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Journal Article

Matrilineal clans and kin terms on Rossel Island


Levinson,  Stephen C.
Language and Cognition Group, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;

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Levinson, S. C. (2006). Matrilineal clans and kin terms on Rossel Island. Anthropological Linguistics, 48, 1-43.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0013-18CB-8
Yélî Dnye, the language of Rossel Island, Louisiade archipelago, Papua New Guinea, is a non-Austronesian isolate of considerable interest for the prehistory of the area. The kin term, clan, and kinship systems have some superficial similarities with surrounding Austronesian ones, but many underlying differences. The terminology, here properly described for the first time, is highly complex, and seems adapted to a dual descent system, with Crow-type skewing reflecting matrilineal descent, but a system of reciprocals also reflecting the "unity of the patriline." It may be analyzed in three mutually consistent ways: as a system of classificatory reciprocals, as a clan-based sociocentric system, and as collapses and skewings across a genealogical net. It makes an interesting contrast to the Trobriand system, and suggests that the alternative types of account offered by Edmund Leach and Floyd Lounsbury for the Trobriand system both have application to the Rossel system. The Rossel system has features (e.g., patrilineal biases, dual descent, collective [dyadic] kin terms, terms for alternating generations) that may be indicative of pre-Austronesian social systems of the area