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linguistics

Kinship

The universalist versus relativist debate on kinship terminology is the most contentious out of the bunch due to the highly social nature of the topic. One of the greatest works about analyzing kinship systems in ethnoscience was in 1956 by Goodenough. Goodenough used the method of componential analysis to gather and analyze information about the kinship system of the Truk people. His definition of culture is rather famous, basically stating that culture is whatever an individual needs to operate in an acceptable manner in society. Goodenough placed a lot of scientific methodology into his description of meaning in kinship terminology. The universalist kinship scholars had a difficult time getting their acts together, as they had problems even agreeing among one another about what to do with certain aspects of kinship systems. One main point of contention was the importance of the nuclear family in the grand scheme of things. Malinowski downplayed the importance of the nuclear family and instead focused on the mother-child bond. He had a problem with seeing kinship in overly scientific terms. In opposition to Malinowski, Lounsbury thought that kinship systems were centered around a focal member (a matriarch or patriarch) and that the terminological relationships used to describe the individuals in the systems was innate and carried across cultures. The relativist argument was easy to make since the universalists were having enough trouble arguing among themselves. The relativists stated that universals do exist in mating and reproduction but not in their terminology. These individuals proposed that kinship terminology should be viewed in a social rather than biological view. The big relativist proponents were Leach and Schneider.
Published Mar 19 2006, 02:30 PM by christophergreen
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