Les Missions Catholiques

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If you wish to know of anyone who is his father and who is his mother you must put the question to him in these terms: "Who is the father that begot you? Who is the mother that bore you?" If you ask him simply, "What is the name of your father? What is the name of your mother?" it may be that he will give you successively four or five fathers and as many mothers without including the authors of his being in the number. Those whom he will give you as his fathers will be his uncles and his old male cousins who live in the same house with him, and his mothers will similarly be his aunts and his old female cousins. . . . If you understand also that every old person is called "my father" or "my mother" you will have an idea of the extension of these terms.2

This is a description of the so-called classificatory system of relationships in its simplest terms. Members of the same generation and within certain degrees of kinship and affinity are given an identity or equivalence by a common name. Thus in Melanesia the elementary steps may be seen in the employment of the term tamai for father, father’s brother, the husband of mother’s sister, and of veve for mother, mother’s sister, the wife of father’s brother, and father’s sister, the latter taking the honorific form of raveve.3 In extension, however, the system becomes very complicated and apparently inconsistent, and varies from group to group, partly because the inclusion of individuals is dependent on definitions of the situation arising momentarily and circumstantially in affective appreciations and partly as recognition of distant relationships which are nevertheless tied together, as when grandfather and grandchild are regarded as the extremes of a unity, included in the same class and addressed by the same term.

2"A la Côte d’Or," , 25: 284.

3 Rivers, W. H. R., The History of Melanesian Society, 1: 28 (Cambridge University Press. By permission.)

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Chicago: Les Missions Catholiques in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. Thomas, William I. (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937), Original Sources, accessed September 22, 2023, http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=JF5BX2VY95324PZ.

MLA: . Les Missions Catholiques, Vol. 25, in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, edited by Thomas, William I., New York, McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937, Original Sources. 22 Sep. 2023. http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=JF5BX2VY95324PZ.

Harvard: , Les Missions Catholiques. cited in 1937, Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. , McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., New York. Original Sources, retrieved 22 September 2023, from http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=JF5BX2VY95324PZ.