Hyponymy and the structure of Kuuk Thaayorre kinship

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The Kuuk Thaayorre lexicon of kinship can be divided into four subsystems, each of which is hyponymically related to the others. At the finest level of granularity, the set of referential terms (e.g. <i>kanam</i> &#8216;[someone&#8217;s] elder brother&#8217;) distinguishes thirty-four classes of kin. These are hyponyms of the twenty-one vocative terms (e.g. <i>waanhn&#33;</i> &#8216;Big Brother&#33;&#8217;, a term which may also be used to address a male speaker&#8217;s son&#8217;s son or any speaker&#8217;s brother&#8217;s son&#8217;s son). The vocative forms are in turn hyponyms of the sixteen bereavement terms (e.g. <i>piluump</i>, which may be used to refer to someone bereaved of an elder brother, or elder sister, brother&#8217;s son&#8217;s daughter, brother&#8217;s son&#8217;s son and so on), while the seven kinship hand signs &#8211; which are hypernyms of the bereavement terms &#8211; are the most semantically broad of the system. In this manual register, an elder brother is indicated by a point to the shin, as is any sibling, grandchild or grandparent of the same patriline as ego. The respective semantic ranges of the hand signs can be precisely delimited in terms of three features (patriline, matriline and generational harmony), organizing principles which would otherwise be invisible. The purpose of this chapter is twofold: (a) to explore the covert categories that are revealed by a semantic analysis of the four subsystems and the relationships between them; and (b) to outline the structure of kinship in Kuuk Thaayorre.


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