Kin terms constitute a culture's kinship vocabulary, a catalog of the names
that are assigned to relatives, e.g., father, mother, uncle, grandson.
Different societies of course use different labels to designate their kin;
"uncle" is "oncle" in French and "tio" in Spanish.
However, there are more important differences in classification,
as cultures frequently go beyond mere labeling differences to group relatives
into completely different categories.
For example, the Dani term that corresponds to "uncle" is "ami".
This category includes a person's mother's brother but not his/her
father's brother who is called "opaije", the term that is used for
Differences in Labeling and Categorizing Kin
- Spanish and English use different words for the same categories.
- Dani terminology differs from English both in the words used and the
categories constructed by them.
Often the particular system of categorization gives clues to a culture's
priniciples of social organization and construction of social roles. For
example the Dani definition of "opaije" reflects an important distinction
between kin on the mother's and father's side of the family.
© Brian Schwimmer
University of Manitoba
Created: Sept. 1996
Last Updated: August 1998