Sudanese kinship

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Sudanese kinship, also referred to as the descriptive system, is a kinship system used to define family. Identified by Lewis Henry Morgan in his 1871 work Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity of the Human Family, the Sudanese system is one of the six major kinship systems (Eskimo, Hawaiian, Iroquois, Crow, Omaha and Sudanese).[1]

The Sudanese kinship system is the most complicated of all kinship systems. It maintains a separate designation for almost every one of Ego's kin, based on their distance from Ego, their relation, and their gender. Ego's father is distinguished from Ego's father's brother and from Ego's mother's brother. Ego's mother is similarly distinguished from Ego's mother's sister and from Ego's father's sister. For cousins, there are eight possible terms.


The system is named for the peoples of South Sudan. The Sudanese kinship system also existed in ancient Latin-speaking[2] and Anglo-Saxon[3] cultures. It exists today among present-day Arab and Turkish[4] cultures. It tends to co-occur with patrilineal descent, and it is often said to be common in complex and stratified cultures.[5]


Balkan kinships such as Bulgarian, Serbian, and Bosniak follow this system for different patrilinear and matrilinear uncles but collapse mother's sister and father's sister into the same term of "aunt" and Croatian and Macedonian further collapse the offspring of the uncles into one term.

On the opposite side, Chinese adds an additional dimension of relative age. Ego's older siblings are distinguished from younger, as are those of Ego's parents. One must specify whether older (e.g. Mandarin 哥哥 gēge) or younger (e.g. Mandarin 弟弟 dìdi). Similarly, a term for "uncle" or (in at least in some varieties of Chinese, including Mandarin) even "father's brother" does not exist without circumlocution; the speaker must either specify "father's older brother" (e.g. Mandarin 伯伯 bóbo) or "father's younger brother" (e.g. Mandarin 叔叔 shūshu). This does not apply to aunts or maternal uncles.

See also[edit]


  • William Haviland, Cultural Anthropology, Wadsworth Publishing, 2002. ISBN 0-534-27479-X
  • The nature of kinship
  • Sudanese kin terms, University of Manitoba
  1. ^ Schwimmer, Brian. "Systematic Kinship Terminologies". Retrieved 24 December 2016.
  2. ^ Schwimmer, Brian. "Latin Kin Terms". Retrieved 24 December 2016.
  3. ^ Schwimmer, Brian. "Old English Kinterms". Retrieved 24 December 2016.
  4. ^ "Turkish Kinship Terms", University of Manitoba
  5. ^ "Nature of Kinship", University of Palomar