe on the island of Sakhalin, who are at the cultural level of savagery. The Gilyaks are acquainted neither with agriculture nor with pottery; they procure their food chiefly by hunting and fishing; they warm water in wooden vessels by throwing in heated stones, etc. Of particular interest are their institutions relating to the family and to the gens. The Gilyak addresses as father, not only his own natural father, but also all the brothers of his father; all the wives of these brothers, as well as all the sisters of his mother, he addresses as his mothers; the children of all these ‘fathers’ and ‘mothers’ he addresses as his brothers and sisters. This system of address also exists, as is well known, among the Iroquois and other Indian tribes of North America, as also among some tribes of India. But whereas in these cases it has long since ceased to correspond to the actual conditions, among the Gilyaks it serves to designate a state still valid today. To this day every Gilyak has the rights of a husband in regard to the wives of his brothers and to the sisters of his wife; at any rate, the exercise of these rights is not regarded as impermissible. These survivals of group marriage on the basis of the gens are reminiscent of the well-known punaluan marriage, which still existed in the Sandwich Islands in the first half of this century.

if these ethnographic accounts are correct, then i can’t see why anyone wouldn’t conclude that the reason for the hawaiian kinship naming system is due to the genetic relatedness between the members of the group. any of the male adults in the generation before you might be your father (so you might as well call them all “dad”), and any or all of the guys and gals in your own generation might be your half-, or even full-, brothers or sisters — not to mention that many of them are also your cousins (so you might as well call them all “brother” or “sister”.)

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