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A Common Core Structure for Classificatory Terminologies
Lewis Henry Morgan's definition of classificatory terminologies (i.e., bifurcate merging terminologies) by whether the terminology consistently distinguishes between lineal and collateral genealogical relations has long posed a fundamental question: On what conceptual basis is the seemingly self-evident genealogical distinction between lineal and collateral genealogical relations cross-cut by kin terms in the classificatory terminologies? I argue that the different kinds of classificatory terminologies, e.g., Polynesian, Australian, Dravidian, Iroquois, Crow or Omaha, all have the same core structures of male terms and of female terms. The broad groupings of classificatory terminologies differ through the way a core structure of male terms and a core structure of female terms are structurally connected to form a single structure, not through differences in the structures of male terms and of female terms. The core structure common to male and female terms in classificatory terminologies is derived from the structural implications derived from conceptualizing sibling relations in an ascending direction through shared parentage, rather than in a descending direction, as occurs with the descriptive terminologies, as parent’s offspring other than self. Ethnographic evidence shows a consistent relationship between classificatory terminologies and conceptualizing sibling relations in an ascending direction.