Circassians - Kinship



Kin Groups and Descent. Families were patrilocal and partially patriarchal. Descent was patrilineal. Nuclear families had mixed rule. The wife had authority over many household matters, but the husband was ultimate arbiter in cases of dispute. When the nuclear families were gathered into an extended one, which was usually the case, the father of the sons and his wife assumed comparable roles over the whole. The extended family itself was set within the larger context of the tlapq, the blood frame or clan, consisting of linear and collateral male relatives, with their position in this framework determined by their tl'aqu, the male descendants of a particular ancestor. Members of a tlapq all share a common name, though only patronymic and given names (in that order) and nicknames were used socially.

Kinship Terminology. Kinship terminology is analytical. It reads like a literal translation of the anthropologist's elicitation list: "father's sister's son" (i.e., cousin). In West Circassian, consanguineal terms must use the grammatical markers of inalienable possession (for example, one must say s-sh'he , "my son"), whereas affinal kin terms are alienably possessed. "Father," "mother," and "wife" show alienable possession but with a special intimate-association prefix. The semantics of this analytical system show some peculiarities. For example, in Bzhedukh West Circassian "brother" is sh'he and "daughter" is pkhu, and yet together they form "sister," sh'he-pkhu. Imposed on this kin network is a set of emotional relationships that have made this system a paradigm within kinship theory: the Cherkess-Trobriand kinship system. The relationship of the husband to his wife and children is very formal and limited in a public setting (saying nothing of the actual emotional content of these relationships within the privacy of the home). The relationship of a woman to her brother(s) and of her children to their maternal uncle(s) is, on the contrary, highly spontaneous and familiar. Male Ego's brother's sons are his sons. A widow is supported by her husband's surviving brothers.


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