No universals in the cultural evolution of kinship terminology

Evolutionary Human Sciences Vol/Iss. 2 The Cambridge University Press Published In Pages: e42
By Passmore, Sam, Jordan, Fiona M.


Using phylogenetic comparative methods, the study explores the evolution of kinship terminologies within 176 societies in Austronesian, Bantu, and Uto-Aztecan language families. The authors consider 18 theories in the anthropological record that suggests that change in kinship terminologies is predicted by some social structures: marriage, residence, and descent. Only 19 of the 29 statistical hypotheses are supported, while none of the theories are supported in all three language families. This statistical irregularity means that the results are lineage-specific, instead of showing a universal driver of change in kinship terminology types.


Authors categorized the terminologies as Crow, Eskimo, Hawaiian, Iroquois, Omaha, and Sudanese; all of these show various results in each hypothesis. While marriage, common ancestry, and residence patterns were not strongly universal predictors of change in kinship terminologies, the authors suggest further research about other factors: religion and land-tenure.


Sample Used Coded Data Comment
D-PLACEOther researchersKinship terminologies and social structures from 176 societies within the Austronesian, Bantu, and Uto-Aztecan language families.

Documents and Hypotheses Filed By:stefania.becerralavado