The Sudanese system is completely descriptive and
assigns a different kin term to each distinct relative, as indicated by
separate letters and colours in the diagram above.
Ego distinguishes between his father (A), his father's brother (E),
and his mother's brother (H). There are potentially eight different
Sudanese terminologies are difficult to relate to specific social institutions, since they include no categories per se. They are generally correlated with societies that have substantial class divisions.
Examples of Sudanese systems include:
The Hawaiian system is the least descriptive and merges many different relatives
into a small number of categories. Ego
distinguishes between relatives only on the basis of sex and generation. Thus there is no uncle term; (mother's and
father's brothers are included in the same category as father). All cousins are classified in the same group as brothers
Lewis Henry Morgan, a 19th century pioneer in kinship studies, surmised that the Hawaiian system resulted from a situation of unrestricted sexual access or "primitive promiscuity" in which children called all members of their parental generation father and mother because paternity was impossible to acertain. Anthropologists now know that there is no history of such practices in any of the cultures using this terminology and that people in these societies make behavioural, if not linguistic, distinctions between their actual parents and other individuals they may call "father" or "mother". Morgan's theses was based on an ethnocentric assumption that the term for relatives in ego's parents' generation had the same meanings that father and mother have in English. Hawaiian kinship semantics are now thought to be related to the presence and influence of ambilineal descent systems.
The Hawaiian system can be illustrated by
The Eskimo system is marked by a bilateral emphasis -
no distinction is made between patrilineal and matrilineal relatives -
and by a recognition of differences in kinship distance -
close relatives are distinguished from more distant ones.
Another feature of Eskimo terminology is that nuclear family members are
assigned unique labels that are not extended to any other relatives,
whereas more distant relatives are grouped together on the basis of
collateral degree . (This process is called collateral merging).
Because of predominant marking of immediate family members,
Eskimo terms usually occur in societies
which place a strong emphasis on the nuclear family
rather than on extended kin or larger kinship groups.|
Examples of Eskimo terminology include:
The Iroquois system is based a principle of bifurcate merging. Ego
distinguishes between relatives on his mother's side of the family and
those on his father's side (bifurcation) and merges father with
father's brother (A) and mother with mother's sister (B).
Accordingly, father's brother's children and mother sister's children
(parallel cousins) are merged with brother and sister (C and D).
This terminology occurs in societies that are organized on the basis of
unilineal descent, where distinctions between
father's kin and mother's kin are critical.|
The Iroquois system can be illustrated by
The Omaha system is similar to the Iroquois and is in fact a bifurcate
merging system. Ego uses the same categorizations for father, father's
brother and mother's brother that he would in an Iroquois terminology.
However, there is a significant difference in cousin terminology.
Parallel cousins are merged with siblings, however cross-cousin terms are
quite peculiar and cut across generational divisions. Ego uses the
for his mother's brother's son as he does for his mother's brother (F)
and the same term for mother's brother's daughter as for his mother (B).
This lumping of generations is referred to as skewing.
This pattern has the effect of stressing common membership of relatives in
patrilineal lines; Ego's "mother" is defined as a female member of his
mother's partilineage, and Ego's "mother's brother" as a male member of his
As such Omaha terminologies are associated with societies that have a
strong patrilineal emphasis in their social organization.
Examples of Omaha terminologies include:
The Crow system is a mirror image of the Omaha.
Ego generally employs a bifurcate merging pattern but applies a
skewing rule to lump relatives within his father's matrilineage.
Thus father's sister's son gets the same term as father (A) and father's
sister's daughter, the same term as father's sister (E).
This system is generally found in societies with strong matrilineal kinship
The Crow system can be illustrated by