Kin Groups and Descent. The Fulani are patrilineal and patrilocal. Kinship and seniority are vital to their way of life. The basic elements of kinship are sex, age, and generation. Full siblings tend to unite against half-siblings, although half-siblings with the same mother do share a special bond.
The Fulani have a principle of generational seniority that is embodied in the general organization of lineages. There are four general lineages, all traced to descent from a common ancestor and his sons; however, everyday groups cut across these yettore lines. Such groups developed to meet historical needs. Over time, patrilineages—much shallower than the four general lineages—emerged. These patrilineages, in turn, are intersected by territorial groups under men called "guides."
Patrilineages are named and consist of three ascending generations. They are coresidential, and members cooperate in pastoral pursuits. The patrilineage controls marriage and is endogamous. A clan is a cluster of lineages, and the clan members generally share a wet-season camp.
Kinship Terminology. There is a good deal of ambiguity in the Fulani use of kinship terms. Thus, any of these terms can be used to refer to a specific person or a range of people. Part of this ambiguity results from the Fulani preference for close marriage so that any person might, in fact, be addressed or referred to by any of several terms.
Goggo is used for father s sister or paternal aunt. Bappanngo is father's brother, whereas kaawu refers to mother's brother; dendiraado designates a cross cousin, and sakike is a sibling. Baaba is father, and yaaye is mother; biddo or bu is a child. These terms are often combined, however. Thus, sakiraabe refers to both siblings and cousins of all sexes. A true sibling if elder is termed mawniyo ; if younger, minyiyo. Maama refers both to grandparents, of either sex, and their sakiraabe and their grandchildren. When it is necessary to distinguish male from female, a term may be added: biddi for male, and dibbo for female.