Dani Kin Terms

Dani kin terms (in blue letters) conform to an Omaha classificatory pattern. They are different from the English (i.e. Eskimo) system, not only because of different words, but because they mark different categories. For example, the Dani divide our category of "cousin" in three different ways.

Look at the following classification and see if you can understand the main principles of classification. (What does ejak or akoja mean?)

Dani Kin Terms

Source: Heider 1996: 78.
Note that Heider uses alternative spellings akoja and akosa to designate the same term, rendered here as akoja.

The following table shows the kintypes included in English and Dani categories. Note that English terms never refer to exactly the same kin types as Dani, so it would be difficult to translate the Dani words into English precisely

English TermKin TypeDani Term
Uncle FB

The key to understanding Dani and other Omaha terminologies is that they are defined primarily on the basis of patrilineal descent lines. Thus all women in EGO's mother's patrilineage receive the same term as his mother (akoja) and all the men are designated as mothers' brothers (ami).

  • Akoja = woman of Ego's mother's brother's patrilineage (in red)
  • Ami = man of Ego's mother's brother's patrilineage (in red)
  • Ejak = child of a woman of Ego's patrilineage
  • (Ego's patrilineage is marked in blue)

The focus on patrilineal kinship in Dani terminology has the curious consequence that a man and a woman will each refer to his or her own children by different terms. While a man calls his child abut, a woman calls hers ejak, i.e., a child of a female member of her patrilineage.

Dani Kin Terms - Female Ego

Where English terms can be visualized as a series of concentric circles, Dani terms assume a linear spatial representation.

For the discussion of another Omaha system with some curious variations see Igbo kin terms

© Brian Schwimmer
University of Manitoba
Created: Sept. 1996
Last Updated: August 2003