PIE kinship and marriage

(<< see what i did there? PIE? geddit? (~_^) )

historical linguists have worked out what they think (there are debates within the discipline, of course) were the likely kinship terms in proto-indo-european (PIE). i’m not going to get into the terms here, but you can read all about them in Indo-European and the Indo-Europeans: A Reconstruction and Historical of a Proto-language and a Proto-culture, in chapter seven — “The social organization, economy, and kinship system of the ancient Indo-Europeans” — starting on page 643 (for something of an opposing viewpoint, see chapter five — “Proto-Indo-European Kinship” — here).

to get straight to the point, it seems that pretty much all of the historical linguistics working on PIE agree that the proto-indo-europeans probably had an omaha kinship system (where they disagree is on how to interpret the signficance of that, for example, did the proto-indo-europeans marry their…wait for it…cousins?). they haven’t actually worked out what the proto-indo-europeans called their cousins — whether they had just one word (like us) or several words (like the chinese or the arabs) — but they have figured out via the naming of other relatives (like uncles and grandfathers) that the system was an omaha one.

the omaha kinship system looks like this (real world kinship systems often vary a bit from these schematic outlines, so you should keep in mind that while the PIE system was probably close to this scheme, it may not have necessarily matched it perfectly — click on image for LARGER view):

omaha kinship

the notable points about this system are that: 1) ego’s paternal uncle (his father’s brother) is called the same term as his father, and his mother’s sister is called the same as his mother; 2) therefore, the children of these uncles and aunts (ego’s cousins) are called the same as his siblings; 3) for some whacky reason that i don’t fully grok yet, ego’s mother’s brother is called the same thing as ego’s PATernal grandfather, therefore those cousins are actually called “(grand)father” and “mother” (i.e. there’s a generational shift in the terminology — on the right of the diagram); and 4) at the other end of the family (diagram), ego’s father’s sister is called “sister” and his cousins there are called “nephew” and “niece.”

don’t worry, you don’t have to learn all that! this material will not be included in the final exam. the important point here is that the naming of the cousins might give us some indications of which cousins (if any) were considered marriage material and which were off-limits. my thinking on first looking at this omaha system was that 1) the cousins called the same thing as siblings (fbd and mzd) must be off-limits — who marries their siblings? and 2) the cousins called the same thing as “mom” (mbd) DEFINITELY must be off-limits — who marries their MOM?! =/

in my view, the only available cousins to marry in this scheme appear to be the father’s sister’s daughter (fzd) who is called “niece.” plenty of peoples have uncle-niece marriage, so that concept isn’t (that) strange at all. (to be fair, a few populations with omaha kinship systems do manage to marry their mbds — the cousins called “mom” — but they typically have all sorts of purification rituals surrounding those marriages — ’cause, ewwww!)

however, the general consensus of the PIE researchers seems to be that both cross-cousins — the fzd AND the mbd — were probably marriage material as far as the proto-indo-europeans were concerned. the only question is, to what extent did they marry these cousins? who knows. that is simply impossible to say. (again, there are some dissenting voices out there wrt cousin marriage among the PIE speakers).

gamkrelidze and ivanov are some of the historical linguists who think that mbd marriage was probably possible, too, despite the ewwww-factor of marrying someone you call mom. mbd is the most common form of cousin marriage there is, so maybe proto-into-europeans did, indeed, marry them, too [pg. 671]:

“The fact that individuals bearing different kinship relations are called by the same term — father’s father and mother’s brother, grandson and sister’s son — can be explained if we assume that they were functionally identical from ego’s viewpoint. This reconstructed system points to a close consanguineal relation between the father’s father and mother’s brother, as is possible in a dual-exogamous cross-cousin marriage system, where a man can marry his mother’s brother’s daughter or father’s sister’s daughter, both of whom belng to the other lineal group.”

proto-indo-europeans are thought to have had a patrilineal family system — descent was reckoned primarly through the father’s line — and patrilocal residence — a woman would leave her family upon marriage and go live with her husband and his family. finally, they had clans [pg. 652 — i’m missing the PIE script formatting here]:

“7.4.1. The Indo-European word for ‘kin, clan’

“One of the basic structural units of ancient Indo-European society was the kin grouping *k’en-(th-) ‘clan, tribe, kin collectivity’. The stem is etymologically related to *k’en- ‘give birth’ (Skt. janati ‘gives birth’, OLat. geno ‘(I) give birth’, Gk. gignomai ‘(I) issue from, come from’, etc. The word for ‘clan’, etc. is a derivative in *-th- from this root, a formation well preserved in a number of early Indo-European dialects….

“In Italic the Proto-Indo-European word for ‘clan’, etc. is represented by Lat. gens, gen. gentis ‘clan; kinship grouping; tribe’. In Germanic the root is attested in a derivative, Goth. kindins ‘clan leader’ (from *k’enthi-nos)….”

so, the PIE speakers were: a patrilineal, patrilocal, clannish people who probably married their cross-cousins to some extent.

that is all!

previously: more on inbreeding in germanic tribes and archaic greek mating patterns and kinship terms

(note: comments do not require an email. pie!)


random notes: 06/07/14

here’re some random notes on the history of mating patterns in korea!:

from Marriage, Social Status, and Family Succession in Medieval Korea (Thirteenth-Fifteenth Centuries) [pg. 133 – links added by me]:

“Marriage between those with the same surname and the same family origin was prohibited by law since the early Koryô Dynasty [918–1392]. Prohibition orders were issued twelve times throughout the Koryô Dynasty. It was the goal to expand the range of prohibited marriages from a first cousin in 1058 to a second cousin in 1096. Marriage among those with the same surnames was also prohibited in 1309. Because of the prohibition order in 1309, intermarriage between Kwôn families decreased rapidly from about 35 percent to less than 5 percent in the mid-fourteenth century (Figure 4).

“There were, however, cases of marriage between those with the same surname and the same family origin, even up to the Chosôn Dynasty [1392–1897]. In the years 1606 and 1630, in the Saneum Household Register, intermarriage was recorded at 5.9 percent and 5.8 percent respectively.”

so, first cousin marriage was banned in 1058, second cousin marriage in 1096, and marriage to all cousins from the patriclan in 1309. however, note that the first and second cousin marriage bans were also cousins from the patriclan, so marriages to the mother’s brother’s daughter (mbd) or father’s sister’s daughter (fzd), neither of whom would share a male ego’s surname, were still permitted — and were practiced. (mbd marriage is quite typical for east asia, especially in china traditionally.)

the dates of the bans on cousin marriage are a few hundred years after northwest europe — ca. 500 a.d. versus ca. 1000 ad. plus, of course, the catholic church in europe banned marriage to all forms of cousins, not just those of the same patriclan. the rates of cousin marriage in the 1600s in korea are very low — not much higher than, say, the upper classes in england in the nineteenth century — but, again, marriages to the mbd or fzd are not included in these figures.

from Forbidden Relatives: The American Myth of Cousin Marriage [pg. 10]:

“In Korea, for example, traditional matrimonial rules forbid marriage between a man and a type of second cousin (the daughter of his grandfather’s brother’s son’s daughter) but allow a man to wed a kind of first cousin (the daughter of his mother’s brother).”

this is, of course, because the second cousin is from the patriclan (shares the same surname as the man), whereas the first cousin is not.

and from Voices of Foreign Brides: The Roots and Development of Multiculturalism in Korea [pgs. 28 and 171 – links added by me]:

“Historically, most Korean dynasties imposed the incest taboo. In Koguryo (37 BC to AD 668) and Paekche (18 BC to AD 660), marriage within the same lineage (or clan) was prohibited, while Silla (57 BC to AD 935) encouraged close kin marriages beyond the third degree of relationship (beyond uncle and aunt) and with members of the same clan, especially among royal and upper-class families. In the early dynastic period, Koguryo followed the Silla system, allowing close kin marriage even within a two-degree relationship (even brother and sister, if the mothers were different) in royal families as an effort to maintain the ‘same blood’ and protect the purity of the royal blood line. In fact, King T’aejo of the Koguryo dynasty encouraged close-kin marriage.”

so before the bans of ca. 1000 a.d. mentioned above, close cousin marriage of all sorts was present in large parts of the korean peninsula.

“The prohibition of marriage between members of the same lineage or clan…. This taboo rule had come into being in the Choson dynasty after the adoption of Ta Ming Lu (Law of the Great Ming), the comprehensive body of administrative and criminal law of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) of China.”

i think the law of the great ming was adopted in korea around 1397 [pg. 21], although the source above says that marriage within the patriclan was banned in 1309.

“Nevertheless, *yangban* [members of the ruling class – h.chick] in many cases ignored the rule and continued to marry matrilineal cousins (siblings of a mother’s sisters and father’s sisters).”

well, that shouldn’t have been a problem, since those cousins do not have the same surname/are not part of the patriclan.

“In Korea, unlike China, several different clans may share one *song*, and clans with different surnames may share a *pon*, in which case the rule of clan exogamy is applied…. Under this rule, some clans with millions of members have been prohibited from intermarrying….”

again, this is the patriclan. some footnotes from Voices of Foreign Brides:

“13. Kim, Kimchi and IT, p. 113. And rules regulating marriage customs, specifically those prohibiting marriage between close relatives, were first initiated by the tenth king of the Koryo dynasty (918-1392), Chongjong (1034-1046). During his reign, the children of close kin marriages could not be appointed to government positions. Nevertheless, such a prohibition mainly had an impact on upper-class nobility and not commoners. Some believe that such a rule reflected the influence of China, but others disagree. If Koryo was either forced to initiate or willingly adopted the Chinese system, the incest taboo might have extended to entire surname groups as in China. Instead, Koryo merely imposed a prohibition of marriage between close relatives (ibid.; Lee, Han’guk kajok-ui sajok yon gu, pp. 64-65).

“14. Martina Deuchler offers an explanation for the adoption of this law (Martina Deuchler, “The Tradition: Women during the Yi dynasty,” in Virtues in Conflict: Tradition and the Korean Women Today, Sandra Mattielli, ed., pp. 1-47 [Seoul: The Royal Asiatic Society, Korea Branch, 1977], p. 4). The Choson literati-official (*sadaebu*) became aware that indigenous Choson customs often stood in the way of implementing reform policies, which could not be carried out successfully without legal sanctions (Kim, Kimchi and IT, p. 113). The adoption of the Ta Ming Lu was therefore an introduction of the rule of law to supplement the rule of goodness. However, Choson interpreted the entire Ta Ming Lu so literally that lineage and clan exogamy, the rule of marriage that requires a person to marry outside his or her own group, was institutionalized in Korea….

“16. In July 1977, however, the constitutional Court of Korea handed down a landmark decision ruling that prohibition of marriage between clan members beyond eight-degree relationships (third cousins) was unconstitutional. Since then, clan members whose kinship was beyond eight degrees could marry legitimately, and family registries could issue marriage licenses for such couples…. A court ruling handed down on February 3, 2005, followed by the passage of a new statute on March 2, 2005, changed the system of giving surnames. This is turn has altered clan exogamy.”

(note: comments do not require an email. traditional korean dress. the friggin’ BEST traditional dresses in ANY culture! (^_^))

cousin marriage in sub-saharan africa

whenever i’m kinda tired and slightly braindead, i usually start trawling the streets google books or online journals for any info/data on mating patterns in human populations. (unless i rewatch star wars for the umpteenth millionth time, obviously.) it’s my own, personal form of trainspotting just with less trains. and more mating patterns.

so i thought i’d share with you what i’ve got to date for sub-saharan (ss) african populations. this is faaar from being a complete list, nor is it systematic in any way. it’s just the stuff that i’ve happened to come across so far, so don’t read anything into the list like “overall there seems to be more inbreeding or outbreeding” or whatever.

first of all, there are a LOT of ss african populations! thousands. so, you know, it’ll take some time to get info on them all! here’s a map of the broad ethnolinguistic groups of africa that i’ve stolen from wikipedia — remember that there are hundreds if not thousands of subgroups within these broad groups:

subsaharan africa ethnolinguistic groups

needless to say, with such a wide variety of peoples, there is also a wide variety of mating patterns in ss africa. some populations avoid cousin marriage altogether. we’ve already seen this with the bamileke of cameroon and the igbo of nigeria. also the turkana of kenya and quite possibly the amhara of ethiopia (not 100% sure about them — need to double-check). a notable group which apparently avoids cousin marriage is the zulu. but plenty of other ss africa groups do practice cousin marriage like, as you’ll see in the table below, the kongo and luba in the democratic republic of congo, the ashanti in ghana, the sotho-tswana in south africa, and the kpelle of liberia. (fun fact that’s stuck in my brain for some reason — some of oprah’s ancestors were probably kpelle.)

the most common form of cousin marriage in ss africa is mother’s brother’s daughter (mbd) marriage which isn’t too surprising since that is the most common form of cousin marriage in the world. there’s an interesting twist to it in ss africa, though, thanks to all of the polygamy which is also very common in ss african societies. here from robin fox [pg. 195]:

This latter form of marriage [mother’s brother’s daughter] is common in Africa and in patrilineal societies generally. Often, in Africa, it goes along with marriage to the wife’s brother’s daughter, as shown in diagram 4.2. A man either marries his wife’s brother’s daughter or passes the privilege on to his son (at least this is one way of looking at it). In many societies it is simply a straightforward privilege to marry the mother’s brother’s daughter.”

so, yeah, in case you were wondering, that would make the kids of these two wives (wife number one/aunt and wife number two/niece) both half-siblings and first cousins once-removed. and the children of wife number one are the first cousins once-removed to their father (and mother). and the children of wife number two are second cousins to their father. i think. i’ll let you think about it for a while. (~_^)

there is some father’s brother’s daughter (fbd) marriage (the type favored by the arabs) in some areas of ss africa — most notably amongst the hausa and fulani in northern nigeria, and the songhai and soninke in mali — but these are all muslim groups who i would guess picked up fbd marriage from the arabs/north african groups that introduced islam to them. youssef courbage and emmanuel todd think otherwise [pg. 43]:

“So-called Arab marriage, accepting union with any first cousin, but preferably with the father’s brother’s daughter, is not characteristic of sub-Saharan Africa. It is widely practiced only by the Fulani, nomadic herders of the northern fringe, immediately south of the desert, at a level so much higher than the Arab norm that it probably had an independent origin. It is also characteristic of some sedentary groups in the same area (Soninke in Senegal, Mali, and Mauritania; Songhai in Mali; Hausa in northern Nigeria). In West Africa, marriage is usually either exogamous or characterized by a preference for cross-cousin marriage, that is, between the children of a brother and a sister, a practice that has nothing to do with Islam.”

i don’t know if that statement about the fulani practicing a greater amount of fbd marriage than the arabs is correct or not. i shall have to try and find out. (here might be a good place to start.) i think it’s more likely that, being that the fulani have obviously been in contact with the arab/muslim world for quite a long time, they picked up the practice in that way. the afghanis and pakistanis also practice quite a lot of fbd marriage even though they’re at the edge of the “arabized” world, albeit at the other end of it, so i doubt that distance from arabia matters much here. it’s the contact with the greater arab world that counts.

two ss african groups that do seem to have adopted fbd marriage independently are the sotho-tswana and venda of south africa. need to learn more about those two groups. (note that the fbd marriage recorded in the table for the tutsi in rwanda refers only to some of the elites, not the general population.)

additionally, as in christian europe (especially medieval europe), some ss african groups prohibit marriage between in-laws — which is interesting. one example are the yao of malawi. they, however, happen to have a preference for cross-cousin marriage.

again, the other mating practice that is very common in ss africa is polygamy. i’ve said a few times here on the blog that you’d think that that would narrow the gene pool/relatedness between individuals in a group just as cousin marriage does. it might not always, though, because polygamy is not one thing either (can nothing ever be easy and straightforward?! (~_^) ). the lozi of zambia, for instance, apparently practice (or did traditionally) a sort of rapid serial polygamy, with wives being shuffled rather quickly on to the next husband, so that wouldn’t really narrow the genetic relatedness in the population at all, afaics. quite the opposite really. on the other hand, some groups practice sororal polygamy with the men making sure to marry sets of sisters, so that would narrow the relatedness in the group more so than a more basic form of polygamy in which men married women more randomly. the conclusion wrt polygamy, i think, is that each group will have to be evaluated on an individual basis. (*sigh*)

problem number one: for my purposes, since i’m interested in evolution and the selection of behavioral traits, i need to know how long populations have been inbreeding or outbreeding for, since natural selection does take some amount of time (but not necessarily millions of years). that’s difficult to work out for ss africans (and most of the world for that matter) without historic records or reams of genetic data which we haven’t got yet. it might be possible to reconstruct some of the history of mating patterns for some of the groups in ss africa from colonial accounts, especially those of missionaries who also acted as early ethnographers in many ways. we shall see. it would certainly be interesting to know for how long some of these groups have been inbreeding or outbreeding. as we’ve already seen, for instance, wikipedia claims that the igbo had a “quasi-republican” form of government in the 1400s with some sort of one-man-one-vote system. that’s not a system you find in heavily inbreeding societies — at least none that i can think of. what if it’s connected to the igbo outbreeding? dunno. Further Research is RequiredTM — and most likely it’ll have to be genetic.

problem number two: don’t have a whole lot of info on the rates of cousin marriage (or not) for most of these populations either. that’s also an extremely important detail to know. here are the few groups that i do have some numbers for:

– the fulani of burkina-faso: 65.8% first and second cousin marriage rate
– the fulani, mandinka, and wolof in gambia: 65% of first marriages of men are to a cousin – that’s an average of the three populations, and i don’t have a breakdown for each group
– the fouta-jallon (taramabli-dionfo) of guinea: 25.9% cousin marriage rate
– the yoruba of oka akoko in nigeria: 51.2% cousin marriage rate
– the lobedu (sotho) of south africa: 30% cousin marriage rate

so, there’s a variety in the rates, too. again, not surprising.

i think that’s it by way of the intro, so without further ado, here is my table. oh, the populations highlighted in yellow are those which include more than ten million people. and many of these groups spill over into other countries, of course, apart from the ones in which i’ve listed them [click on table for LARGER view – should open in new tab/window]:

cousin marriage in africa - table

i think that’s it for now! stay tuned. (^_^)

A Companion to Ethics
– Consang.net – Table 1 – Consanguinity in Africa [pdf]
Contingent Lives: Fertility, Time, and Aging in West Africa
A Convergence of Civilizations: The Transformation of Muslim Societies Around The World
Culture and Customs of South Africa
Ethnic Groups of Africa and the Middle East: An Encyclopedia
The Family Estate in Africa: Studies in the Role of Property in Family Structure and Lineage Continuity
Joking, Affinity and the Exchange of Ritual Services Among the Kiga of Northern Rwanda: An Essay on Joking Relationship Theory
The Making of the Pentecostal Melodrama: Religion, Media and Gender in Kinshasa
Man in Africa
Milk, Honey, and Money: Changing Concepts in Rwandan Healing
Nomads who Cultivate Beauty: Wodaabe Dances and Visual Arts in Niger
The Problem of Context
Reproduction and Social Organization in Sub-Saharan Africa
Seven Tribes of British Central Africa
Slavery in Africa: Historical and Anthropological Perspectives
The Social Basis of Health and Healing in Africa
Structure and Sentiment: A Test Case for Social Anthropology
Women and Marriage in Kpelle Society
Women of Tropical Africa

previously: the bamileke of cameroon and fulani, hausa, igbo, and yoruba mating patterns and the turkana: mating patterns, family types, and social structures and ethiopia notes and
flatlanders vs. mountaineers revisited

(note: comments do not require an email. the yao of malawi. people will do the silliest things!)

fulani, hausa, igbo, and yoruba mating patterns

the war nerd says of some of the populations in nigeria:

“Nigeria’s three parts were simply nailed together by the British for their Imperial convenience: The North is a Muslim theocracy dominated by the Hausa and Fulani; the West, where the Yoruba kings (Oba) ruled city-states; and the East, where the Igbo operated on something a lot like ancient Greek assemblies, with every freeborn man entitled to a voice.”

hmmmm. doesn’t that sound interesting! more…

“The Yoruba were the first to meet the whites and take up Western education. They dealt with the British town by town; to the Yoruba, your town was more important than the broader ethnic identity. The Igbo came late to British rule but took to education very quickly. The Igbo get called ‘the Jews of Africa’ because they’re good at book-learning and business.

“And then there were the Northerners, the Hausa-dominated Muslims of the dry inland territory. In a way, you wouldn’t be far off thinking of the great Nigerian divide in California terms: the coasts vs. the hot inland redneck zone. The North, in Nigerian terms, is usually called ‘Hausa,’ or ‘Hausa-Fulani,’ but it includes the Kanuri of the Northeast, who are the most remote from the coast and the fiercest opponents of anything coastal, Christian, or modern. These were all war-forged Sahel caliphates, with no tradition of local loyalties like the Yoruba, or egalitarianism like the Igbo. They had the traditional Sahel-Muslim organization, top-down all the way: Sultan gives orders to Omda, Omda gives orders to Sheikh, Sheikh gives orders to commoners. And commoners obey.”

so we’ve got clannish/tribal northerners — the fulani and the hausa. and then we have the city-state yoruba and the “egalitarian” igbo.

i’d just like to point out that:

– the fulani prefer first or second cousin marriage and specifically father’s brother’s daughter (fbd) marriage. they’re pastoralists. there are good chances i think that, like other groups elsewhere, the fulani adopted the fbd marriage of the arabs when they converted to islam (starting in the 1400s?), but perhaps they simply practice fbd marriage because they’re pastoralists.

– the hausa also prefer cousin marriage, but it seems cross-cousin marriage, so we’re talking father’s sister’s daughter (fzd) or mother’s brother’s daughter (mbd) marriage. they are also largely muslim, but don’t seem to have adopted the fbd marriage of the arabs like their neighbors the fulani. islam has been present in hausa lands since the 1200s, but it wasn’t until the 1800s that it had fully penetrated the population.

– cousin marriage doesn’t seem to be very prevalant amongst the yoruba [pg. 74] — definitely they don’t seem to *prefer* any particular form of cousin marriage [pg. 102]. some subgroups of yoruba do have very high cousin marriage rates — the people in the town of oka akoko were found to have a consanguinity rate of 51% which included uncle-niece marriages [pg. 4]. notably, oka akoko is in a mountainous region. another case of mountaineers marrying closely? dunno. Further Research is RequiredTM!

– the igbo avoid cousin marriage altogether. no form of cousin marriage is permitted. no idea how far back this goes, but it would sure be interesting to know. if wikipedia is to be believed, the igbo had a “quasi-republican” form of government in the 1400s (see also here). wouldn’t it be cool if that system was connected to mating patterns?! dunno though. we shall have to wait and see if any further info presents itself.

oh, and btw — polygamy is present in all of these groups — and probably has been for a long, long time.

perhaps there’s something in all this, perhaps not, but these groups do seem to fit the usual pattern — closer mating patterns=more closed societies, broader mating patters=more open societies. dunno. just sayin’. Further Research is RequiredTM!


previously: the bamileke of cameroon

(note: comments do not require an email. jaja of opobo.)

random notes: 02/09/14

some random notes on the history of mating patterns in china…

on the recommendation of john derbyshire, we have been listening to some of the great courses lectures here at home. that’s not the royal “we” by the way — i mean the d.h. and me. anyway…in From Yao to Mao: 5000 Years of Chinese History, the lecturer, kenneth hammond — an excellent lecturer and, incidentally, one of the kent 25 — mentions that during the southern song period (1127–1279) elites in china changed their marriage patterns. in the preceding northern song period (960-1127), the elites — the intelligensia and bureaucrats running the country — had a tendency to marry other elites from all over the kingdom. the bureaucrats — provincial administrators, for instance — would all meet up with some regularity in the capital at kaifeng and, when they were there, one of the things they’d do was to arrange their children’s marriages between their respective families. however, in the southern song period, the elites — according to the current paradigm of teh historians — began to marry much more locally. really locally, apparently — not on a national basis, and not even on a provincial basis, but within very local areas.

the first thing that came to my mind when i heard this was that it probably just reflects the general pattern in china of closer marriage in the south than in the north. my impression so far from the little i’ve read on the history of mating patterns in china — and it is so far just an impression, so don’t quote me on this! — is that there has been a greater amount of cousin marriage in southern china than in northern china (who knows for how long?) — and as a result, there is a greater importance of clans in southern china than in the north (which there definitely is). if this general pattern is true, then it’s perhaps not surprising that marriage amongst the elites became more local in the southern song period since we’re presumably talking about elites from the south. the general pattern (if it exists) would also fit with the “flatlanders vs. mountaineers” theory of inbreeding and outbreeding, since southern china is mountainous while the north has a nice big plain.

in Portrait of a Community: Society, Culture, and the Structures of Kinship in the Mulan River Valley (Fujian) from the Late Tang Through the Song (2007), hugh clark, after looking through the genealogies of the elites in this mulan river valley place in the southern province of fujian during the southern song period, has this to say about their marriage patterns [pgs. 134-135]:

[T]hese links point to a phenomenon called ‘patrilateral cross-cousin marriage’, a pattern of reoccurring affinal exchange in which sone of a union most often took the daughters of a maternal uncle as wives [mother’s brother’s daughter or mbd marriage – h.chick].

Such links, which were common in traditional Chinese culture, helped to cement ties between patrilines that could render all manner of mutual assistance, be it fiscal, political, or social, to their affines.”

so…there you go. i’ll be keepin’ my eye open for more info on all this!

in The Elementary Structures of Kinship, claude lévi-strauss concluded that a preference for mother’s brother’s daughter (mbd) marriage had a long history in china. speaking of history, it’s been ages since i’ve read Elementary Structures, so i don’t recall exactly how lévi-strauss’ argument went, but apparently he based his conclusion on the kinship terms in the chinese language. lewis h. morgan thought similarly — that peoples categorize their relatives based upon which ones they were permitted to marry and which ones were forbidden to them. i happen to think this is correct. it’s not the only reason for why peoples name their relatives in the ways that they do, but it’s probably one of the main ones. thus the arabs have a pretty complicated naming system for all of their cousins, since marriage to some cousins (the father’s brother’s daughter or the bint ‘amm) is preferred. the chinese also have a complicated kinship terminology (but some of that is related to an age hierarchy/ancestor worship). most europeans, on the other hand, don’t differentiate between their cousins, since cousin marriage was banned for so long in europe. before the church’s cousin marriage bans, most (all?) europeans — especially northern europeans (the greeks are a bit of an exception in this story) — did name their cousins differently — the european naming system changed after the mating patterns changed — about three or four hundred years later in the case of the germans, for example.

anyway, i can’t quote lévi-strauss on mbd marriage in china for you, because i don’t have a copy of his book. but i can quote jack goody on lévi-strauss. from The Oriental, the Ancient and the Primitive: Systems of Marriage and the Family in the Pre-Industrial Societies of Eurasia (1990) [pg. 23]:

“Attempting a historical reconstruction which has some affinities with the parallel undertakings of L.H. Morgan (1870) and W.H.R. Rivers (1914), Levi-Strauss compares China with the Miwok of North America largely on the basis of terms for kin relationship and concludes his own study of China with words that reflect the earlier tendency to derive structure from terminology:

“‘We are thus brought to the hypothesis of the coexistence, in ancient China, of two kinship systems: the first, practised by the peasants, and based on a real or functional division into exogamous moieties, the exchange of sisters, and marriage between bilateral cross-cousins; the other, of feudal inspiration, and based on cycles of alliance between patrilineages (distributed or not into exogamous moieties), and marriage with the matrilateral cross-cousin and niece. That is, a system of restricted exchange and a system of generalized exchange.’ (1969:368-70)”

no idea if this theory bears any resemblance to reality, but it’s certainly interesting.

finally, from Why Europe? (2010), here’s michael mitterauer on china [pgs. 83-85]:

“The quite substantial differences between Europe and China are more apparent if we take the terminology of relationship as a prime indicator of kinship systems. There is no Chinese counterpart to the parallelling process [i.e. naming paternal and maternal relatives the same – h.chick] discernible in Europe from antiquity on. Quite the opposite: an exceedingly complex system of kinship terminology was further differentiated and elaborated upon in China. Claude Levi-Strauss speaks in this connection of an ‘overdetermined system’ against which he counterposes the ‘marked tendency toward *indeterminism*’ in European cultures. Historical dictionaries from after the second century BC list no fewer than 340 Chinese terms for the different relationships between kinfolk. Typical examples of this differentiation are the terms for ‘uncle.’ The European languages have managed with one word since the great transformation in its terminology, whereas Chinese has five different words, depending on whether the father’s older brother (*bo*) is meant, or his younger brother (*shu*), the mother’s brother (*jiu*), the aunt’s spouse on the father’s side (*gufu*) or on the mother’s side (*yifu*). This example illustrates the four distinguishing criteria on which this terminology is by and large based: gender, relative age, the generation, and filiation. The strict separation of the paternal and maternal lines is particularly vital. A distinction is drawn in China and Tibet between ‘relatives of the bone’ and ‘relatives of the flesh’; it also is found in a larger area stretching from India to Siberia and embracing the Mongolian and Turkic peoples of Russia. What is meant by these forms are paternal and maternal relatives, respectively, with the former being given preference. As this example demonstrates, the terminological distinction between an older and a younger brother is made only in the patriline, a differentiation that the Chinese system of kinship shares with many cultures in its extensive surroundings. It occurs as far away as southern Europe, where Indo-European roots cannot even begin to explain this significant feature. In this case we might have to think about possible influences from the steppe nomads who came from the East….

“The traditional rules of marriage in China display the same basic outlines of a strict patrilineal ordering of kinship that is found in the terminology of kinship. From the Tang dynasty [618–907 ad – h.chick] on, legal codes prohibited marriage to a woman from four classes of relatives: first and foremost, marriage to women with the same surname, then to widows of members of the same household, to women of another generation of fairly close kinship on the mother’s side or by marriage, and finally to sisters from the same mothers by a different father (half-sisters). In China identical surnames meant in principle descent from the same patriline. The ban on marriage was valid even if the common ancestor was a long way back in the male line. The Chinese family held to these basic principles of exogamy, which can be found in many other cultures in Eurasia with an analogous kinship structure. In early medieval Europe, far-reaching rules concerning exogamy were also established, but they were confined to certain degrees of relatedness. They mainly concerned the paternal and maternal lines completely symmetrically. In China, on the other hand, the emphasis on the father’s line led to crass inequalities when it came to enlarging the list of banned female marriage partners…. Marrying relatives from the mother’s side was not forbidden in principle. In earlier times, marriage in China even between cross-cousins not only used to be permitted but was common practice. Among China’s neighbors it can be found up to this day as a preferred form of marriage.”

previously: abridged history of cousin marriage in china

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historic mating patterns of native north americans

still on vacation** (i know – it’s disgusting! (~_^) ) — but still reading! a bit.

i picked up this book (pub. 1969) in a used book store the other day (yes, an ACTUAL book store!). it includes a nice, although possbily out-of-date, summary of mating patterns/cousin marriage in native north american societies [pgs. 227-229 – links added by me]:


First-cousin marriage was permitted or perferred by a small minority of peoples….

“On the northern Northwest Coast, cross-cousin marriage was the preferred kind of union. If no first cross-cousin was available to a man, he chose a more remote cousin designated by the same word in the language. Among the Haida, a boy of ten years of age ideally went to live with his mother’s brother, who gave him his education in the lore of the sib as well as in practical matters. When the boy reached marriageable age, he ideally married his mother’s brother’s daughter and continued to live in the house of his mother’s brother. When the latter died, the boy, who was now the deceased’s son-in-law and also his sister’s son, inherited his house, land, and chattels as well as his social position and prestige. If no mother’s brother’s daughter was available to a young man, he might substitute a father’s sister’s daughter, who was designated by the same kinship term in the language….

“Among the Kaska, inland from the Northwest Coast, the only first cousin a man was permitted to marry was his mother’s brother’s daughter. This was the preferred marriage, although many men had to be content with cousins further removed or with unrelated wives. At Lake Teslin, between the Kaska and the coast, and among the Chipewyans farther east, a man could marry only his father’s sister’s daughter.

“Proceeding farther east to the Cree and Ojibwa, we find a different picture. Although marriages with both kinds of first cross-cousins were permitted, they were less frequent than those with more remote cousins. Double cross-cousin marriage sometimes occurred; a man married a woman who was both his mother’s brother’s daughter and his father’s sister’s daughter at the same time. This could happen only when two men in the older generation had exchanged their sisters, each marrying the other’s sister. The offspring from these unions would be double cross-cousins. Figures on the frequency of single cross-cousin marriage show that the mother’s brother’s daughter was married more often then the father’s sister’s daughter. The pattern of the Montagnais-Naskapi of the Labrador Peninsula was similar to that of the Cree and Ojibwa.

“In California and Oregon, cross-cousin marriage was permitted or perferred only by a small minority of tribelets, and in every case the mother’s brother’s daughter was singled out. In the Great Basin, cross-cousin marriage was permitted in a minority of localities but was nowhere the preferred form. In the Southwest, only the Walapai permitted a man to marry either variety of cross-cousin. The Maya of the Yucatan appear to have had both kinds of cross-cousin marriage at the time of first Spanish contact, although the evidence is indirect….

Parallel cousin marriage [like fbd marriage – h.chick] was tolerated in a very few localities, but was nowhere a preferred form.

complicating matters though:


The vast majority of North American peoples practiced polygyny. It was probably most frequent in the northern part of the Plains and Prairie areas…. Actual figures obtained from the records of priests among the Crees and Ojibwas indicate an incidence of polygyny in former times well over 20 per cent. Another area of common occurrence was the Northwest Coast. Although polygyny was limited to the wealthier class in this area, mainly because of the great amount of the bride price, it seems to have exceeded 20 per cent in many localities.

“Exclusive monogamy was the rule among the Iroquois and a few of their neighbors. This is to be expected in cultures in which matrilineal descent and matrilocal residence were coupled with female ownership and control of agricultural land and houses, not to mention the unusual authority of women in political affairs. Here the men literally moved in with their wives, who could divorce them merely by tossing their personal effects out of the door of the longhouse….”

ruh-roh! (~_^)

“The only other area where female dominance approached this level was that of the western Pueblos in the Southwest. Here the picture was similar, and exclusive monogamy prevailed. The other instances of exclusive monogamy were scattered and occurred in both bilateral and patrilineal societies. They do not lend themselves to any ready explanation.

“Sororal polygyny — that is, the marriage of a man to two wives who were sisters — probably occurred wherever polygyny was to be found. A number of Plains tribes had no other form. A man in this society was especially anxious to acquire an eldest sister as a first mate, with an eye on acquiring her younger sister if and when he could afford them…. [I]t is easy to see that polygyny had more utility in societies where male mortality in hunting and warfare was high. The Plains was one of these areas. Among the Eskimos, where a man had more difficulty in supporting multiple wives, the extremely high male mortality was offset by female infanticide. This partially explains the more modest amount of polygyny present in the Arctic.”

more on native north americans eventually! (^_^)

previously: mating patterns in colonial mexico: the mayans and the kato

**not hbd chick

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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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why mbd marriage amounts to less inbreeding than fbd marriage

in response to my post on why fbd marriage amounts to more inbreeding than mbd marriage (short answer: it results in more double-first cousin marriages), violet asks:

“I don’t understand why there can’t be double first cousins with mbd.”

good question. well, there certainly can be double-first cousin marriages in mbd societies, it’s just that the structure of mbd marriage doesn’t give the same push towards double-first cousin marriage as fbd marriage does.

what i should’ve done in the previous post on fbd (father’s brother’s daughter) marriage was to include diagrams of mbd (mother’s brother’s daughter) marriage along with the diagrams of fbd marriage, but to be honest i just got lazy (sorry!). so, without further ado, here is mbd marriage (you might want to have open the fbd marriage post at the same time):

ego (red triangle guy) marries his maternal first cousin, i.e. his mother’s brother’s daughter (mbd).

but who does ego’s brother (the triangle to the right of ego) marry? if he lives in a society in which mbd marriage is favored (china, for instance), and if there’s a female maternal cousin available, he’ll marry her (maybe/probably). in this case, that’s ego’s wife’s sister:

then what? well, in the next generation, unlike in fbd marriage, the kids of ego and his brother should NOT marry each other. the kids should marry their mothers’ brothers’ kids:

these kids are all first cousins, but they’re not double-first cousins (unlike in the fbd marriage scenario). the four kids do not share both sets of grandparents in common, whereas double-first cousins do.

also, you can see that there’s an additional party brought into this family tree — the yellow mom/aunt. she is not from ego’s patrilineage. she’s an outsider to some degree or another, and these wives that are brought in from the outside are why mbd marriage is often described as alliance building — different patrilineages build ties with one another.

so, the mbd marriage system doesn’t have the same push towards double-first cousin marriage as an fbd marriage system does. you can see this (i think) if you browse through the consang.net tables — there are more incidences of double-first cousin marriages recorded in fbd societies (arabs et al.) than in mbd societies (just about everybody else).

the reason any of this is good to know is because it is important to bear in mind that not all cousin marriage systems are the same — some result in more inbreeding or closer genetic relatedness between family members than others — and that should affect the evolution of “genes for altruism/other innate social aptitudes” in these populations.

previously: why fbd marriage amounts to more inbreeding than mbd marriage and tribes and types of cousin-marriage

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