Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity of the Human Family

Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity of the Human Family

Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity of the Human Family

Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity of the Human Family

Synopsis

Modern anthropology would be radically different without this book. Published in 1871, this first major study of kinship, inventive and wide-ranging, created a new field of inquiry in anthropology. Drawing partly upon his own fieldwork among American Indians, anthropologist Lewis Henry Morgan examined the kinship systems of over one hundred cultures, probing for similarities and differences in their organization. In his attempt to discover particular types of marriage and descent systems across the globe, Morgan demonstrated the centrality of kinship relations in many cultures. Kinship, it was revealed, was an important key for understanding cultures and could be studied through systematic, scientific means.

Excerpt

Philology has proved itself an admirable instrument for the classification of nations into families upon the basis of linguistic affinities. a comparison of the vocables and of the grammatical forms of certain languages has shown them to be dialects of a common speech ; and these dialects, under a common name, have thus been restored to their original unity as a family of languages. in this manner, and by this instrumentality, the nations of the earth have been reduced, with more or less of certainty, to a small number of independent families.

Some of these families have been more definitely circumscribed than others. the Aryan and Semitic languages have been successfully traced to their limits, and the people by whom they are severally spoken are now recognized as families in the strict and proper sense of the term.Of those remaining, the Turanian is rather a great assemblage of nations, held together by slender affinities, than a family in the Aryan or Semitic sense.With respect to the Malayan it approaches nearer to the true standard, although its principal divisions arc marked by considerable differences.The Chinese and its cognates, as monosyllabic tongues, are probably entitled upon linguistic grounds to the distinction of an independent family of languages.On the other hand, the dialects and stock languages of the American aborigines have not been explored, with sufficient thoroughness, to determine the question whether they were derived from a common speech.So iar as the comparisons have been made they have been found to agree in general plan and in grammatical structure.

The remarkable results of comparative philology, and the efficiency of the method upon which as a science it proceeds, yield encouraging assurance that it will ultimately reduce all the nations of mankind to families as clearly circumscribed as the Aryan and Semitic.But it is probable that the number of these families, as finally ascertained, will considerably exceed the number now recognized. When this work of philology has been fully accomplished, the question will remain whether the connection of any two or more of these families can be determined from the materials of language. Such a result is not improbable, and yet, up to the present time, no analysis of language, however searching and profound, has . . .

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