Karelians - Kinship



Kin Groups and Descent. There were three categories of relatives ( sugulaiset, omaizet ): first-degree relatives (blood relatives), determined by descent through the male line; second-degree relatives (relations through marriage); and third-degree relatives (religious, or so-called spiritual relations). The importance of lineage of the first type is a factor in all decisions concerning the members of the lineage (e.g., in land use); this is evident in life rituals. Second-degree lineage is more formal.

Kinship Terminology. Kinship terminology varies with degree of relationship. Most terms for blood relatives are common to other Baltic-Finnish languages—and thus are very old: namely, emä (mother), izä (father), poiga (son), tytär (daughter), sisar (sister), and velli (brother). Exceptions are the terms of the third-degree relatives, which are included in this blood-relative category: namely, rist'izä (godfather) and rist'emä (godmother), reflecting the important role of godfather and godmother. In case of the parents' death, they are obliged to take care of the child. Most kinship terms based on marriage are of Russian origin: svajakka (wife's sister's husband or wife's brother), svuat (son-in-law's/daughter-in-law's father), n'evesk (bride), zeniha (bridegroom), surd'ak (wife's brother). Some terms for blood relatives are of Russian origin, too: namely, d'ädä (uncle) and t'ötä (aunt).


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