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Coevolutionary processes in Austronesian kinship systems


Jordan,  Fiona
Evolutionary Processes in Language and Culture, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;

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Jordan, F. (2010). Coevolutionary processes in Austronesian kinship systems. Talk presented at 39th Meeting of the Society for Cross-Cultural Research [SSCR 2010]. Albuquerque, NM. 2010-02-17 - 2010-02-20.

Comparison and historical reconstruction have long lineages and multiple approaches in anthropology and linguistics. Similar comparisons in evolutionary biology use phylogenies (family trees) as population histories, and employ a set of statistical techniques called Bayesian comparative methods to control for evolutionary history in trait evolution. These methods provide principled approaches to Galton's Problem and incorporate uncertainty about history and ethnographic coding, but more interestingly they let us reconstruct ancestral states of cultural traits and test directional hypotheses about language-culture correlation. Here I show how phylogenetic comparative methods can be used to study evolutionary processes in aspects of kinship. Specifically, I present two case studies using ethnographic and linguistic data on kinship and terminological systems from the Austronesian-speaking communities of the Pacific. First, I test the coevolutionary predictions from "main sequence theory" that changes in residence drive changes in descent systems. Second, I demonstrate that marriage payments (forms of bridewealth) and marriage systems (monogamy and polygyny) have a particular coevolutionary dynamic that fits with predictions from evolutionary theory regarding parential investment.