The History of Human Marriage - Vol. 1

By Edward Westermarck | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII
A CRITICISM OF THE HYPOTHESIS OF PROMISCUITY: THE CLASSIFICATORY SYSTEM OF RELATIONSHIP

NEARLY fifty years ago the American anthropologist, Lewis Morgan, published the terms of relationship in use among no fewer than 139 different peoples or tribes. He divided the systems of nomenclature into two great classes, the "descriptive" and the "classificatory," which he regarded as radically distinct. "The first," he says, "which is that of the Aryan, Semitic, and Uralian families, rejecting the classification of kindred, except so far as it is in accordance with the numerical system, describes collateral consanguinei, for the most part, by an augmentation or combination of the primary terms of relationship. These terms, which are those for husband and wife, father and mother, brother and sister, and son and daughter, to which must be added, in such languages as possess them, grandfather and grandmother, and grandson and granddaughter, are thus restricted to the primary sense in which they are here employed. All other terms are secondary. Each relationship is thus made independent and distinct from every other. But the second, which is that of the Turanian, American Indian, and Malayan families, rejecting descriptive phrases in every instance, and reducing consanguinei to great classes, by a series of apparently arbitrary generalisations, applies the same terms to all the members

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