ALS2012‎ > ‎Workshops‎ > ‎

Kinship and social categories in small-scale societies: terms, structure and systems in synchronic and diachronic perspective.

Organisers: Jane Simpson, Patrick McConvell, Harold Koch

The workshop aims to trace, from linguistic evidence, how various elements of social systems  (kinship systems, marriage, social categories like moieties and sections, local descent groups etc) have evolved together, influenced each other, or sometimes clashed. Examples can be drawn from any small-scale societies, especially focussing on the Asia-Pacific and Australia. The scope can include modern and historical cases of how groups converge or otherwise deal with mismatch between systems, and prehistorical reconstructions. The workshop builds on the AUSTKIN project.  We wish to examine hypotheses for instance about whether each type of kinship system correlates with specific other features of systems, such as social cateories, and how this came about (for instance which of the systems came first).
Papers could include cases studies of how the systems of different linguistic and cultural groups changed when brought into contact with each other in recentt history, either how people juggled several different systems in the surrounding region, or the issues when a newly adopted social cateory system lacked compatibility with a pre-existing kinship and marriage system, with emphasis on linguistic consequences.
Papers could also investigate the language used to talk about social categories (terms, systems and ways of speaking in conversation), and determine, where possible the sources of the patterns and etymologies of the terms. If we know the sources of the terms, we will have a better idea of their functioning in earlier societies. We will also be able to reconstruct the history of the terms: have they been borrowed from neighbouring groups, are they inherited from ancestral languages? Papers on how such data can be collected and stored in databases for analysis are also welcome.

Further we wish to address the history of the spread of terms, systems, and ways of speaking about these issues of social organisation, ancient and recent, using linguistic methods. We need to look at the evolution of these systems in relation to linguistic phylogeny (genealogical classification) and diffusion. Then we could look at possible generalisaitons to be drawn from such comparion, for instance, are kinship terminologies largely inherited within language families and subgroups (with notable exceptions such as in-law terms), but socal categories seem to be mostly diffused?
Papers could also consider contemporary radical change in the language of kinship and social organisation, including language shift, and the implications of this endangerment of languages and cultures , and maintenance and revival efforts.