Getting to know affines in PNG


To document a language, one must describe kinship.  Where shall we start? As someone primarily interested in comparing systems within languages, I express an explicit interest in affines, related by marriage(s) and the lexical system that connects these folk to consanguines, related by birth(s). There are four basic types of kinship systems based on terms used to cover the parents and their siblings: Generational (aka “Hawaiian”), Lineal (aka “Eskimo,” US), Bifurcate merging (aka “Iroquois,” popular in Melanesia), Bifurcate collateral (aka “Senegalese,” Latin). Jabêm poses an interesting challenge to this typology:  sa ‘aunt/uncle.’

This study explores affinal typology that emerges from comparing Kâte & Jabêm:

  • non-Oceanic languages of South Bougainville nearly lack explicit affine terminology. Hage (2004) classes them as Dravidian (a type of Iroqois).
  • Oceanic languages of Bougainville have richer affine terminology including Petats : súhan  ‘parents of child’s spouse.’ (Blackwood 1935:590).
  • Kâte the Trans New Guinea language nearest Finchhafen, PNG has two bi-affinal (involving  two marriages) terms:  borâ ‘husband’s brother’s wife’; gorec ‘wife’s sister’s husband.’ (Dempwolff 1925).