[Lingtyp] Kinship systems that distinguish age but not gender

Siva Kalyan sivakalyan.princeton at gmail.com
Wed Jul 19 11:06:58 UTC 2017

Based on your description, it looks like 'older.sibling male' etc. may have
the status of "basic-level categories" in Papuan Malay (i.e. be the default
level of specificity at which siblings are classified). If so, then this
would be a strong argument in favour of treating these collocations as
entries in the lexicon.

I'm not convinced, though, that "elder brother" (and its equivalents in
other European languages) *shouldn't* be granted their own lexical entries.
After all, "elder" is pretty much restricted to kin terms (and for an even
more extreme case, French *aîné(e)* is I think restricted to sibling terms).

Perhaps what is at stake (when deciding what constitutes a "kinship term")
is not, in fact, whether a given term is part of the lexicon, but rather
whether it is a "basic-level" term.


On 19 July 2017 at 19:42, David Gil <gil at shh.mpg.de> wrote:

> Still on the topic of age and gender in siblings, here's a descriptive
> problem that I've been puzzling over and have no solution for; I wonder if
> anybody has any suggestions:
> Like many other varieties of Malay/Indonesian, Papuan Malay has a simple
> two-way distinction based on age:
> kaka - 'older sibling'
> ade - 'younger brother'
> But where it differs from other similar varieties of Malay/Indonesian is
> in what I guess I would call "usage": speakers very often use collocations
> which serve to differentiate gender:
> kaka laki-laki 'older.sibling male'
> kaka perempuan 'older.sibling female'
> ade laki-laki 'younger.sibling male'
> ade perempuan 'younger.sibling female'
> Similar collocations are available in other dialects, except that they're
> much less frequent, and one would not be tempted to enter these into a
> lexicon of kinship terms (any more than one would think of saying that
> English has a kinship term 'older brother' on the basis of the phrasal
> collocation used to express the concept).
> But Papuan Malay feels different, in Papuan Malay people use these
> collocations more frequently, and in contexts where they would not be used
> in other varieties of Malay/Indonesian.  So where in a description of the
> language would this fact be represented?  And where would this fact be
> expressed in a cross-linguistic typology of kinship terms?
> (At present, I am not aware of any properties other than those pertaining
> to usage that would distinguish collocations such as "kaka laki-laki" in
> Papuan Malay from its counterparts in other varieties of Malay/Indonesian.
> In particular, I doubt that there is any phonological evidence to the
> effect that such collocations are more closely bound in Papuan Malay than
> in other varieties.)
> On 19/07/2017 11:21, Kyla Quinn wrote:
> Okay, so looking through the parabank kin data we have so far....
> For Alex' question....out of 300 odd languages there are 82 that don't
> distinguish gender for younger siblings. There are 52 that don't
> distinguish gender for older siblings. There is a 51 language cross over
> between these two sets.  Most of these are Austronesian and North American
> languages, with a few Australian and others scattered through.
> For Siva's question...
> There are some languages in the data set that exhibit this pattern but as
> a cross pattern, so if you are male you distinguish for older brother and
> younger brother but no age distinction for sisters and vice versa. There
> are three languages that exhibit precisely what you've asked and there are
> several other variations.
> Happy to answer any other questions based on our data!!
> Cheers,
> Kyla
> On Wed, Jul 19, 2017 at 6:57 PM, Siva Kalyan <sivakalyan.princeton at gmail.
> com> wrote:
>> On a slight tangent, are there languages where male siblings are
>> distinguished for age but female siblings aren't (or vice versa)?
>> Siva
>> On 19 Jul 2017, at 6:50 pm, David Gil < <gil at shh.mpg.de>gil at shh.mpg.de>
>> wrote:
>> Matt beat me to it on Malay/Indonesian!  I would just like to add that
>> while many (most?) varieties that I am familiar with work the way Matt
>> describes, some exhibit an asymmetry in which elder siblings are
>> distinguished for gender while younger ones are not.  This pattern is also
>> evident in closely-related Minangkabau:
>> adiak - 'younger sibling'
>> uda - 'elder brother'
>> uni - 'elder sister'
>> And I suspect that it is common in other languages of the region.
>> On 19/07/2017 10:40, Matthew Carroll wrote:
>> Hi Guys
>> What about Indonesian/Malay? kakak/adik for elder/younger sibling
>> respectively.
>> Best,
>> Matt
>> On Wed, Jul 19, 2017 at 9:31 AM, Hedvig Skirgård <
>> <hedvig.skirgard at gmail.com>hedvig.skirgard at gmail.com> wrote:
>>> Dear LINGTYP,
>>> Does anyone know of a language that has a distinction in the kinship
>>> system for age of referent (younger/older) without also having a
>>> distinction for gender of referent? For example, a language that marks
>>> siblings as being younger or older to ego without reference to being sister
>>> or brother.
>>> The hypothesis is that this doesn't happen/is very rare. We'd like to
>>> know if you've come across any examples of this.
>>> I'm asking for my friend Alex (cc:ed) who is not on the list. Please
>>> direct any responses or comments to her.
>>> *****
>>> *Tōfā soifua,*
>>> *Hedvig Skirgård*
>>> PhD Candidate
>>> The Wellsprings of Linguistic Diversity
>>> ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language
>>> School of Culture, History and Language
>>> College of Asia and the Pacific
>>> Rm 4203, H.C. Coombs Building (#9)
>>> The Australian National University
>>> Acton ACT 2601
>>> Australia
>>> Co-chair of Public Relations
>>> Board of the International Olympiad of Linguistics
>>> <http://www.ioling.org/>www.ioling.org
>>> Blogger at Humans Who Read Grammars
>>> http://humans-who-read-grammars.blogspot.
>>> _______________________________________________
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>> _______________________________________________
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>> --
>> David Gil
>> Department of Linguistic and Cultural Evolution
>> Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History
>> Kahlaische Strasse 10, 07745 Jena, Germany
>> Email: gil at shh.mpg.de
>> Office Phone (Germany): +49-3641686834 <+49%203641%20686834>
>> Mobile Phone (Indonesia): +62-81281162816 <+62%20812-8116-2816>
>> _______________________________________________ Lingtyp mailing list
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>> --
> Kyla Quinn
> PhD Candidate
> ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language
> College of Asia and the Pacific | The Australian National University
> [image: cid:image001.jpg at 01D24FB2.4E587A40]
> --
> David Gil
> Department of Linguistic and Cultural Evolution
> Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History
> Kahlaische Strasse 10, 07745 Jena, Germany
> Email: gil at shh.mpg.de
> Office Phone (Germany): +49-3641686834 <+49%203641%20686834>
> Mobile Phone (Indonesia): +62-81281162816 <+62%20812-8116-2816>
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