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Title: Culture & Ethnology
Author: Lowie, Robert Harry
Language: English
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                          CULTURE & ETHNOLOGY

                          CULTURE & ETHNOLOGY


                        ROBERT H. LOWIE, PH.D.

                    Associate Curator, Anthropology
                  American Museum of Natural History

                               NEW YORK
                         DOUGLAS C. McMURTRIE



  I. Culture and Psychology            5

 II. Culture and Race                 27

III. Culture and Environment          47

 IV. The Determinants of Culture      66

  V. Terms of Relationship            98


This booklet is an attempt at popularization. The first four chapters
are practically identical with as many lectures, delivered in 1917 as
the January course offered by the Department of Anthropology of the
American Museum of Natural History. The purpose of the January series,
which was instituted in 1914 by Dr. P. E. Goddard and the writer, is to
acquaint an audience of intelligent laymen with some of the results of
modern ethnological work, the emphasis being on principles and problems,
rather than on purely descriptive detail. The course, in short, occupies
an intermediate position between technical discourses addressed to
scientists and the more popular lectures which are designed to furnish
mainly entertainment. Each year different topics have been chosen and
several members of the staff have cooperated. Owing to the dearth of
recent ethnological literature reflecting the position of American
field-workers, and at the same time accessible to the interested
outsider, I was easily persuaded to issue the 1917 lectures in the
present form.

The last chapter may not seem to fit within the scope of this
publication. It is obviously more technical than the rest in treatment
and may appear to deal with too special a topic. My object, however, was
to conclude with a concrete illustration of ethnological method, and I
naturally selected a subject to which I had paid considerable attention
during the last two years. It is a subject in which Morgan was able to
arouse the interest of hundreds of laymen; and I can see no reason why
an up-to-date exposition of the problems involved should not be able to
hold their attention.


_May, 1917_


With the beginning of the European war the word ‘culture’ acquired a
sense in popular English usage which had long prevailed in ethnological
literature. Culture is, indeed, the sole and exclusive subject-matter of
ethnology, as consciousness is the subject-matter of psychology, life of
biology, electricity of a branch of physics. Culture shares with these
other fundamental concepts the peculiarity that it can be properly
understood only by an enlarged familiarity with the facts it summarizes.
There is no royal shortcut to a comprehension of culture as a whole by
definition any more than to a comprehension of consciousness; but as
every analysis and explanation of particular conscious states adds to
our knowledge of what consciousness is, so every explanation of
particular cultural phenomena adds to our insight into the nature of
culture. We must, however, start with some proximate notion of what we
are to discuss, and for this purpose Tylor’s definition in the opening
sentence of his _Primitive Culture_ will do as well as any: “Culture ...
is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals,
law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a
member of society.”

For purely practical reasons, connected with the minute division of
labor that has become imperative with modern specialization, ethnology
has in practice concerned itself with the cruder cultures of peoples
without a knowledge of writing. But this division is an illogical and
artificial one. As the biologist can study life as manifested in the
human organism as well as in the amoeba, so the ethnologist might
examine and describe the usages of modern America as well as those of
the Hopi Indians. In these lectures I shall therefore not hesitate to
draw upon illustrations from the higher civilizations where these seem
most appropriate.

Indeed, it may be best for pedagogical reasons to commence with an
enumeration of instances of cultural activity in our own midst. And
since there is a persistent tendency to associate with culture the more
impressive phenomena of art, science, and technology, it is well to
insist at the outset that these loftier phases are by no means necessary
to the concept of culture. The fact that your boy plays ‘button, button,
who has the button?’ is just as much an element of our culture as the
fact that a room is lighted by electricity. So is the baseball
enthusiasm of our grown-up population, so are moving picture shows,
_thés dansants_, Thanksgiving Day masquerades, bar-rooms, Ziegfeld
Midnight Follies, evening schools, the Hearst papers, woman suffrage
clubs, the single-tax movement, Riker drug stores, touring-sedans, and
Tammany Hall.

These, then, represent the type of phenomena comprised under the caption
of culture. They exist, and science, as a complete view of reality,
cannot ignore them. But a question ominous for the worker who derives
his bread and butter from ethnological investigation arises. All the
phenomena mentioned and the rest of the same order relate to man, and
they relate to man not as an animal but as an organism endowed with a
higher mentality. Tylor’s definition expressly speaks of ‘capabilities
and habits’. But there is a science that deals with capabilities and
habits, to wit, psychology. Is it, then, necessary to have a distinct
branch of knowledge, or can we not simply merge the cultural phenomena
in those of the older science of psychology? It is this question that
concerns us here. On the answer must depend our conception of culture
and our attitude towards a science purporting to deal with cultural
phenomena as something distinct from other data of reality.

In seeking light on this subject we must understand what sort of
problems arise from the contemplation of cultural facts and attempt to
connect them with the established principles of psychology. A few
concrete examples will illustrate the situation.

One of the striking characteristics of our civilization, a trait of our
material culture that is nevertheless an invaluable, nay indispensable,
means for the propagation of knowledge under modern conditions, is the
existence of paper, that is, of a cheap, readily manufactured material
for writing and printing. The obvious problem that develops from this
fact is, How did we get the art of paper-manufacture? Now we shall
search in vain our psychological literature in quest of an explanation.
Höffding and James, Wundt and Titchener have no answer to offer. An
answer, nevertheless, exists. Europe learnt the art of paper-making from
the Arabs, who as early as 795 A. D. had established a paper factory in
Bagdad. These in turn got their knowledge from the Chinese, who must be
regarded as the originators of the technique. The answer is a perfectly
satisfactory one, but it is obviously not couched in psychological
terms: its nature is purely _historical_.

Nevertheless, an objection may plausibly be raised here. Though an
explanation has certainly been given, it does not account for all
aspects of the phenomena we are considering. There is a psychological
basis for each and every one of the events in our historical series.
This series we may subdivide into three stages--the invention by the
Chinese, the borrowing of this invention by the Arabs, and its
transmission from Arab to European. Now the two last-named processes of
transmission may not suggest the necessity of a special explanation at
all. One may think that all that was required was for the Europeans to
watch the Arabs and for the Arabs to watch the Chinese, and presto! the
thing was done. This indeed, seems to be the view of an influential
school of modern ethnologists. But the case is far from being so simple.
We know of many instances, in the higher no less than in the lower
cultures, corresponding to what the biologist calls symbiosis--a
condition where distinct communities or countries persist in a division
of labor for mutual benefit, each trading some of its intellectual or
material products for equivalents secured from the other. In many parts
of Africa there are fixed markets in which negroes from fairly remote
localities congregate for the barter of wares, which are thus diffused
far from their source of origin; but it is the finished products, not
the arts, that are diffused. In New Guinea trading-vessels carry such
objects as pottery hundreds of miles from the area of manufacture to
natives who remain as ignorant of the ceramic technique as before. In
northern Arizona the Hopi Indians occupying three eminences not more
than eight miles distant from one another have no perfect uniformity of
industrial knowledge. Pottery, which flourishes on the eastern Mesa, is
wholly unknown as an art, though constantly used in its specimens, by
the people of the central Mesa; a certain type of basketry plaque is
made only at Oraibi village; another type is manufactured exclusively on
the central Mesa. Conditions more ideal _a priori_ for a transfer of
knowledge than among the practically homogeneous neighboring Hopi groups
could not be conceived. Nevertheless, it has not taken place. Cultural
diffusion, therefore, cannot be taken for granted. We cannot take one
people, place it alongside of another, and effect a cultural osmosis in
the same way in which we produce a chemical reaction when two substances
are brought together under proper conditions of temperature. We are face
to face with a selective, with a _psychological_ condition. But when we
turn once more to our text-books of psychology, we again find nothing
that fits the case. About choice in general we get ample information.
But we may rummage all the psychological seminar rooms in the world and
yet shall find no reason why the Arabs learned the technique of
paper-making from the Chinese instead of ignoring it or only importing
Chinese paper.

Nor are we more fortunate when we turn to psychology for an account of
how the original Chinese inventor came to conceive his epoch-making
idea. This fact, of course, falls under the heading of ‘imagination’,
and about imagination psychologists have much to tell us. But what,
after all, does their interpretation amount to? We learn that
imagination, as distinguished from the power of abstract thought, is the
power of forming new concrete ideas. Since even the concrete individual
idea is complex, being a product of association, its elements may be
linked differently so as to produce new combinations. “The inventor of a
new mechanism,” says Höffding, “combines given elements, the laws of
whose activity he knows, into a totality and a connection which has no
complete parallel in experience.” The scientist tries all possible
combinations among his elements of experiences, forming a succession of
individual ideas, which are rejected until the one appears that
adequately represents reality.

We need hardly go farther to realize the impotence of psychological
science for illuminating the _psychology_ as well as the history of the
paper-making art. The formulation of psychological science is admirable,
but it is too general. It explains the invention of the steam-engine and
the phonograph, the sewing-machine and the harvester no less than the
origin of paper-making. We, however, do not want to know merely what
ultimate psychological processes the invention of paper-making shares
with all other inventions whatsoever, but also the _differential_
conditions that produced this one and unique result under the given
circumstances. It is as though we asked about a man’s character and were
told that he was a vertebrate. The type of psychological explanation we
want is by no means unknown; however, we shall find its illustrations
not in text-books of psychology, but in histories of literature,
science, and art. When Taine raises the question how such a bore as Dr.
Samuel Johnson could conceivably have attained his position in English
literature and answers that it is because of the English predilection
for sermons, he is giving the type of solution--whether right or
wrong--that we want to secure for our cultural problem; it explains why
the average Englishman, as a member of English society, acquires the
habit of regarding Johnson in a certain way. When we inquire why Newton
closes his treatise on optics with a statement as to the vanity of human
things, our curiosity is satisfied when this expression appears as only
one instance of the blending of theological and scientific thought
current in his day. It is nonsense to say that these explanations are
purely historical; they are psychological, for they take fully into
account the subjective attitudes involved in the phenomena studied; and
it is hopeless to expect this sort of explanation from psychological
science, which deals with a quite distinct and far more generalized form
of mental activity.

To turn from the technique of paper manufacture to a very different
cultural feature in order to test the possibility of merging the
observed phenomena in the principles of psychology. In several parts of
the globe, and most prominently in parts of South America, the
aborigines practise a custom known as the ‘couvade’, which forces the
father of a new-born child to subject himself to a period of inactive
confinement and a series of rigorously observed dietary and other
regulations. Let us, for the sake of bringing out the point in high
relief, ignore all historical considerations and concentrate exclusively
on the subjective elements involved. Whence, then, this strange and
wholly irrational association of ideas between fatherhood and a group of
taboos? Now the subject of the association of ideas occupies hundreds of
pages in psychological literature, yet all this, in itself valuable
enough, material has no bearing on our problem, because it is again far
too general. We do not doubt for a moment that the association we desire
to have illuminated is due either to contiguity or to a perceived
similarity of ideas, but why have we this particular association instead
of the limitless multitude of associations that would be equally
intelligible by the same formulae?

Again, many aboriginal tribes of Australia are subdivided into two
halves, membership in which is inherited through the father, in some
cases, through the mother in others. These moieties are what is
technically called ‘exogamous’, _i.e._, marriage with a fellow-member is
strictly forbidden. The regulation is, indeed, so stringent, the feeling
of horror evoked by a transgression so violent, that in former times
offenders were promptly put to death. This sentiment is so strong that
even when visiting a remote tribe, perhaps a hundred miles away, where
there is no possibility of blood-kinship, an Australian will avoid
marriage with a member of the moiety bearing the same name as his own.
Here, surely, there is matter for psychology. An Australian has a
violent emotional reaction akin to our aversion to incest, and may
translate his feelings into the most violent action. Or, looking at the
matter from another angle, the Australian exercises an admirable
self-control, eschewing on principle marital relations with half the
women of his community. Yet all that psychologists tell us of the
ethical feelings and the will leaves the problem before us wholly
untouched. Why this particular curious feeling developed, what place it
occupies in mental life, the psychologist fails to explain. We get,
again, simply general formulæ about feeling and will that are equally
applicable to the case of a man’s beating his wife or a boy’s resisting
the temptations of a lollypop. And this, it must be noted, is dealing
with the distinctively psychological aspect of the data. Whether the
rule in question originated in a common center and thence spread to
other tribes, is also a cultural question of great importance, and this
historical phase of the subject psychology is avowedly incompetent to
deal with. Psychology, then, fails throughout to supply us with the
interpretation we want. It is as impotent to reduce to really
interpretative psychological principles the subjective aspect of
cultural phenomena as it is to explain the historical sequence of

It is not necessary to multiply examples to establish the point. It is
clear that cultural phenomena contain elements that cannot be reduced to
psychological principles. The reason for the insufficiency is already
embodied in Tylor’s definition of culture as embracing ‘capabilities and
habits _acquired_ by man as a member of _society_’. The science of
psychology, even in its most modern ramifications of abnormal psychology
and the study of individual variations, does not grapple with _acquired_
mental traits nor with the influence of _society_ on individual thought,
feeling and will. It deals on principle exclusively with _innate_ traits
of the _individual_. Now, whether the sharp separation assumed here
between the innate and the acquired, between individual activity as
determined by uniquely individual potentialities and as determined by
social environment, can be made in practice or not, one thing is clear:
there _are_ phenomena that are acquired and in no sense innate, that are
socially and not individually determined. When a Christian reacts in a
definite way to the perception of a cross, it is clearly not because of
an individual psychic peculiarity, for other Christians react in the
same way. On the other hand, we are not dealing with a general human
trait since the reactions of a Mohammedan or a Buddhist will be quite
different. Innumerable instances of this sort show that individual
thought, feeling and volition are co-determined by social influences. In
so far forth as the potency of these social factors extends we have
culture; in so far forth as knowledge, emotion, and will are neither the
result of natural endowment shared with other members of the species nor
rest on an individual organic basis, we have a thing _sui generis_ that
demands for its investigation a distinct science.

Does it follow from the foregoing that there is no possible relation
between psychology and culture, that psychological results are a matter
of utter indifference to the ethnologist? In their desire to vindicate
for their own branch of knowledge a place in the sun, some ethnologists
have come very near, if they have not actually reached such a
conclusion. To me the case appears in a somewhat different light.
Whatever division of labor may be desirable for the economy of
scientific work, knowledge as a whole knows nothing of watertight
compartments. Further, the nominally distinct sciences are not
subordinated to one another, but coexist in a condition of democratic
equality and coöperativeness. We cannot reduce cultural to psychological
phenomena any more than we can reduce biology to mechanics or chemistry,
because in either case the very facts we desire to have explained are
ignored in the more generalized formulation. But for specific purposes,
the student of culture can call for aid upon each and all of the other
branches of learning. It is a very important cultural problem whether
the natives of South America knew the bronze technique, _i.e._, whether
they consciously produced the observed alloy of copper and tin. But how
can the ethnologist solve this problem? Only by requisitioning the
services of the chemist.

Now very few would deny that services of the kind rendered by chemistry
can also be rendered to the study of culture by psychology. Indeed, most
people would at once admit that the relationship with psychology is _a
priori_ likely to be far more extensive and thorough-going. A few
concrete examples will illustrate how this relationship may be

Among the quaint conceits with which primitive cultures abound is that
of attaching to particular numbers a peculiar character of sanctity.
“Everything in the universe,” a Crow Indian once told me, “goes by
fours.” As a matter of fact, most things in Crow religious life are
adjusted to this conception. An important ceremonial act is thrice
feigned so as to be actually performed at the fourth attempt; religious
processions halt four times; songs are sung in sets of four; in mythic
tales it is the fourth trial that carries an heroic feat to a successful
issue. Now this cultural fact very largely eludes psychological
interpretation. The first thing that strikes us is that this feature is
no peculiarity of the Crow, but is rather widely distributed among their
immediate neighbors and even remote Indian tribes, though jointly
occupying a continuous area. Since outside of this region other numbers
figure as mystic, we cannot regard the view of the sacredness of Four as
a general trait of human psychology but must assume that the concept was
borrowed by most of the tribes now holding it. A wider survey teaches us
that corresponding, though not identical, conceptions are very common.
_Seven_ figures in parts of Asia, _Three_ in European folklore, _Five_
in Oregon and northern Nevada, _Six_ among the Ainu of Yezo, _Nine_
among the Yakut, _Ten_ among the Pythagorean philosophers of ancient
Greece, very much as _Four_ does among the Crow. Now the fact that a
particular Crow Indian regards Four as a sacred number does not mean
that this is an individual peculiarity of his any more than the
Christian’s reaction to a cross is a proof of some psychological
idiosyncrasy. Individually the Crow Indian may be quite indifferent to
the number and yet he would view it as sacred because he has been taught
so to regard it. This is, of course, the vital difference between
ethnology and psychology which has already been emphasized.
Nevertheless, the association must at one time have been formed in an
individual mind, whether among the Crow or elsewhere, and the question
arises as to what such an association means. Francis Galton showed some
time ago that such associations of definite personal characteristics
with numbers occur by no means infrequently among Europeans. The
phenomenon we are dealing with is thus linked with a group of related
phenomena and in so far forth is explained.

There are ethnologists who would not admit that such an explanation has
anything to do with ethnology. They would contend that as soon as we
cease to investigate the group as such we are passing from ethnology,
the science of culture, to psychology, the science of individual minds.
This seems an unnecessarily narrow doctrinaire view. Knowledge, as
stated above, is not subdivided by hard-and-fast partitions. Interest
certainly does not stop at an arbitrary point in the investigation but
is centered on a comprehension of the _whole_ phenomenon. Where that
phenomenon is an alloy of tin and copper, a decision as to its nature
is naturally left to chemistry; it seems not unreasonable that where it
is a type of association we should turn for enlightenment to psychology.

Another field supplies an additional illustration. One of the important
subjects for ethnographic study is artistic form. The ethnologist notes
in a purely descriptive way the decorative patterns employed by various
tribes, the fact that curvilinear motives are prominent among the Maori
of New Zealand while the rawhide bags of Plains Indians are covered with
angular paintings. Here, once more, it is clear that many of the
problems that arise are purely cultural. There are, nevertheless,
psychological elements involved that may be misunderstood without
psychological knowledge. Let us assume, _e.g._, that a certain tribe is
artistically characterized by a fondness for squares. What does this
predilection signify? It is a psychological commonplace that through an
optical illusion we exaggerate the height as compared with the width of
a rectangle; accordingly, the geometrical square does not coincide with
the psychological square. This simple piece of information enables us to
understand _what_ we are actually dealing with in the case of a square
pattern. At the same time it sharpens our observation regarding such
patterns. It is quite conceivable that in one place tribal taste should
prefer the actual square while elsewhere the psychological square
occupies the seat of honor. This would be a purely ethnographic fact,
yet its discovery might be considerably expedited by some knowledge of
experimental aesthetics.

Let us turn from mystic numbers and decorative designs to another aspect
of primitive life. The Turkish tribes of western Siberia have a form of
religion based on the belief that certain individuals enjoy the
hereditary privilege of acting as intermediaries between their ancestral
spirits and the people at large. With the aid of his sacred drum the
shaman, as such an intermediary is technically called, is able to summon
the supernatural beings, cure the sick, foretell the future, separate
his own soul from his body and send it to the upper realms of light or
the nether regions of darkness. Now, although a particular individual
inherits the shaman’s office from his father, he receives no formal
instruction nor does he make any active preparation for his mission. His
call comes in the form of a sudden paroxysm. He is seized with a feeling
of languor and a fit of violent convulsions, with abnormal yawning, and
a powerful pressure on the chest, which causes him to utter
inarticulate screams. He begins to shiver with cold, rolls his eyes,
suddenly leaps up and madly circles about until he falls down covered
with perspiration and writhing in epileptic spasms on the ground. His
members are devoid of sensation, his hands grasp without discrimination
red-hot iron, knives, pins; he swallows such objects without suffering
the slightest injury, and again ejects them from his mouth. Finally, the
prospective seer seizes a shaman’s drum and assumes the shaman’s office.
Disobedience to the spirit’s call would spell disaster, madness and
death amidst the most horrible tortures.[2]

The naïve reaction to this narrative on the part of common sense in the
familiar form of common ignorance will probably be that the European
traveler who is our authority is a very gullible individual if he
believed his native informant’s statements. How can an individual be
seized with such a spasm as that described? How is it possible for him
to become devoid of sensation? Nevertheless, nothing is more certain
than that the account given is substantially correct. It is simply a
particular form of nervous affliction very common throughout Siberia and
attested by dozens of trustworthy eyewitnesses.[3] This Arctic hysteria,
as it has been misnamed (for there is nothing distinctively Arctic
about it), manifests itself principally in two ways. Either the
individual falls victim to an indiscriminate mania for mimicking the
acts of others; or he is seized with the sort of paroxysm described for
the Turkish shaman. Nothing is clearer than that in neither case is
there usually conscious deception. Sometimes the imitation mania
subjects the sufferer to ridicule and pain, as when an old woman in
imitation of a Cossack, seized a salmon with her teeth, ran up a hill
and down again, unable to prevent herself from plunging into the water,
though normally she was barely able to walk. Similarly, the numerous
hysterical individuals of the other type who do not become inspired
shamans cannot possibly derive any benefit from their fits.

Abnormal psychology here steps in and teaches us that such trances are
involuntary and not the result of fraud, that they occur in our own
civilization and are accompanied with extraordinary lack of sensibility
to pain, in short, psychiatry classifies the observed phenomena and
tells us what we are really dealing with. It prevents a misconception
alike of the shaman’s activities and of the attitude of his people
towards him.

When, however, abnormal psychology has so far enlightened us, it has by
no means exhausted even the purely subjective aspect of the case. How
does the prospective shaman seized with his fit know about the
shamanistic drum that forms a necessary accessory of his office? How
does he know what mode of activity is expected from him? These are _not_
things which he can get directly from his trance for we shall hardly
accept the aboriginal theory that he is inspired by the ancestral
spirits. He can derive his knowledge, however informally, only as the
member of a group holding certain definite views as to the shamanistic
office. The cultural phenomenon, then, even on its psychological side,
comprises a very appreciable _plus_ over and above the facts that
psychology can explain, and these additional data accordingly require
treatment by another science.

My conclusions as to the relation of psychology to culture are,
accordingly, the following: The cultural facts, even in their subjective
aspect, are not merged in psychological facts. They must not, indeed,
contravene psychological principles, but the same applies to all other
principles of the universe; culture cannot construct houses contrary to
the laws of gravitation nor produce bread out of stones. But the
principles of psychology are as incapable of accounting for the
phenomena of culture as is gravitation to account for architectural
styles. Over and above the interpretations given by psychology, there is
an irreducible residuum of huge magnitude that calls for special
treatment and by its very existence vindicates the _raison d’être_ of
ethnology. We need not eschew any help given by scientific psychology
for the comprehension of specifically psychological components of
cultural phenomena; but as no one dreams of saying that these phenomena
are reduced to chemical principles when chemistry furnishes us with an
analysis of Peruvian bronze implements, so no one can dare assert that
they are reduced to psychological principles when we call upon
psychology to elucidate specific features of cultural complexes. The
‘capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society’
constitute a distinct aspect of reality that must be the field of a
distinct science autonomous with reference to psychology.


If culture is a complex of socially acquired traits, it might appear
that race could not possibly have any influence on culture, since by
racial characteristics we understand those which are innate by virtue of
ancestry. This, however, by no means follows. In order that certain
traits be acquired, a certain type of organic basis is an absolute
prerequisite; a chimpanzee or a bat is not able to acquire human culture
through social environment. From an evolutionary point of view it
appears, therefore, very plausible at first blush that within the human
species, likewise, differences in organization should be correlated with
the observed cultural manifestations of varying degree and complexity.
There was, undoubtedly, some stage in human evolution where the organic
basis for culture had not yet been acquired. Can the several races be
regarded as transitional forms, each possessed of certain capabilities
determining and limiting its cultural achievement? This question can be
viewed in two ways. Comparative psychology may give us direct
information as to qualitative and quantitative racial differences that
would affect cultural activity. Or, we may infer such differences as
the only possible causes for the observed cultural differences. Both
modes of approach are helpful for a comprehension of the problem.

Until recent years the psychological evaluation of primitive tribes
rested largely on the offhand judgments of travelers and missionaries.
With the advent of more exact psychological laboratory methods, these
have been, in some measure, applied by competent investigators to
aboriginal populations. Unfortunately, the results hitherto secured are
somewhat meager. There are technical difficulties, among them the
necessity of examining fairly large numbers of individuals in order to
get a good sample of the population. Worse still, laboratory methods are
most effective in regard to what may be called the lower mental
operations, which partake almost more of a physiological than of a
strictly psychological character. Clearly enough, what we should be most
desirous of knowing is how primitive compares with civilized man in
logical thought and imagination. But these are precisely the things not
readily tested, and here the additional technical difficulty comes in
that they can hardly be examined at all without a far more intimate
knowledge of the native languages than the investigator is likely to
command. Nevertheless, something has been done and I will attempt to
present as briefly as possible the essential results, following
Thorndike’s convenient summary.[1]

Although some observers have attributed unusual acuity of sense
perception to the more primitive peoples of the globe, the
investigations of Rivers, Woodworth, and others in the main establish
the psychic unity of mankind in this regard. For example, though the
Kalmuk are renowned for their vision, only one or two of the individuals
tested exceeded the European record, and while Bruner found Indians and
Filipino inferior in hearing a watch tick or a click transmitted by
telephone, the fairness of these tests for natives unused to such
stimuli has been reasonably challenged. In their reaction-time tests,
widely different groups were very similar. In the tapping test,
measuring the rate at which the brain can at will discharge a series of
impulses to the same muscle, marked differences were also lacking; but
when accuracy as well as rapidity were examined, the Filipino seemed
decidedly superior to the whites. Optical illusions were shared by all
races tested, which indicates, as Woodworth points out, that simple
sorts of judgments as well as sensory processes are common to the
generality of mankind. Woodworth subjected his subjects to an
intelligence test, demanding that blocks of different shapes be fitted
into a board with holes to match the blocks. In speed the average
differences between whites, Indians, Eskimo, Ainu, Filipino, and
Singhalese are small and there is considerable overlapping. On the other
hand, the Igorrote and Philippine Negrito, as well as a group of
supposed Pygmies from the Congo, proved remarkably deficient. “This
crumb,” concludes our investigator, “is about all the testing
psychologist has yet to offer on the question of racial differences in

It may well be, as Thorndike suggests, that if higher functions were
studied, more striking differences would be revealed. But up to date we
can simply say that experimental psychological methods have revealed no
far-reaching differences in the mental processes of the several races.
Even the Igorrote and Negrito deficiency may be due, Woodworth suggests,
to their habits of life rather than to their native endowment.

Since exact methods tell us nothing of those higher operations we are
most eager to know about, it might be deemed advisable to fall back on
general estimates by the most competent observers. Unfortunately, the
personal equation enters here to an extent that completely nullifies
the value of individual judgments. Travelers in foreign lands are likely
to make quite unusual demands on the capacities of the natives with
whose aid they are working, and in this way too frequently arrive at an
unfair conclusion as to their mental characteristics. In a corresponding
test Europeans might do little better. It is, at all events, remarkable
that unbiased observers who are fairly sympathetic and remain in long
contact with a primitive people usually entertain a rather favorable
opinion of their powers. Thus, Prince Maximilian of Wied-Neuwied,
expresses the view that, whether other varieties of mankind differ or
not, the American aborigines are not inferior to the whites,[2] and
corresponding estimates have been made of other races. Still, these are
merely personal opinions and we must turn to our second method for
possibly more objective, if indirect, evidence on the subject. Are,
then, cultural differences necessarily the result of racial differences?

In thus investigating the relations between race and civilization we may
fruitfully employ the method of variation. Making the racial factor a
constant, we may inquire whether culture, too, is thereby made a
constant, and whether a change in racial propinquity is correlated with
a proportionate change of culture. On the other hand, we may start with
culture as a constant and inquire whether each form or grade of culture
is the concomitant of definite racial characteristics and whether a
change in culture is accompanied by a corresponding change of race.

To begin with the latter method, which may be briefly disposed of:
Taking our own type of culture, as represented in western Europe and
North America, we find that it is shared by at least one people of quite
distinct stock, the Japanese, who have already made important
contributions to the general civilization of the world in such lines as
biology and scientific medicine. An obvious objection is that the
Japanese are not the originators of our cultural foundation but have
borrowed it ready-made (as they once borrowed that of China), and merely
added a few additional stones to the superstructure. This fact cannot,
of course, be questioned, but as soon as we investigate historically the
origin of our own modern civilization we find that it, too, is largely
the product of numerous cultural streams, some of which may be
definitely traced to distinct races or sub-races. Our immediate
indebtedness to Rome and Greece has been drilled into us with such
fulsomely exaggerated emphasis in our schooldays that the less said
about it the better for a fair estimate of general culture history. That
the Greeks were merely the continuators and inheritors of an earlier
Oriental culture, must be considered an established fact. Our economic
life, based as it is on the agricultural employment of certain cereals
with the aid of certain domesticated animals, is derived from Asia; so
is the technologically invaluable wheel.[3] The domestication of the
horse certainly originated in inner Asia; modern astronomy rests on that
of the Babylonians, Hindu, and Egyptians; the invention of glass is an
Egyptian contribution; spectacles come from India;[4] paper, to mention
only one other significant element of our civilization, was borrowed
from China. What is right for the goose, is right for the gander; and if
the Japanese deserve no credit for having appropriated our culture, we
must also carefully eliminate from that culture all elements not
demonstrably due to the creative genius of our race before laying claim
to the residue as our distinctive product. As Thorndike, among others,
has pointed out,[5] the races have not remained in splendid isolation,
but any particular one has obtained most of its civilization from
without, and “of ten equally gifted races in perfect intercourse each
will originate only one-tenth of what it gets.” This, to be sure,
represents an ideal condition, and we have no right to assume
gratuitously that the peoples in contact are all equally gifted; but it
is worth noting that momentous ideas may be conceived by what we are
used to regard as inferior races. Thus, the Maya of Central America
conceived the notion of the zero figure, which remained unknown to
Europeans until they borrowed it from India; and eminent ethnologists
suggest that the discovery of the iron technique is due to the Negroes.

In short, the possessors of a culture are not necessarily its
originators; often they are demonstrably borrowers of specific elements
of the greatest significance. The same culture may thus become the
property of distinct races, as is rapidly becoming the case in modern
times. Owing to the very extensive occurrence of diffusion the question
what a particular people or race has originated becomes extremely
complicated; while it is an established fact that important additions to
human civilization have been made by diverse stocks.

It may not be out of place to point out that not only the more tangible
elements of culture, but very much subtler ingredients than those
hitherto mentioned are shared by distinct groups of mankind. Thus,
common to ourselves and the Chinese, though strikingly lacking among
the Hindu, who, nevertheless, are racially nearer to us, is a marked
sense for historical perspective. Common to the ancient Romans, the
modern Germans, and the modern Japanese, is the talent for rationalistic
organization of administrative affairs. We cannot assume under the
circumstances that the Japanese are organically nearer to the Germans
than to other Asiatics. These instances seem the more valuable because
here borrowing is excluded. The racial factor may in some way be
involved; it is conceivable that only with a certain minimum of organic
equipment could a particular cultural trait be developed or even
assimilated. But obviously the same cultural traits may be coupled with
different racial characteristics.

But what results from making race a constant? That no essential organic
change has taken place in the human race during the historic period is
universally admitted without question by biologists, physical
anthropologists, and brain specialists. Accordingly, when we concentrate
our attention on a definite people and follow their fortunes during
historic times, we are dealing with a genuine constant from the racial
point of view. It requires no very great acquaintance with history to
note startling cultural diversity correlated with this stability of
organic endowment.

The culture of the Mongol proper about the beginning of the thirteenth
century was that of an essentially primitive people, sharing the
shamanistic beliefs of their general habitat and ignorant of writing.
Suddenly we find them attaining an extraordinary political importance,
dominating Asia and menacing Europe, conversant successively with
several forms of script, practising the art of printing, and becoming
ardent exponents of Buddhism. Today they appear fallen from their high
estate, devoid of political power, and with their semi-sedentary nomad
life again give the impression of primitiveness, though tempered with
evidences of a higher civilization.[6] These changes are not only
manifestly independent of the racial factor, but can in part be directly
traced to other causes. Buddhism, of course, was derived ultimately from
India. Under Jenghis Khan both Chinese characters and an alphabet
derived from the Syrian, which had been spread through central Asia by
Nestorian missionaries, came into use; while another system of writing
was based on that of Tibet, and the art of printing was learned from the
Chinese.[7] The political predominance of the Mongols was due to a few
powerful personalities; and economic factors seem to have been at least
potent agents in the degenerative process of Mongol civilization. In
short, we have a group of determinants that are not even remotely
connected with hereditary racial traits.

Somewhat similar results appear from a consideration of Manchu history.
The Manchu were originally an insignificant and rude tribe of the
Tungusic family in eastern Siberia. Through contact with the Mongols
they became a literary people. They subjected China in 1644, and adopted
the Chinese speech and mode of thinking to such an extent that their
language is no longer spoken and almost every vestige of their former
lore is irretrievably lost.[8]

An equally striking illustration is furnished by the Arabs. Here, too,
we have a people of crude civilization suddenly emerging from an
unimportant position in the world’s affairs to blossom forth not only as
a military and political, but a cultural power as well, deriving from
Persia and Babylonia the impulse to philological and historical studies,
from Byzantium the technique of naval warfare, the art of
paper-manufacture from the Chinese, Euclid from the Syrian outposts of
Greek culture, and from India the decimal notation.[9] We find further
that they were not passive assimilators, but original elaborators and
active transmitters of the received elements, to whom European science
is under a lasting debt of gratitude and whose art constitutes at least
a highly creditable and individual achievement.

The conclusion suggested by these examples is very strongly corroborated
by an examination of our own race. We need not enter into the subtleties
of sub-racial classifications for the present purpose, but will simply
regard the European race in relation to European culture generally. It
is clear that all those startling technological advantages that most
sharply divide us from other peoples are a mushroom growth little over a
century old. In the first half of the nineteenth century matches were
unknown and the processes of fire-making were not superior to those of
many primitive tribes. The steam-engine and the industrial revolution
are of very little greater antiquity, not to speak of electrical
contrivances and applied chemistry. The difference between ourselves and
our forefathers is at first blush so tremendous that _a priori_ it would
seem to be explainable only by very great mental differences, yet
nothing is more certain than that their innate mentality was exactly the
same. The cultural difference becomes more and more glaring as we
proceed backwards, say, to the period antedating the art of printing. A
portion of our Middle Ages compares rather unfavorably with
contemporaneous Arabian or Chinese civilization. “If we go back to the
fifteenth century,” says Professor Giles, “we shall find that the
standard of civilization, as the term is usually understood, was still
much higher in China than in Europe; while Marco Polo, the famous
Venetian traveler of the thirteenth century, who actually lived
twenty-four years in China, and served as an official under Kublai Khan,
has left it on record that the magnificence of Chinese cities, and the
splendor of the Chinese court, outrivaled anything he had ever seen or
heard of.”[10]

Certainly the racial factor, which is a constant, cannot account for the
amazing changes in culture which we encounter in passing from one period
of our era to another. If we are interested in explaining these cultural
phenomena, we must cast about for some other determinants.

In a subject that is constantly confused by partisanship it is important
to make no greater claims for an argument than the facts absolutely
warrant. Accordingly, I hasten to explain what has really been shown and
what I have failed to show hitherto. It is, I think, fair to say that
culture cannot be adequately explained by race, and that the same race
varies extraordinarily in culture even within a very narrow space of
time. But we have not furnished proof that, say, the Central African
Pygmies, the Tasmanians, or the aborigines of Australia would have been
capable of attaining unaided to the level of our civilization. What we
can say, however, is this: The Chinese and some of our American Indians,
such as the ancient Central Americans and Peruvians, did attain a very
high level, which may be equated with that of Europe at a relatively
recent period. The difference between European culture then and now
cannot be due to hereditary causes, and it would, therefore, be
unjustifiable to allege that such causes account for the difference
between Europe of today and China or ancient Central America. Quite
generally it is true that the so-called primitive tribes are anything
but primitive in the strict sense of the term. Ingenious contrivances,
such as the boomerang, occur among the Australians, usually regarded as
one of the lowliest of races, and here we also find a remarkable
complexity of social organization. The Negroes of Africa are not only
conversant with the art of metallurgy, which is possibly their own
invention, but are conspicuous for their ability to form large and
powerful political states and have shown at least the ability of
assimilating the culture of Islam. If we contrast Negro culture on the
average not with the highest products of Dutch, Danish, or Swiss
culture, but with the status of the illiterate peasant communities in
not a few regions of Europe, the difference will hardly be so great as
to suggest any far-reaching hereditary causes. As the highly civilized
Manchu of today have for their next racial kin very crude Siberian
populations, so the white race, even today, embraces very primitive as
well as highly advanced constituent groups. We cannot wholly isolate the
racial factor from others, and we cannot give an ocular demonstration of
what the several inferior races, so-called, are capable of achieving
under the most favorable conditions. But with great confidence we can
say that since the same race at different times or in different
subdivisions at the same time represents vastly different cultural
stages, there is obviously no direct _proportional_ relation between
culture and race. And if great changes of culture can occur without any
change of race whatsoever, we are justified in considering it probable
that a relatively minute change of hereditary ability might produce
enormous differences. An analogy may render the matter clearer. Suppose
that it is of vital importance to lift a heavy weight, say 400 pounds,
to which only a single individual has access at the same time. Then a
very slight difference in muscular power will either accomplish or fail
in producing the desired effect, and the ultimate effect (say in
repelling an attack on a fortress under relatively primitive conditions)
will be entirely incommensurate with the additional strength required to
produce it. So we may readily understand how a slightly greater
mechanical aptitude might render one race able to launch a remarkable
series of inventions for which another, by barely missing the required
degree of development, would be forever debarred. This is only a special
form of the Darwinian doctrine of the survival value of small
variations, applied not to the question of the struggle for existence
(with which, nevertheless, it may be most intimately related), but to
the creation of new cultural values.

This aspect of the subject naturally leads to another that is closely
connected with it and is essential to an understanding of the entire
question. Mental endowment is a variable phenomenon within any
particular people or tribe. However democratic may be our ideals, the
doctrine that all individuals are born equal in point of ability can no
longer be seriously maintained. Every race must, therefore, be regarded
not as representing a single point of mental development, but as a
continuum of mental values with a certain range of variation. In
comparing the different races we must, accordingly, apply the canons
used by statisticians in comparing series of variable measurements. Here
a matter of vital importance challenges our attention. Two series may
have the same average value and yet differ considerably in range. Now it
is obvious that, where the number of individuals considered is small,
excessive values are less likely to occur than in a larger series. In a
gathering of a hundred men, we are not likely to find a man above 6 feet
6 inches in height; the average stature of all New Yorkers will probably
not be any greater than that of one hundred men selected at random, yet
in the entire city we shall find a number of individuals of gigantic
stature. When we apply this fact to our special problem we see at once
that extraordinary deviations from the norm cannot be expected to occur
in a tribe of 500 or even 5,000, while among the vast populations of
India, China or the Caucasian countries of America and Europe such
favorable variants are likely to occur with considerable absolute
frequency. These variations, as has already been suggested, need not
even be excessive to produce significant cultural results. Again, we may
urge the principle of minimal variations. A _little_ greater energy or
administrative talent may be just sufficient to found a powerful state;
a _slightly_ greater amount of logical consistency may lead to the
foundation of geometrical reasoning or of a philosophical system; a
_somewhat_ keener interest, above the purely utilitarian one, in
surrounding nature may give a remarkable impetus to the development of

Now this puts an entirely different construction on the facts. Assume
that racial differences _are_ at the bottom of some of the observed
cultural differences. This fact would not necessarily mean, then, that
the _average_ ability of the inferior races is less, but only that
extreme variations of an advantageous character occur less frequently
among them. This, for example, is the view taken by Professor Eugen
Fischer, the physical anthropologist, a very firm believer in racial
differences, but as regards variability rather than in point of average
intellectual equipment. It is also essentially, if I understand him, the
point made by Professor Thorndike. But precisely because the population
of the several races differs so enormously, we are for many of them
without a fair standard of comparison. Statistically, any actual number
of measurements is only a small sample of an infinite series; but we
have no means of ascertaining empirically what the extreme variations
of which Veddas or Australians are organically capable, would be like.
This, necessarily, leaves the ultimate problem of racial differences
unsolved. Nevertheless, our considerations have not been in vain. They
show, for one thing, how many factors have to be weighed in arriving at
a fair estimate of racial capabilities, factors which are naively
ignored in most popular discussions of the subject. We can, farther, say
positively that whatever differences may exist have been grossly
exaggerated. In the simpler mental operations, comparative psychological
studies indicate a specific unity of mankind. Differences in culture are
certainly not proportionate to mental differences, _i.e._, relatively
slight differences in native ability may well have produced tremendous
cultural effects. Since, finally, cultural differences of enormous range
occur within the same race, and even within very much smaller
subdivisions, the ethnologist cannot solve his cultural problems by
means of the race factor. Even if an ultimate investigation should
definitely fix the cultural limits to which a given race is hereditarily
subject, such information could not solve the far more specific problem
why the same people a few hundred years earlier were a horde of
barbarians and a few hundred years later formed a highly civilized
community. The supposed explanation by racial potentialities would be
far too general to interpret the actual happenings. Racial psychology,
no less than general psychology, thus fails to solve the problems of


The influence of geographical environment on culture seems a matter not
so much of logical inference as of direct observation. Taking our own
continent, we know that cotton is raised in the South, that our wheat
belt lies in Minnesota and the adjoining states and Canadian provinces,
that the Rocky Mountain and some of the Plateau states are the seat of
the mining industry while Florida and California form our tropical fruit
orchards. With these obvious facts are combined correlations not so
clear, perhaps, yet very convincing to the mind as yet undebauched by
ethnological learning. What seems more natural than that culture in its
highest forms should develop only in temperate regions, that the gloomy
forests of the North be reflected in a mythology of ogres and trolls,
that liberty should flourish amidst snowy mountain tops and languish in
the tepid plain, or that islanders should be expert mariners?

This geographical theory of culture bears a certain resemblance to the
classical associationist theory in psychology. According to that
doctrine, the mind is something in the nature of a wax tablet on which
the outer world produces impressions and all the higher mental
activities are, in the last instance, reducible to combinations of the
represented impressions or ‘ideas’. Modern psychology, however, regards
this system, fascinating as it appears at a first glance, as little
better than an historical curiosity. The association of ideas itself is
now conceived merely as a special manifestation of the synthetic nature
of consciousness. In short, the tables are completely turned, and
association, instead of explaining consciousness, is interpreted in
terms of consciousness. The analogy with the geographical view of
culture will become apparent in the course of our discussion.

To begin with the culture of our own country: The environmental features
of southern California, of Nevada, and the South have not changed during
the last few centuries. Yet, what do we find on considering the
aboriginal cultures of these regions? Southern California and Nevada
were unreclaimed desert wastes inhabited by a roving, non-agricultural
population, the natural mining resources of the latter state remained
untouched, no attempt was made to grow cotton in the Southern cotton
area. How can such facts be interpreted on a geographical basis? Quite
obviously, the reverse holds. The utilization of part of the
environment, instead of being an automatic response, has for an
indispensable prerequisite a certain type of culture. Granted the
existence of an agricultural technique, attempts may be made to apply it
even in a forbidding arid climate, where a more primitive culture would
not be able to develop it. The unfavorable environment may have checked
such development, and in so far forth exerted cultural influence at one
stage, but it is unable to check it at another stage, where the
preëxisting culture, instead of ‘remaining put’, molds the environment
to its own purposes.

The case I have chosen is an extreme one because I have correlated
environment with extremes of culture--one of the lowest forms of
aboriginal North American culture and our modern advanced scientific
methods of subduing nature to our will. But if we consider only the
cruder forms of civilization the same point appears with equal

Professor Kirchhoff, by no means an extreme adherent of the geographical
school since he does not reduce man to a mere automaton in the face of
his surroundings, nevertheless believes in a far-reaching influence of
the environment and cites in particular the resemblances between
inhabitants of arid territories. Unfortunately for his argument we have
glaring instances in which desert-like conditions coexist with
disparate modes of culture not only in similar but in identical regions
of the globe.

Thus, the Hopi and Navajo Indians have both occupied for a long period
the same part of northeastern Arizona and on the environmental theory we
should therefore expect among them the same mode of life. In this,
however, we are thoroughly disappointed. The Hopi are intensive farmers
who succeed in raising crops where white agriculturists fail; the Navajo
also plant corn but to a distinctly lesser extent and under Spanish
influence have readily developed into a pastoral people, raising sheep
for food and wool. Though the same building material is available, the
Hopi construct the well-known terraced sandstone houses with a
rectangular cell as the architectural unit, while the Navajo dwell in
conical earth-covered huts. North American ceramic art attains one of
its highwater marks among the Hopi, while the pottery of the Navajo is
hopelessly crude in comparison. Cotton was raised by the Hopi, but there
is no trace of its use by the neighboring people. What is true of the
material aspect of native life applies equally to its less tangible
elements. There is at least one marked difference in the sexual division
of labor: with the Hopi it is the man’s business to spin and weave
while this work falls to woman’s share among the Navajo. The Hopi were
always strict monogamists, while among the Navajo polygamy was
permissible. In conjunction with their agricultural pursuits Hopi
ceremonialism centered in the magico-religious production of rain; the
Navajo applied often the identical ritualistic stock-in-trade to the
cure of sickness. A stringent regulation of the Navajo social code
forbids all conversation between son-in-law and mother-in-law; but the
Hopi merely view the taboo as a Navajo idiosyncrasy. The general cast of
Hopi psychology, as fashioned by Hopi society, is that of an eminently
peaceable population; the Navajo rather recall in their bearing the
warlike and aggressive tribes of the Plains. Where resemblances occur,
as _e.g._, in the objective phase of the native cults, we are able to
prove that the parallelism is due not to an independent response to
environmental stimuli, but to contact and borrowing. But quite apart
from such cases, the basic differences in Hopi and Navajo civilization
show that the environment alone cannot account for cultural phenomena.

If we pass from the southwestern United States to South Africa, a
corresponding situation confronts us. The same area at one time formed
the habitat of the Bushmen and the Hottentots; yet, their mode of life
varies fundamentally. The Bushmen are essentially hunters and
seed-collectors, while the Hottentots are an eminently pastoral people.
Caves and crude windbreaks form the Bushman’s original dwellings, while
the Hottentots have mat-covered portable beehive-shaped huts. The
Bushman’s principal weapons are bow and arrow, with the Hottentot these
implements are of secondary importance as compared with the spear. It is
true that not only material objects but even myths and folktales are
shared by both tribes, but in many instances of this sort we have
clearly a case not of independent response to the same external
conditions but rather the result of borrowing. Thus, some of the traits
common to Hottentot and Bushman, for example, a fair number of mythic
episodes, occur likewise among the Bantu Negroes inhabiting contiguous
but geographically different territory. One of the most interesting
traits of ancient Bushman culture is the life-like representation of
animals on rocks and the walls of caves. Oddly enough, these engravings
and mural paintings, which distinguish the Bushmen from their South
African neighbors, have their nearest parallels in the Spanish
cave-paintings of Palæolithic Europe. The picturing of the mammoth and
reindeer by these old South European artists clearly proves that they
belonged to a glacial epoch, during which geographical conditions could
hardly have resembled those of the Kalahari desert.[2]

One other illustration from the same general region of the Dark
Continent is suggestive. The Ovambo and Herero, neighbors though they
are, differ in the essential features of their economic life. While the
Ovambo depend only to a very limited extent on their herds, deriving
their sustenance mainly from the cultivation of millet and other plants,
the Herero are the only non-agricultural Bantu people, being
predominantly pastoral.

Instead of comparing the effect of environment as a whole on different
peoples, we can also isolate its single factors, such as the presence of
particular species of plants or animals. One of the strongest cases
against the creative influence of environment on culture lies in the
phenomena relating to the domestication of animals in the Old and the
New World. The one animal domesticated in both hemispheres is the dog,
which occurs in Neolithic Europe and is also found with archæological
remains in America. But while in the Old World there is in addition an
imposing series of species subjected to man for definite economic
utilization, it is only in Peru that the American natives entered into a
symbiotic arrangement with other animals, _viz._, the llama and the
alpaca. Why was not the bison of the great Plains tamed like the buffalo
of southern Asia or the various races of cattle in the Eastern
Hemisphere? No valid reason can be advanced on geographical grounds.
More striking still in this regard is the difference between the
hyperborean populations of Asia and North America. The Chukchee of
north-easternmost Siberia and the Eskimo share the same climatic
conditions and their territories are both inhabited by the reindeer
(caribou). Yet the Chukchee breed half-tamed reindeer on a large scale,
using the animals for food and draught with sledges, while no attempt in
this direction was made by the Eskimo or any of their Indian neighbors.
The same external condition fails to produce the same cultural result.
But even among the Chukchee there is evidence that the use of reindeer
did not take place in response to an environmental stimulus. It appears
that the extraordinary development of reindeer breeding is a relatively
new thing with the Chukchee, who were formerly hunters of sea-mammals
like the Eskimo. Before the recent efflorescence of their reindeer
culture, the Chukchee waged war on their southern neighbors, the
Koryak, for the purpose of carrying off their herds; and altogether it
seems that both Chukchee and Koryak adopted the idea of taming the
reindeer from tribes of the Tungus stock living to the west and
south.[3] We are, then, dealing with another instance of acculturation
due to contact.

The facts of domestication are unusually suggestive as regards our
general problem for they show in an absolutely convincing manner that
even where the same animals have been domesticated by different peoples
the use to which they are put may differ widely and give a distinct
aspect to this phase of culture. Thus, we find that of Siberian
reindeer-breeders the Tungus and Lamut use their animals only for
transportation, not for slaughter, and that many bands, unlike other
Arctic populations, ride on their reindeer instead of harnessing them to
sledges. It is true that a rationalistic motive can be given for the
fact that the Chukchee do not ride reindeer-back since their variety
seems physically unfit for the saddle. That, however, is not the
essential point. We should like to know how the Tungus came to use the
saddle with their animals while other tribes with the same variety did
not do so, and for this _positive_ reaction to their faunal environment
geography furnishes no clue. A similar group of questions arises in
connection with the horse. Wild horses were game animals in Solutrean
times in Europe, their flesh forming in fact the staple diet.
Domestication certainly set in at a very much later period and its
economic consequences vary appreciably with different peoples and in
different times. The Kirgis, for example, milk their mares, thus
obtaining the famous kumyss, though the operation is difficult and even
dangerous.[4] The ancient Babylonians, Chinese, and East Indians used
the horse as a draught-animal harnessed to war-chariots. Its use for
riding was an invention of Central Asiatic nomads. In the most recent
period the consumption of horse flesh is a matter of course among the
poorer classes of continental Europe, revolting as the idea is not only
to the white American but to some of the Plains Indians as well,
according to the testimony of some of my informants. There is thus no
such thing as the presence of the horse determining its cultural use in
a definite sense.

Again, the ancient Chinese kept both sheep and goats, but the idea of
utilizing wool for clothing was foreign to them. We have historical
evidence for the fact that the use of wool for felt and rugs was taught
to the Chinese in more recent times by the nomadic populations of
central Asia. Most startling of all perhaps is the different attitude
assumed in different countries towards cattle. To us nothing seems more
obvious than that cattle should be kept both for meat and dairy
products. This, however, is by no means a universal practice. The Zulu
and other Bantu tribes of South Africa use milk extensively but hardly
ever slaughter their animals except on festive occasions. On the other
hand, we have the even more astonishing fact that Eastern Asiatics, such
as the Chinese, Japanese, Koreans and Indo-Chinese, have an inveterate
aversion to the use of milk. Though the Chinese, as Dr. Laufer points
out, have raised a variety of animals from which milk could be derived
and have been in constant contact with Turkish and Mongol nations whose
staple food consists in dairy products, they have never acquired what
seems so obvious and useful an economic practice. Accordingly, Dr.
Laufer justifiably concludes that “our consumption of animal milk cannot
be looked upon as a self-evident and spontaneous phenomenon, for which
it has long been taken, but that it is a mere matter of educated force
of habit.”[5] In other words, the use of environmental factors is not
an automatic and necessary response to them but varies with the culture
of the peoples concerned.

The creative impotence of environment and more particularly the
subordinate part it plays as compared with purely cultural determinants
of culture, such as the influence of a certain trait in a neighboring
tribe or the preëxistence of indigenous cultural features, may be
instructively illustrated by several other instances.

Thus, we find that of the Northern Athabaskans of western Canada, the
southern Carrier and the Chilcotin Indians share with the Shuswap
Indians of Salish stock the use of semi-subterranean huts which even in
winter seem like ovens. Are we to recognize in this an adaptation to the
inclemencies of the climate? Hardly, when we find that this type of
dwelling is used precisely by those Athabaskans living farthest south,
where of course the climate is much milder, while the more northern
tribes of the family get along with crude double shelters about a
central fireplace. The use of the semi-subterranean lodge by the Carrier
and Chilcotin is perfectly explained as a contact phenomenon. They have
simply adopted the idea from their Salish neighbors: the cultural
environment has proved more effective than the physical environment in
determining a cultural trait. Other members of the same family furnish
corresponding instances. Though many of the Northern Athabaskans have
long, snowy winters, only the Loucheux, who are in contact with the
Eskimo, have adopted the wooden goggles of the Eskimo, which serve as a
protection against snow-blindness. Similarly, they are the only members
of the stock to substitute for the widespread Canadian toboggan the
Eskimo sledge with runners.[6]

As the physical environment is overshadowed in cultural significance by
a neighboring culture, so it may vanish into nothingness in the face of
what we may call cultural inertia--the tendency of a preëxisting
cultural trait of indigenous growth to assert itself. A familiar example
of this tendency is the exact imitation of forms of implements in quite
different and often refractory material. Thus, the Central Eskimo
generally make lamps and pots out of soapstone. In Southampton Island,
where this material is lacking, they have not devised a new form but
have at the expenditure of much ingenuity and labor cemented together
slabs of limestone so as to produce the traditional shape.[7] The same
phenomenon appears in other fields. Grooved copper axes have been found
in parts of the United States; their shape is patterned exactly on the
stone axes characteristic of the same localities. The beginnings of the
copper and bronze ages in Europe are equally suggestive in this regard.
The incipient metallurgist does not automatically make the most of his
material but slavishly follows his stone or bone models. His copper
ornaments imitate bear’s teeth or bone beads, his implements resemble
the stone celts and hammers of an earlier era.[8] As Professor Boas
points out on the basis of Bogoras’ descriptions, an equivalent
development may be traced in the history of the Chukchee tent. This type
of habitation is extremely clumsy and not at all well adapted to the
roving life of the Reindeer division of the tribe, considerably
hampering their progress. It represents, however, a variety of the older
form of stationary house used when the Chukchee were a purely maritime

It might be objected that maladjustments of this sort are transitional,
that just as the copper and bronze workers ultimately freed themselves
from the influence of the preëxisting stone technique so the Chukchee
would finally have abandoned their inconvenient tent and developed a new
and more readily transportable lodge. This sounds, of course, very
plausible but misses the point of the argument. Undoubtedly, a more and
more perfect adaptation to elements of the physical surroundings has
repeatedly taken place. But the very fact that culture history, on its
material side, implies this progressive adjustment also implies that the
cultural phenomena at different periods of time differ where the same
environmental stimuli persist and therefore cannot be explained by them,
which is what we have been trying to prove.

Indeed, environment is not only unable to create cultural features, in
some instances it is even incapable of perpetuating them. Thus, pottery
was once distributed over an extensive region in the New Hebrides but is
now restricted to a few isolated localities on a single island. Again,
in southeastern New Guinea ancient pottery has been found that vastly
surpasses its present representatives in point of craftsmanship.[10] A
similar phenomenon has been noted in the Southwest of the United States,
where the evolution and deterioration of glazed earthenware may be
clearly traced in the same region.[11] Dr. Rivers has pointed out an
even more instructive example of cultural degeneration. In the Torres
Islands of Melanesia the natives have no canoes for traversing the
channels which separate their islands from one another but are obliged
to use unseaworthy bamboo rafts inadequate even for fishing purposes.
Yet there is evidence that the Torres Islanders once shared the art of
canoe-making with their fellow-Oceanians and that it has died out in
recent times independently of European influence. It is difficult to
conceive of any people less likely _a priori_ to lose the art of
navigation than a South Sea Island group; yet, their maritime
environment proved inadequate to preserve so vital a feature of their
daily life.

To sum up: Environment cannot explain culture because the identical
environment is consistent with distinct cultures; because cultural
traits persist from inertia in an unfavorable environment; because they
do not develop where they would be of distinct advantage to a people;
and because they may even disappear where one would least expect it on
geographical principles.

Shall we then cavalierly banish geography from cultural considerations?
This would be manifestly going beyond the mark. Geographical phenomena
can no more be discarded than can psychological phenomena. They
represent in the first place a limiting condition. As cultures cannot
contravene psychological principles so they cannot, except in a limited
measure, override geographical factors. To use some drastically clear if
somewhat hackneyed examples, the Eskimo do not eat coconuts nor do the
Oceanians build snow-houses; where the horse does not occur it cannot be
domesticated; in the Hopi country where watercourses are lacking
navigation naturally did not develop. As Jochelson points out, the
Koryak of northeastern Siberia cannot cultivate cereals because of the
low temperature and they cannot succeed as cattle-breeders because of
the poor quality of the grasses.[12] This minimum recognition of
environment as a purely negative factor, however, does not do full
justice to it. Take the bison out of the Plains Indian’s life and his
cultural atmosphere certainly changes. Nevertheless, we have seen that
the presence of the bison by no means fully determined the cultural
employment possible. Instead of hunting it as the Solutrean Europeans
did the wild horse, the Indian might have domesticated it as his
namesake by misnomer in Asia domesticated the buffalo. The environment,
then, enters into culture, not as a formative but rather as an inert
element ready to be selected from and molded. It is, of course, a matter
of biological necessity for a people to establish some sort of
adaptation to surrounding conditions, but such adaptation is no more
spontaneously generated by the environment than are strictly biological
adaptations. There are alternatives to adaptation--migration and

It is true, as Dr. Wissler has forcibly pointed out, that when some kind
of adjustment has once been established it will tend to persist in the
region of its origin.[13] This, however, illustrates not so much the
active influence of environment as rather the tremendous force of
cultural inertia which tends to perpetuate an old muddling-along
adjustment, however imperfect, provided only it has bare survival value.

Altogether we may illustrate the relations of culture to environment by
an analogy used by Dr. Wissler in another connection, which also brings
us back to my initial analogy of the environmental theory with the
associationist system in psychology. The environment furnishes the
builders of cultural structures with brick and mortar but it does not
furnish the architect’s plan. As the illustrations cited clearly prove,
there is a variety of ways in which the same materials can be put
together, nay, there is always a range of choice as regards the
materials themselves. The development of a particular architectural
style and the selection of a special material from among an indefinite
number of possible styles and materials are what characterize a given
culture. Since geography permits more than a single adjustment to the
same conditions, it cannot give the interpretation sought by the student
of culture. Culture can no more be built up of environmental blocks than
can consciousness out of isolated ideas; and as the association of ideas
already implies the synthetizing faculty of consciousness, so the
assemblage and use of environmental factors after a definite plan
already implies the selective and synthetic agency of a preëxisting or
nascent culture.


Psychology, racial differences, geographical environment, have all
proved inadequate for the interpretation of cultural phenomena. The
inference is obvious. Culture is a thing _sui generis_ which can be
explained only in terms of itself. This is not mysticism but sound
scientific method. The biologist, whatever metaphysical speculations he
may indulge in as to the ultimate origin of life, does not depart in his
workaday mood from the principle that every cell is derived from some
other cell. So the ethnologist will do well to postulate the principle,
_Omnis cultura ex cultura_.[1] This means that he will account for a
given cultural fact by merging it in a group of cultural facts or by
demonstrating some other cultural fact out of which it has developed.
The cultural phenomenon to be explained may either have an antecedent
within the culture of the tribe where it is found or it may have been
imported from without. Both groups of determinants must be considered.

The extraneous determinants of culture summed up under the heading of
‘diffusion’ or ‘contact of peoples’ have been repeatedly referred to in
the preceding pages. A somewhat detailed examination seems desirable,
for it is difficult to exaggerate their importance.

“Civilization,” says Tylor, “is a plant much oftener propagated than
developed;”[2] and the latest ethnographic memoir that comes to hand
voices the same sentiment: “It is and has always been much easier to
borrow an idea from one’s neighbors than to originate a new idea; and
transmission of cultural elements, which in all ages has taken place in
a great many different ways, is and has been one of the greatest
promoters of cultural development.”[3]

A stock illustration of cultural assimilation is that of the Japanese,
who in the nineteenth century adopted our scientific and technological
civilization ready-made, just as at an earlier period they had acquired
wholesale the culture of China. It is essential to note that it is not
always the people of lower culture who remain passive recipients in the
process of diffusion. This is strikingly shown by the spread of Indian
corn. The white colonist “did not simply borrow the maize seed and then
in conformity with his already established agricultural methods, or on
original lines, develop a maize culture of his own,” but “took over the
entire material complex of maize culture” as found among the
aborigines.[4] The history of Indian corn also illustrates the
remarkable rapidity with which cultural possessions may travel over the
globe. Unknown in the Old World prior to the discovery of America, it is
mentioned as known in Europe in 1539 and had reached China between 1540
and 1570.[5]

The question naturally arises here, whether this process of diffusion,
which in modern times is a matter of direct observation, could have been
of importance during the earlier periods of human history when means of
communication were of a more primitive order. So far as this point is
concerned, we must always remember that methods of transportation
progressed very slightly from the invention of the wheeled cart until
the most recent times. As Montelius suggests, the periods of 1700 B. C.
and 1700 A. D. differed far less in this regard than might be supposed
on superficial consideration. Yet we know the imperfection of facilities
for travel did not prevent dissemination of culture in historic times.

The great Swedish archæologist has, indeed, given us a most fascinating
picture of the commercial relations of northern Europe in earlier
periods and their effect on cultural development.[6] We learn with
astonishment that in the ninth and tenth centuries of our era, trade
was carried on with great intensity between the North of Europe and the
Mohammedan culture sphere since tens of thousands of Arabic coins have
been found on Swedish soil. But intercourse with remote countries dates
back to a far greater antiquity. One of the most powerful stimuli of
commercial relations between northern and southern Europe was the desire
of the more southern populations to secure amber, a material confined to
the Baltic region and occurring more particularly about Jutland and the
mouth of the Vistula. Amber beads have been found not only in Swiss
pile-dwellings[7] but also in Mycenæan graves of the second millennium
B. C. Innumerable finds of amber work in Italy and other parts of
southern Europe prove the importance attached to this article, which was
exchanged for copper and bronze. The composition of Scandinavian bronzes
indicates that their material was imported not from England but from the
faraway regions of central Europe. That bronze was not of indigenous
manufacture is certain because tin does not occur in Sweden at all while
the copper deposits of northern Scandinavia remained untouched until
about 1500 years after the end of the Bronze Age. Considering the high
development of the bronze technique in Scandinavia and the fact that
every pound of bronze had to be imported from without, it would be
difficult to exaggerate the extent of contact with the southern
populations. But intercourse was not limited to the South. For example,
Swedish weapons and implements have been discovered in Finland. Again,
crescent-shaped gold ornaments of Irish provenance have been found in
Denmark, while a Swedish rock-painting represents with painstaking
exactness a type of bronze shield common at a certain prehistoric period
of England.

Montelius shows that historical connections of the type so amply
attested for the Bronze Age also obtained in the preceding Neolithic
era. Swedish hammers of stone dating back to the third pre-Christian
millennium and flint daggers have been found in Finland, and earthenware
characteristic of Neolithic Scandinavia also turns up on the Baltic
coast of Russia. Stone burial cists with a peculiar oval opening at one
end occur in a limited section of southwestern Sweden and likewise in
England. Since such monuments have been discovered neither in other
parts of Sweden nor in Jutland or the Danish islands, they point to a
direct intercourse between Britain and western Sweden at about 2,000 B.
C. A still older form of burial unites Scandinavia with other parts of
the continent. Chambers built up of large stones set up edgewise and
reaching from the floor to the roof, the more recent ones with and the
older without a long covered passage, are highly characteristic of
Sweden, Denmark, the British Isles, and the coasts of Europe from the
Vistula embouchure to the coasts of France and Portugal, of Italy,
Greece, the Crimea, North Africa, Syria, and India. Specific
resemblances convince the most competent judges that some, at least, of
these widely diffused ‘dolmens’ are historically connected with their
Swedish equivalents, and since the oldest of these Northern chambers go
back 3,000 years before our era, we thus have evidence of cultural
diffusion dating back approximately five millennia.

It is highly interesting to trace under Montelius’ guidance the
development of culture as it seems to have actually taken place in
southern Sweden. Beginning with the earliest periods, we find the
coastal regions inhabited by a population of fishermen and hunters. At a
subsequent stage coarse pottery appears with articles of bone and
antler, and there is evidence that the dog has become domesticated. In
the later Neolithic era perfectly polished stone hammers and
exquisitely chipped flint implements occur, together with indications
that cattle, horses, sheep and pigs are domesticated and that the
cultivation of the soil has begun. Roughly speaking, we may assume that
the culture of Scandinavia at the end of the Stone Age resembled in
advancement that of the agricultural North American and Polynesian
tribes as found by the first European explorers. We may assume a long
period of essentially indigenous cultural growth followed towards its
close by intimate relations with alien populations. Nevertheless, it was
the more extensive contact of the Bronze period that rapidly raised the
ancestral Swedes to a cultural position high above a primitive level,
with accentuation of agriculture, the use of woolen clothing, and a
knowledge of metallurgy. It was again foreign influence that later
brought the knowledge of iron and in the third century of our era
transformed the Scandinavians into a literary people, flooded their
country with art products of the highest then existing Roman
civilization, and ultimately introduced Christianity.

The case of Scandinavian culture is fairly typical. We have first a
long-continued course of leisurely and relatively undisturbed
development, which is superseded by a tremendously rapid assimilation
of cultural elements from without. Through contact with tribes
possessing a higher civilization the ancient Scandinavians came to
participate in its benefits and even to excel in special departments of
it, such as bronze work, which from lack of material, they would have
been physically incapable of developing unaided. Diffusion was the
determinant of Scandinavian cultural progress from savagery to

It is obvious that this insistence on contact of peoples as a condition
of cultural evolution does not solve the ultimate problem of the origin
of culture. The question naturally obtrudes itself: If the Scandinavians
obtained their civilization from the Southeast, how did the Oriental
cultures themselves originate? Nevertheless, when we examine these
higher civilizations of the Old World, we are again met with indubitable
evidence that one of the conditions of development is the contact of
peoples and the consequent diffusion of cultural elements. This appears
clearly from a consideration of the ancient civilizations of Egypt,
Babylonia, and China.

We now have abundant evidence for a later Stone Age in Egypt with an
exceptionally high development of the art of chipping, as well as
specimens of pottery and other indications of a sedentary mode of life.
About 5,000 B. C. this undisturbed evolution began to suffer from a
series of migrations of West Asiatic tribes, bringing in their wake a
number of cultivated plants and domesticated animals, as well as various
other features which possibly included the art of smelting copper, while
the ceramic ware of the earlier period agrees so largely with that of
Elam in what is now southern Persia that a cultural connection seems
definitely established.

If from Egypt we turn to the most probable source of alien culture
elements found there, _viz._, to the region of Mesopotamia, possibly the
oldest seat of higher civilization in Asia, we find again that the
culture of Babylonia under the famous lawgiver Hammurabi (about 2,000 B.
C.) is not the product of purely indigenous growth but represents the
resultant of at least two components, that of the Sumerian civilization
of southern Babylonia and the Accadian culture of the North. It is
certain that the Accadians adopted the art of writing from the Sumerians
and were also stimulated by this contact in their artistic development.
The evolution of Sumerian civilization is lost in obscurity but on the
basis of well-established historical cases we should hesitate to assign
to them an exclusively creative, and to other populations an exclusively
receptive, rôle. We may quite safely assume that the early splendor of
Sumerian civilization was also in large part due to stimuli received
through foreign relations. That cultural elements of value may be
borrowed from an inferior as well as from a higher level, has already
been exemplified by the case of maize. It is also, among other things,
illustrated by the history of the Chinese.

The Chinese have generally been represented as developing in complete
isolation from other peoples. This traditional conception, however,
breaks down with more intimate knowledge. Dr. Laufer has demonstrated
that Chinese civilization, too, is a complex structure due to the
conflux of distinct cultural streams. As an originally inland people
inhabiting the middle and lower course of the Yellow River, they
gradually reached the coast and acquired the art of navigation through
contact with Indo-Chinese seafarers. Acquaintance with the northern
nomads of Turkish and Tungus stock led to the use of the horse, donkey
and camel, as well as the practice of felt and rug weaving, possibly
even to the adoption of furniture and the iron technique.[8] Most
important of all, it appears that essentials of agriculture,
cattle-raising, metallurgy and pottery, as well as less tangible
features of civilization are common to ancient China and Babylonia,
which forces us to the conclusion that both the Chinese and Babylonian
cultures are ramifications from a common Asiatic sub-stratum. It would
be idle to speculate as to the relative contributions of each center to
this ancient cultural stock. The essential point is that the most
ancient Asiatic civilizations of which we have any evidence already
indicate close contact of peoples and the dispersal of cultural

Contact of peoples is thus an extraordinary promoter of cultural
development. By the free exchange of arts and ideas among a group of
formerly independent peoples, a superiority and complexity is rendered
possible which without such diffusion would never have occurred. The
part played in this process by the cruder populations must not be
underestimated. They may contribute both actively and passively;
actively, by transmitting knowledge independently acquired, as in the
case of the felt technique the Chinese learned from the northern nomads;
passively, by forming a lower caste on which the economic labors devolve
and thus liberating their conquerors for an enlarged activity in the
less utilitarian spheres of culture.

Nevertheless, before peoples can communicate their cultures to others
with whom they come into contact, they must first evolve these
cultures. The question thus remains, What determines this evolution? In
order to gain a proper perspective in this matter, we must for a moment
consider the progress of human civilization as a whole. Archæological
research shows that the modern era of steel and iron tools was preceded
by an age of bronze and copper implements, which in turn was preceded by
a stone age subdivided into a more recent period of polished, and an
earlier of merely chipped, stone tools. Now the chronological relations
of these epochs are extremely suggestive. The very lowest estimate by
any competent observer of the age of Palæolithic man in Europe sets it
at 50,000 years;[9] since this is avowedly the utmost minimum value that
can be assigned on geological grounds, we may reasonably assume twice
that figure for the age of human culture generally. Using the rough
estimate permissible in discussions of this sort, we may regard the end
of the Palæolithic era as dating back about 15,000 years ago. In short,
for more than eight-tenths of its existence, the human species remained
at a cultural level at best comparable with that of the Australian. We
may assume that it was during this immense space of time that dispersal
over the face of the globe took place and that isolation fixed the
broader diversities of language and culture, over and above what may
have been the persisting cultural sub-stratum common to the earliest
undivided human group. The following Neolithic period of different parts
of the globe terminated at different times and had not been passed at
all by most of the American aborigines and the Oceanians at the time of
their discovery. However, from the broader point of view here assumed,
it was not relieved by the age of metallurgy until an exceedingly recent
past. The earliest estimate I have seen does not put the event back
farther than 6000 B. C. even in Mesopotamia. During nine-tenths of his
existence, then, man was ignorant of the art of smelting copper from the
ore. Finally, the iron technique does not date back 4,000 years; it took
humanity ninety-six hundredths of its existence to develop this art.

We may liken the progress of mankind to that of a man a hundred years
old, who dawdles through kindergarten for eighty-five years of his life,
takes ten years to go through the primary grades, then rushes with
lightning rapidity through grammar school, high school and college.
Culture, it seems, is a matter of exceedingly slow growth until a
certain ‘threshold’ is passed, when it darts forward, gathering momentum
at an unexpected rate. For this peculiarity of culture as a whole, many
miniature parallels exist in special subdivisions of culture history.
Natural science lay dormant until Kepler, Galileo and Newton stirred it
into unexampled activity, and the same holds for applied science until
about a century ago.

This discontinuity of development receives strong additional
illustration from a survey of special subdivisions of ancient culture.
Though the Palæolithic era certainly preceded the later Stone Age,
archæologists have hitherto failed to show the steps by which the later
could develop out of the earlier. This gap may, of course, be due merely
to our lack of knowledge. Yet when we take subdivisions of the
Palæolithic period, the same fact once more confronts us. There is no
orderly progression from Solutrean to Magdalenian times. The highly
developed flint technique of the former dwindles away in the latter and
its place is taken by what seems a spontaneous generation of bone and
ivory work, with a high development of realistic art.

In view of the evidence, it seems perfect nonsense to say that early
European civilization, by some law inherent in the very nature of
culture, developed in the way indicated by archæological finds. Southern
Scandinavia could not possibly have had a bronze age without alien
influence. In this case, discontinuity was the result of cultural
contact. It may be that the lack of definite direction observed
throughout the Stone Age may in part be due to similar causes, the
migrations and contact of different peoples, as Professor Sollas
suggests. But it is important to note that discontinuity is a necessary
feature of cultural progress. It does not matter whether we can
determine the particular point in the series at which the significant
trait was introduced. It does not matter whether, as I have suggested in
the discussion of racial features, the underlying _causes_ of the
phenomena proceed with perfect continuity. Somewhere in the observed
cultural _effects_ there is the momentous innovation that leads to a
definite break with the past. From a broad point of view, for example,
it is immaterial whether the doctrine of evolution clings to the name of
the younger or the elder Darwin, to Lamarck or St. Hilaire; the
essential thing is that somehow the idea originated, and that when it
had taken root it produced incalculable results in modern thought.

If culture, even when uninfluenced by foreign contact, progresses by
leaps and bounds, we should naturally like to ascertain the determinants
of such ‘mutations.’ In this respect, the discontinuity of indigenous
evolution differs somewhat from that connected with cultural
development due to diffusion. It was absolutely impossible that
Scandinavia should produce bronze in the absence of tin. But _a priori_
it is conceivable that an undisturbed culture might necessarily develop
by what biologists call ‘orthogenetic evolution’, _i.e._, in a definite
direction through definite stages. This is, indeed, what is commonly
known as the classical scheme of cultural evolution, of which men like
Morgan are the protagonists. Now, how do the observed facts square with
this theoretical possibility?

As Professor Boas and American ethnologists generally have
maintained,[10] many facts are quite inconsistent with the theory of
unilinear evolution. That theory can be tested very simply by comparing
the sequence of events in two or more areas in which independent
development has taken place. For example, has technology in Africa
followed the lines ascertained for ancient Europe? We know today that it
has not. Though unlike southern Scandinavia, the Dark Continent is not
lacking in copper deposits, the African Stone Age was not superseded by
a Copper Age, but directly by a period of Iron. Similarly, I have
already pointed out that the possession of the same domesticated animals
does not produce the same economic utilization of them while the Tungus
rides his reindeer, other Siberians harness their animals to a sledge;
the Chinaman will not milk his cattle, while the Zulu’s diet consists
largely of milk. That a particular innovation occurred at a given time
and place is, of course, no less the result of definite causes than any
other phenomenon of the universe. But often it seems to have been caused
by an accidental complex of conditions rather than in accordance with
some fixed principle.

For example, the invention of the wheel revolutionized methods of
transportation. Now, why did this idea develop in the Old World and
never take root among the American Indians? We are here face to face
with one of those ultimate data that must simply be accepted like the
physicist’s fact that water expands in freezing while other substances
contract. So far as we can see, the invention might have been made in
America as well as not; and for all we know it would never have been
made there until the end of time. This introduces a very important
consideration. A given culture is, in a measure, at least, a unique
phenomenon. In so far as this is true it must defy generalized
treatment, and the explanation of a cultural phenomenon will consist in
referring it back to the particular circumstances that preceded it. In
other words, the explanation will consist in a recital of its past
history; or, to put it negatively, it cannot involve the assumption of
an organic law of cultural evolution that would necessarily produce the
observed effect.

Facts already cited in other connections may be quoted again by way of
illustration. When a copper implement is fashioned not according to the
requirements of the material, but in direct imitation of preëxisting
stone patterns, we have an instance of cultural inertia: it is only the
past history of technology that renders the phenomena conceivable. So
the unwieldy Chukchee tent, which adheres to the style of a pre-nomadic
existence, is explained as soon as the past history of the tribe comes
to light.

Phenomena that persist in isolation from their original context are
technically known as ‘survivals’, and form one of the most interesting
chapters of ethnology. One or two additional examples will render their
nature still clearer. The boats of the Vikings were equipped for rowing
as well as for sailing. Why the superfluous appliances for rowing, which
were later dropped? As soon as we learn that the Norse boats were
originally rowboats and that sails were a later addition, the rowing
equipment is placed in its proper cultural setting and the problem is
solved. Another example may be offered from a different phase of life.
Among the Arapaho Indians there is a series of dance organizations
graded by age. Membership is acquired by age-mates at the same time,
each receiving the requisite ceremonial instructions from some older man
who passed through the dance in his day. These older men, who are paid
for their services by the candidates, may belong to any and all of the
higher organizations. Oddly enough, each group of dancers is assisted by
a number of ‘elder brothers’, all of whom rank them by _two_ grades in
the series of dancers. This feature is not at all clear from the Arapaho
data alone. When, however, we turn to the Hidatsa Indians, with whom
there is evidence this system of age-societies originated, we find that
here the youngest group of men does not buy instructions from a
miscellaneous assemblage of older men, but buys the dance outright from
the whole of the second grade; this group, in order to have the
privilege of performing a dance, must buy that of the third grade, and
so on. In all these purchases the selling group seeks to extort the
highest possible price while the buyers try to get off as cheaply as
possible and are aided by the second higher group, _i.e._, the group
just ranking the sellers. Here the sophomore-senior versus
freshman-junior relationship is perfectly intelligible; both the
freshman and the junior, to pursue the analogy, bear a natural economic
hostility against the sophomore, and vice versa. The Arapaho usage is
intelligible as a survival from this earlier Hidatsa condition.

Our own civilization is shot through with survivals, so that further
illustrations are unnecessary. They suggest, however, another aspect of
our general problem. Of course, in every culture different traits are
linked together without there being any essential bond between them. An
illustration of this type of association is that mentioned by Dr. Laufer
for Asiatic tribes, _viz._, that all nations which use milk for their
diet have epic poems, while those which abstain from milk have no epic
literature. This type of chance association, due to historical causes,
has been discussed by Dr. Wissler[11] and Professor Czekanowski.[12] But
survivals show that there may be an _organic_ relation between phenomena
that have become separated and are treated as distinct by the
descriptive ethnologist. In such cases, one trait is the determinant of
the other, possibly as the actually preceding cause, possibly as part of
the same phenomenon in the sense in which the side of a triangle is
correlated with an angle.

A pair of illustrations will elucidate the matter. Primitive terms of
relationship often reveal characteristic differences of connotation
from their nearest equivalents in European languages. On the other hand,
they are remarkably similar not only among many of the North American
Indians but also in many other regions of the globe, such as Australia,
Oceanica, Africa. The most striking peculiarity of this system of
nomenclature lies in the inclusiveness of certain terms. For example,
the word we translate as ‘father’ is applied indiscriminately to the
father, all his brothers, and some of his male cousins; while the word
for ‘mother’ is correspondingly used for the mother’s sisters and some
of their female cousins. On the other hand, paternal and maternal uncle
or aunt are rigidly distinguished by a difference in terminology. As
Morgan divined and Tylor clearly recognized, this system is connected
with the one-sided exogamous kin organization by which an individual is
reckoned as belonging to the exogamous social group of one, and only
one, of his parents. The terminology that appears so curious at first
blush then resolves itself very simply into the method of calling those
members of the tribe who belong to the father’s social group and
generation by the same term as the father, while the maternal uncles,
who must belong to another group because of the exogamous rule, are
distinguished from the father. In short, the terminology simply
expresses the existing social organization. In a world-wide survey of
the field Tylor found that the number of peoples who use the type of
nomenclature I have described and are divided into exogamous groups, is
about three times that to be expected on the doctrine of chances: in
other words, the two apparently distinct phenomena are causally
connected.[13] This interpretation has recently been forcibly advocated
by Dr. Rivers, and I have examined the North American data from this
point of view. It developed, as a matter of fact, that practically all
the tribes with exogamous ‘clans’, _i.e._, matrilineal kin groups, or
exogamous ‘gentes’, _i.e._, patrilineal kin groups, had a system of the
type described, while most of the tribes lacking such groups also lacked
the nomenclature in question. Accordingly, it follows that there is
certainly a functional relation between these phenomena, although it is
conceivable that both are functionally related to still other phenomena,
and that the really significant relationship remains to be determined.

As a linked illustration, the following phenomena may be presented.
Among the Crow of Montana, the Hopi of Arizona, and some Melanesian
tribes, the same term is applied to a father’s sister and to a father’s
sister’s daughter; indeed, among the Crow and the Hopi the term is
extended to all the female descendants through females of the father’s
sister _ad infinitum_. Such a usage is at once intelligible from the
tendency to call females of the father’s group belonging to his and
younger generations by a single term, regardless of generation, _if_
descent is reckoned through the mother, for in that case, and that case
only, will the individuals in question belong to the same group. And the
fact is that in each of the cases mentioned, group affiliation is traced
through the mother, while I know of not a single instance in which
paternal descent coexists with the nomenclatorial disregard of
generations in the form described.

My instances show, then, that cultural traits may be functionally
related, and this fact renders possible a parallelism, however limited,
of cultural development in different parts of the globe. The field of
culture, then, is not a region of complete lawlessness. Like causes
produce like effects here as elsewhere, though the complex conditions
with which we are grappling require unusual caution in definitely
correlating phenomena. It is true that American ethnologists have shown
that in several instances like phenomena can be traced to diverse
causes; that, in short, unlike antecedents converge to the same point.
However, at the risk of being anathematized as a person of utterly
unhistorical mentality, I must register my belief that this point has
been overdone and that the continued insistence on it by Americanists is
itself an illustration of cultural inertia. Indeed, the vast majority of
so-called convergencies are not genuine, but false analogies due to our
throwing together diverse facts from ignorance of their true nature,
just as an untutored mind will class bats with birds, or whales with
fish. When, however, rather full knowledge reveals not superficial
resemblance but absolute identity of cultural features, it would be
miraculous, indeed, to assume that such equivalence somehow was shaped
by different determinants. When a Zulu of South Africa, an Australian,
and a Crow Indian all share the mother-in-law taboo imposing mutual
avoidance on the wife’s mother and the daughter’s husband, with exactly
the same psychological correlate, it is, to my mind, rash to decree
without attempt to produce evidence that this custom must, in each case,
have developed from entirely distinct motives. To be sure, this
particular usage has not yet, in my opinion, been satisfactorily
accounted for. Nevertheless, in contradistinction to some of my
colleagues and to the position I myself once shared, I now believe that
it is pusillanimous to shirk the real problem involved, and that in so
far as any explanation admits the problem, any explanation is preferable
to the flaunting of fine phrases about the unique character of cultural
phenomena. When, however, we ask what sort of explanation could be
given, we find that it is by necessity a _cultural_ explanation. Tylor,
_e.g._, thinks that the custom is correlated with the social rule that
the husband takes up his abode with the wife’s relatives and that the
taboo merely marks the difference between him and the rest of the
family. We have here clearly one cultural phenomenon as the determinant
of another.

It is not so difficult as might at first appear to harmonize the
principle that a cultural phenomenon is explicable only by a unique
combination of antecedent circumstances with the principle that like
phenomena are the product of like antecedents. The essential point is
that in either case we have past history as the determinant. It is not
necessary that certain things should happen; but if they do happen, then
there is at least a considerable likelihood that certain other things
will also happen. Diversity occurs where the particular thing of
importance, say the wheel, has been discovered or conceived in one
region but not in another. Parallelism tends to occur when the same
significant phenomenon is shared by distinct cultures. It remains true
that in culture history we are generally wise after the event. _A
priori_, who would not expect that milking must follow from the
domestication of cattle?

When we find that a type of kinship terminology is determined by exogamy
or matrilineal descent, we have, indeed, given a cultural explanation of
a cultural fact; but for the ultimate problems how exogamy or maternal
descent came about, we may be unable to give a solution. Very often we
cannot ascertain an anterior or correlated cultural fact for another
cultural fact, but can merely group it with others of the same kind. Of
this order are many of the parallels that figure so prominently in
ethnological literature. For example, that primitive man everywhere
believes in the animation of nature seems an irreducible datum which we
can, indeed, paraphrase and turn hither and thither for clearer scrutiny
but can hardly reduce to simpler terms. All we can do is to merge any
particular example of such animism in the general class after the
fashion of all scientific interpretation. That certain tendencies of all
but universal occurrence are characteristic of culture, no fair observer
can deny, and it is the manifest business of ethnology to ascertain all
such regularities so that as many cultural phenomena as possible may
fall into their appropriate categories. Only those who would derive each
and every trait similar in different communities of human beings from a
single geographical source can ignore such general characteristics of
culture, which may, in a sense, be regarded as determinants of specific
cultural data or rather, as the principles of which these are particular

Recently I completed an investigation of Plains Indian societies begun
on the most rigorous of historical principles, with a distinct bias in
favor of the unique character of cultural data. But after smiting hip
and thigh the assumption that the North American societies were akin to
analogous institutions in Africa and elsewhere, I came face to face with
the fact that, after all, among the Plains Indians, as among other
tribes, the tendency of age-mates to flock together had formed social
organizations and thus acted as a cultural determinant.

Beyond such interpretative principles for special phases of
civilization, there are still broader generalizations of cultural
phenomena. One has been repeatedly alluded to under the caption of
cultural inertia, or survival--the irrational persistence of a feature
when the context in which it had a place has vanished. But culture is
not merely a passive phenomenon but a dynamic one as well. This is
strikingly illustrated in the assimilation of an alien cultural
stimulus. As I have already pointed out, it is not sufficient to bring
two cultures into contact in order to have a perfect cultural
interpenetration. The element of selection enters in a significant way.
Not everything that is offered by a foreign culture is borrowed. The
Japanese have accepted our technology but not our religion and
etiquette. Moreover, what is accepted may undergo a very considerable
change. While the whole range of phenomena is extremely wide and cannot
be dismissed with a few words, it appears fairly clear that generally
the preëxisting culture at once seizes upon a foreign element and models
it in accordance with the _native_ pattern. Thus, the Crow Indians, who
had had a pair of rival organizations, borrowed a society from the
Hidatsa where such rivalry did not exist. Straightway, the Crow imposed
on the new society their own conception, and it became the competitor of
another of their organizations. Similarly the Pawnee have a highly
developed star cult. Their folklore is in many regards similar to that
of other Plains tribes, from which some tales have undoubtedly been
borrowed. Yet in the borrowing these stories became changed and the
same episodes which elsewhere relate to human heroes now receive an
astral setting. The preëxisting cultural pattern synthetizes the new
element with its own preconceptions.

Another tendency that is highly characteristic of all cultures is the
rationalistic explanation of what reason never gave rise to. This is
shown very clearly in the justification of existing cultural features or
of opinions acquired as a member of a particular society. Hegel’s notion
that whatever exists is rational and Pope’s ‘whatever is, is right’ have
their parallels in primitive legend and the literature of religious and
political partisanship. In the special form of justification employed we
find again the determining influence of the surrounding cultural
atmosphere. Among the Plains Indians almost everything is explained as
the result of supernatural revelation; if a warrior has escaped injury
in battle it is because he wore a feather bestowed on him in a vision;
if he acquires a large herd of horses it is in fulfilment of a
spiritistic communication during the fast of adolescence. In a community
where explanations of this type hold sway, we are not surprised to find
that the origin of rites, too, is almost uniformly traced to a vision
and that even the most trivial alteration in ceremonial garb is not
claimed as an original invention but ascribed to supernatural
promptings. Thus, the existing culture acts doubly as the determinant of
the explanation offered for a particular cultural phenomenon. It evokes
the search for its own _raison d’être_; and the type of interpretation
called forth conforms to the explanatory pattern characteristic of the
culture involved.

Culture thus appears as a closed system. We may not be able to explain
all cultural phenomena or at least not beyond a certain point; but
inasmuch as we _can_ explain them at all, explanation must remain on the
cultural plane.

What are the determinants of culture? We have found that cultural traits
may be transmitted from without and in so far forth are determined by
the culture of an alien people. The extraordinary extent to which such
diffusion has taken place proves that the actual development of a given
culture does not conform to innate laws necessarily leading to definite
results, such hypothetical laws being overridden by contact with foreign
peoples. But even where a culture is of relatively indigenous growth
comparison with other cultures suggests that one step does not
necessarily lead to another, that an invention like the wheel or the
domestication of an animal occurs in one place and does not occur in
another. To the extent of such diversity we must abandon the quest for
general formulæ of cultural evolution and recognize as the determinant
of a phenomenon the unique course of its past history. However, there is
not merely discontinuity and diversity but also stability and agreement
in the sphere of culture. The discrete steps that mark culture history
may not determine one another, but each may involve as a necessary or at
least probable consequence other phenomena which in many instances are
simply new aspects of the same phenomenon, and in so far forth one
cultural element as isolated in description is the determinant or
correlate of another. As for those phenomena which we are obliged to
accept as realities without the possibility of further analysis, we can,
at least, classify a great number of them and merge particular instances
in a group of similar facts. Finally, there are dominant characteristics
of culture, like cultural inertia or the secondary rationalization of
habits acquired irrationally by the members of a group, which serve as
broad interpretative principles in the history of civilization.

In short, as in other sciences, so in ethnology there are ultimate,
irreducible facts, special functional relations, and principles of wider
scope that guide us through the chaotic maze of detail. And as the
engineer calls on the physicist for a knowledge of mechanical laws, so
the social builder of the future who should seek to refashion the
culture of his time and add to its cultural values will seek guidance
from ethnology, the science of culture, which in Tylor’s judgment is
‘essentially a reformer’s science.’


Most descriptive monographs on primitive tribes contain lists of the
words with which the natives designate their relatives by blood and
marriage. The reason is far from obvious. Why should not this topic be
left in the hands of a linguist-lexicographer? It is true that primitive
usage in this regard is very quaint from our point of view, but so are
primitive conceptions on a variety of subjects that likewise find
expression in speech. The refinement of spatial distinctions in North
American languages, the classification of colors or animals or other
groups of natural phenomena are of equal intrinsic interest from a
psychological point of view. Why, then, single out a particular
department of the aboriginal vocabulary in a treatise on culture? The
answer is simply this, that kinship terms have a direct relation to
cultural data.

The very fact that primitive tribes frequently use terms of kinship as
words of address where we should substitute personal names is a social
practice of ethnological interest. But the essential point is that the
terms used are often very definitely correlated with specific social
usages. Generally speaking, the use of distinct words for two types of
relatives is connected with a real difference in their social relations
to the speaker. Thus, a majority of primitive tribes draw no distinction
between the father’s sister’s daughter and the mother’s brother’s
daughter. But among the Miwok of California, where one of the cousins
may be married while the other is within the prohibited degrees, a
discrimination is made in language. Again, in many regions of the globe
an altogether special bond connects the maternal uncle with the sister’s
son, and accordingly we find that he is very often sharply distinguished
from the paternal uncle in nomenclature.

On the other hand, we can often explain very naturally the use of a
single word for two or more relatives whom we designate by as many
distinct words. The Vedda of Ceylon, for example, call the man’s
father-in-law and maternal uncle by the same term. The reason is that
here a man commonly marries his mother’s brother’s daughter; the
mother’s brother _is_ his father-in-law, and this identity is expressed
in the terminology. A different illustration is supplied by the Crow of
Montana, who have one term for the man’s mother-in-law and his wife’s
brother’s wife. The simple explanation is that both stand to him in the
relationship of mutual avoidance, and it is this social fact that is
expressed by the common designation. The same Indians apply the word
for ‘father’ in a very inclusive manner, possibly to dozens of
individuals; but closer examination shows that all of the people so
addressed are entitled to the same kind of treatment by the speaker, to
a peculiar form of reverence, and to a preferential rank in the
distribution of gifts.

These few and casual examples possibly suffice to show why kinship terms
deserve the ethnologist’s attention. Terms of relationship are, in some
measure, indices of social usage. Where relatives whom other people
distinguish are grouped together, there is some likelihood that the
natives regard them as representing the same relationship because they
actually enjoy the same privileges or exercise the same functions in
tribal life. Where relatives whom other peoples group together are
distinguished, there is some probability that the distinction goes hand
in hand with a difference in social function.

Lewis H. Morgan, the pioneer in this domain of knowledge, was keenly
alive to the social implications of kinship nomenclature. But while he
endeavored to give an ultimate interpretation of it in terms of various
social conditions, he was confronted with the fact that not every tribe
had a terminology _sui generis_, but that nomenclatures of remote
peoples were sometimes marvelously similar. Morgan boldly argued that
such community of nomenclature established ultimate racial unity and on
this ground coolly suggested a racial connection between the Hawaiians
and the South African Zulu, between the natives of India and those of
the Western Hemisphere.[1]

These speculations as to racial affinity have been rightly disregarded
by later students, because to accept Morgan’s premises means running
counter to the most obvious facts of physical anthropology. As Lubbock
pointed out, we cannot assume that the Two-Mountain Iroquois are more
closely akin to remote Oceanians than to their fellow Iroquois because
some of their kinship terms resemble in connotation those of the
Hawaiians. Nevertheless, Morgan was right in feeling that _some_
historical conclusions could be drawn from similarities of relationship
nomenclature. We must simply bring this particular group of ethnological
data under the same principle as other cultural phenomena. When the same
feature occurs within a definite continuous region, we shall assume that
it has developed in a single center and spread by borrowing to other
parts of the area. When the same feature occurs in disconnected regions,
we shall incline to the theory of independent development and shall
inquire whether the course of evolution may have been due to the same
cultural determinants, _i.e._, in this case, to the same social

After these preliminary remarks, we may turn to a closer scrutiny of the

‘_Systems_’. Abstractly considered, it is conceivable that every
individual relative might be designated by a different term of
relationship by every other individual, just as each object in nature
might theoretically be defined by some distinctive word instead of being
placed in some such category as ‘tree’, ‘animal’, or ‘book’. Indeed,
primitive people go rather far in their distinctions. Thus, in the
Menomini family circle boys are not called ‘son’ or ‘brother’, but each
is addressed by a word indicating the order of his birth, the oldest
being ‘mudjikiwis’, the second ‘osememau’, the third ‘akotcosememau’,
the fourth ‘nanaweo’.[2] But in this, as in every other department of
language, economy has been exercised and instead of a chaotic number of
distinct terms for every possible relationship, there is always a
limited series, many distinct individual relationships being always
grouped together under a single head. Thus, in English we apply the word
‘brother’ to a number of individuals regardless of their age relatively
to ourselves or to one another and irrespective of the sex of the
speaker. Yet, as the Menomini instance shows, the age distinction might
very well have been expressed in speech and there are many Indian
languages in which one set of terms is used by female and another by
male speakers.

All the terms used by a people to designate their relatives by blood or
marriage are jointly called their ‘kinship system’. This phrase is
wholly misleading, if it is understood to imply that all the constituent
elements form a well-articulated whole, for this probably never applies
to more than a limited number of them, as will appear presently. But as
a convenient word for the entire nomenclature of relationship found in a
particular region the word ‘system’ may be provisionally retained. We
may say, then, that systems of different peoples vary in their mode of
classifying kin and it seems the ethnographer’s first duty to determine
the types of system found and their geographical distribution.

At the present moment a satisfactory grouping of the world’s kinship
systems is impossible, owing to our lack of knowledge of many areas. The
task is also rendered very difficult by the frequent coexistence of
distinct and even contradictory principles in the same ‘system’. Each of
these may be defined separately, but to weld both or all of them into a
unified whole defies our efforts. For example, the Masai of East
Africa, in referring to the paternal uncle, simply combine the stems for
‘father’, _baba_, and ‘brother’, _alasche_, thus forming by
juxtaposition of these primary terms the compound expression _ol alasche
le baba_, which means literally ‘the brother of the father’. This mode
of defining a relative’s status by combining primary terms of
relationship or a primary term with a qualifying adjective as in our
‘grandfather’, is technically known as ‘descriptive’, and ethnologists
are wont to speak of descriptive systems. As a matter of fact, this
descriptive principle is highly characteristic of the Masai--but not
when relatives are directly addressed by them. In such vocative usage,
as it may be called, the father’s brother is called _baba_ like the
father himself; the mother’s brother is not designated by a phrase
composed of primary stems but by a new stem, _abula_, which is also used
reciprocally for the nephew; while _koko_ serves to call both a paternal
and a maternal aunt. These connotations introduce into the Masai
‘system’ a discordant principle by which relatives, instead of being
defined descriptively, are grouped together in classes. But this
‘classificatory’ feature by no means characterizes all the vocative
nomenclature. By far the majority of relatives are addressed by terms
suggestive of the presents of live stock presented to them by the
speaker; if the gift consisted of a bull, the word used is _b-ainoni_,
from _oinoni_, bull; if an ass was given away, the vocative term is
_ba-sigiria_, from _sigiria_, ass; and so forth. Accordingly, the
vocative terms cited above are only employed by children, who have not
yet presented stock to their kin.[3] In short, Masai terminology is
molded by at least three entirely disparate principles.

We shall, accordingly, do well to amend our phraseology and to speak
rather of kinship categories, features, or principles of classification
than of types of kinship systems.

_The Descriptive Principle._ When we approach our subject in a purely
empirical way, we are confronted with the fact that features do not, as
a rule, occur sporadically but are distributed over continuous areas.
Imperfect as is our knowledge of African systems, for example, we know
that the descriptive feature of the Masai nomenclature does not appear
everywhere, but flourishes especially among East African tribes, such as
the Shilluk, Dinka, and other Upper Nile populations, and perhaps more
widely where Arabic influence extends, the Arabian terminology being of
a markedly descriptive character. In East Africa, indeed, there is
almost quantitative proof of the dependence of kinship terminology on
historical connection and geographical proximity. Among the Baganda, as
among most Bantu Negroes, the descriptive feature is lacking and such a
relative as the mother’s brother’s son, instead of being designated by a
compound expression, is classed with the brother.[4] The Masai, who live
surrounded by Bantu tribes, have a purely descriptive system for
non-vocative usage but their vocative forms are in part classificatory,
while some neighboring Bantu peoples have a correspondingly mixed
system. The Shilluk and Dinka seem to use the descriptive principle
exclusively, as do the Arabs. The Masai are undoubtedly closely allied
with the Nilotes and markedly different from the Bantu. The conclusion
is, therefore, inevitable that their terminology--whatever may be its
ultimate _raison d’être_--is a function of their historical relations.
They have descriptive features because they belong to a group of peoples
of whom such features are characteristic. They have classificatory
features because they have come into contact with peoples whose systems
were characterized by such features and from whom they have borrowed
them. The Shilluk lack the classificatory principle because they have
not had the same alien influences as the Masai. The restriction of
descriptive features to a definite part of Africa and their amalgamation
with other features in the marginal section of this area show that
kinship nomenclatures follow precisely the same rules as other elements
of culture and that their distribution indicates probable or
corroborates known tribal relations.

The descriptive principle is not restricted to East Africa and the
Semitic family, but has been found in the Persian, Armenian, Celtic,
Esthonian, and Scandinavian languages.[5] Although guesses might be
offered, I do not feel that our present knowledge permits definite
statements as to the historical relations suggested by the total range
of the descriptive principle on the face of the globe.

_The Hawaiian Principle._ While the term ‘descriptive’ admits of a
fairly unambiguous definition, the same cannot be said for the word
‘classificatory’. Morgan, after explaining his use of the former, states
that a system of the second type reduces blood-relatives to great
classes by a series of apparently arbitrary generalizations, applying
the same terms to all the members of the same class. “It thus confounds
relationships, which, under the descriptive system, are distinct, and
enlarges the signification both of the primary and secondary terms
beyond their seemingly appropriate sense.”[6] This is looking at the
matter from the arbitrarily selected point of view of our own
nomenclature (which Morgan improperly, as Rivers has shown, regarded as
descriptive). Objectively considered, even descriptive terminologies are
classificatory, inasmuch as they do not individualize, but content
themselves with such generalizations as classing together, say, all the
father’s brothers instead of uniformly specializing according to age.
For this reason I regard as misplaced Dr. Rivers’ emphasis on whether a
term designates a single individual or a wider group. What, then, lies
at the basis of the classificatory principle? Dr. Rivers, following
Tylor, reduces it to the clan factor or rather to the influence of the
dual organization of ancient society, by which it was divided into
exogamous moieties. But this important suggestion, to which we shall
have to revert, applies avowedly only to one form of the classificatory
system and involves, therefore, the hypothesis that this preceded other
forms. This may prove to be valid, but we cannot prejudice an empirical
survey by taking its proof for granted and cannot, therefore, simply
substitute ‘clan’ for ‘classificatory’ systems--apart from the fact that
to talk of systems instead of principles or features in this connection
is demonstrably misleading.

It is quite clear that ‘classificatory’ can be used only in a loose
sense, to indicate wider groupings of kin than those to which we are
accustomed; and that there is no _necessary_ evolutionary relation
between the two forms usually classed under this head. The empirical
data are simply these. In certain systems, blood-relatives are classed
according to generation regardless of nearness of kinship and of their
maternal or paternal affiliations; in others, there is bifurcation, the
maternal and paternal kin of at least the generations nearest to the
speaker being distinguished. We may call the former the ‘unforked
merging’, or geographically the ‘Hawaiian’ mode of classification; the
latter may be correspondingly referred to as ‘forked merging’, or
‘Dakota’. One point which it is essential to remember even at this early
stage of our survey is that these principles, together with the
descriptive one, are very far from exhausting the varieties found.

Let us now consider the ‘unforked’ principle somewhat more closely as it
finds expression among the Hawaiians. These people apply a single term,
_makua_, to both parents and to all their parents’ brothers and sisters,
sex being distinguished only by qualifying words meaning ‘man’ and
‘woman’. All related individuals of one’s generation are classed as
brothers and sisters, certain distinctions being drawn according to the
age of their parents relatively to that of one’s own parents and also
according to the speaker’s sex, but none resulting from the differences
in _nearness_ of kinship. The children of all these brothers and sisters
are classed with one’s own children, and _their_ children with one’s
grandchildren, while a single term embraces grandparents and all related
members of their generation.[7] This age-stratification of
blood-relatives with disregard of differences as to father’s or mother’s
side occurs not only in Hawaii, but also in New Zealand, Kusaie, the
Gilbert and Marshall Islands.[8] It is not uninteresting to note that
Hawaii and New Zealand, though far removed from each other, coincide
closely in other cultural features not shared with fellow-Polynesians,
as Professor Dixon has recently shown in his treatment of Oceanian
mythology. The geographical proximity of Micronesia to Hawaii hardly
requires mention. Dr. Rivers points out[9] that certain Polynesian
tribes in contact with Melanesians, whose systems display essentially
the forked principle, _e.g._, the Tongans, use an intermediate
nomenclature. We are thus again able to summarize the data in terms of
historical connection. The assumption may be made that the ancient
Polynesian terminology was that of Hawaii and New Zealand, which was
modified where the Polynesians came into contact with diverse
populations, and is shared by populations whose territory was presumably
traversed by the Hawaiians. Dr. Rivers also states that the Burmese,
Karen, Chinese and Japanese systems conform to the Hawaiian principle.
He seems to depend on Morgan’s statement of the case, which may require
revision. But, accepting the data as given and assuming that the Malay
proper classify kin according to the unforked method, we should still
have a perfectly continuous distribution for the Hawaiian features.

This would no longer hold if we accepted Morgan’s view that the Zulu of
South Africa share the Hawaiian form, on which slender basis he advances
the hypothesis that Kaffir and Polynesian have a common ancestry.[10] As
a matter of fact, the Zulu nomenclature secured by Morgan does in some
instances slur over the difference of paternal and maternal lines, to
the exclusive dominance of the generation factor. Thus, man and woman
call all the brother’s and sister’s children their sons and daughters
without distinction, and the children of the father’s sister are classed
with one’s brothers and sisters.

Nevertheless, even Morgan’s list reveals fundamental deviations from the
Hawaiian principle. As he notes, the mother’s brother is _not_ classed
with the father’s brother and father, and the assumption that he
formerly was is mere guesswork. What particularly astonished Morgan,
however, was that the father’s sister was not called mother, but father.
This is, indeed, amazing, if we start from our own notions as to the
necessity of distinguishing parental sex, and in addition assume that
the Zulu system is a variant of the Hawaiian one. If we free our minds
from these preconceptions, there is no mystery; the father’s sister is
classed with the father simply in order to express the difference from
the maternal line in accordance with the principle of bifurcation.

In order to gain greater clearness in this matter it is necessary to
extend our investigation to other Bantu tribes, preferably to those
whose territories approach that of the Zulu. The essential point to
ascertain is whether paternal and maternal uncles and aunts are merged
in one group or are distinguished.[11] Among the Thonga, who live north
of the Zulu, the father’s sister, as in Zulu, is classed with the
father, the word meaning literally ‘female father’ and thus emphasizing
her separation from the mother’s side of the family. The Herero,
according to Schinz, seem to class all aunts with the mother in
vocative usage, but when not directly referring to these relatives they
employ quite distinct expressions for the father’s and the mother’s
sisters. In Baganda the difference between the two sides is marked.
_Mange_ is mother, and the same word with the qualifier _muto_ means
mother’s sister, while father’s sister is _sengawe_. Even clearer is the
case for the maternal uncle. In the Ronga group of the Thonga he is
called by a distinct word, _malume_, which almost coincides with
Morgan’s Zulu term. In the Djonga division he is classed with the
grandfather, not the father. By a quite distinct stem, the Herero
sharply distinguish the mother’s brother from the father and his
brothers. The same applies to the Baganda. As for the correlative term,
from which Morgan infers that the Zulu once called the maternal uncle
‘father’, the Ronga have a distinct word for nephew, _mupsyana_, while
the Djonga who class the mother’s brother with the grandfather
consistently enough call the sister’s son ‘grandson’. Among the Herero,
though uncles and aunts generally regard their nephews and nieces as
their own children, the maternal uncle applies to them a distinct term,
_ovasia_. Among the Baganda a man calls his son _mutabani_ or _mwana_,
but his sister’s son is _mujwa_. I may add that the altogether peculiar
bond of familiarity that links together mother’s brother and sister’s
son[12] among some Bantu people is inconsistent with Morgan’s assumption
that the relationships of maternal uncle and father were once grouped
under a single head among tribes of this family, for as stated above,
such specific social relationships are generally expressed by specific
terms for the relatives.

The conditions obtaining within the speaker’s generation at first seem
to lend some support to the conception of the Bantu system as dominated
by the Hawaiian principle, since the terms for brother and sister are
more widely employed by some Bantu than is compatible with the forked
division of kin. But closer inspection proves that, whatever may be at
the root of the Bantu classification, it is not the Hawaiian notion of
marking off generations. Even in Morgan’s Zulu series, while a man calls
his maternal uncle’s children by a special term, they address him as
brother; that is to say, members of the same generation and sex are not
all classed together. Among the Herero, where the children of a brother
and sister (but not of _Geschwister_ of the same sex) regularly
intermarry, they are placed in a category distinct from that of the
children of two brothers and two sisters, who are one another’s brothers
and sisters. In Thonga a boy calls his mother’s brother’s daughter
‘mother’, and she calls him ‘son’. To be sure, the Baganda draw no
distinction between the brother, the father’s brother’s, the father’s
sister’s, the mother’s brother’s and the mother’s sister’s son. On the
other hand, only the father’s brother’s daughter and the mother’s
sister’s daughter are a man’s sisters; his father’s sister’s and his
mother’s brother’s daughter belong to the special category of
_kizibwewe_, quite distinct from that of the sister, _mwanyina_.

To cut a long story short, all the evidence is opposed to Morgan’s
assumption that the Bantu systems are patterned on the Hawaiian
principle of grading relatives by generations. There are merely
occasional suggestions of that principle which will be discussed below
as to their theoretical bearing.

So far as I know, there is only one region of the globe outside of
Oceania and the possible Asiatic range defined above, where a definitely
Hawaiian classification of relatives by generations has been reported,
_viz._, among the Yoruba of West Africa.[13] Unfortunately, no more
recent check data for this section seem available. For another part of
West Africa we have Mr. Northcote W. Thomas’ tables,[14] which reveal a
rather perplexing condition of affairs that seems to demand intensive
reinvestigation together with linguistic analysis. The principle of
bifurcation seems to hold sway only in a very limited measure.

Thus, the Vai do not distinguish the father’s sister from the mother,
though the mother’s brother is designated by a distinct term from that
for father and father’s brother. Further, the term for child is extended
also to brother’s child by both sexes contrary to customary ‘forked’
usage. But this cannot be interpreted as symptomatic of the Hawaiian
principle since the sister’s child is designated by a special word,
which, moreover, differs for men and women speaking. The Vai
nomenclature is interesting in showing once more that a given ‘system’
is a complex growth that cannot be adequately defined as a whole by some
such catchword as ‘classificatory’, ‘Hawaiian’, or what not. Not only do
we find Hawaiian and Dakota elements in the same system, but even purely
descriptive combinations of primary terms. Thus, the designation of the
sister’s daughter’s husband is manifestly composed of the stems for
sister’s child and husband, and a corresponding juxtaposition of stems
results in the term for mother’s sister’s husband.

A similar phenomenon is presented by the terminology of the Timne,
another Sierra Leone people. A superficial glance at the list suggests
the Hawaiian principle: father’s brother and mother’s brother are
grouped together, and so are the children of the maternal and the
paternal aunt. But closer consideration shows that while uncles are
classed together they are sharply separated from the father, that while
aunts form a single group of _ntene_ the word for mother is _kara_ or
_ya_, that there is no connection between the words for _Geschwister_
and cousins. In short, the Hawaiian generation principle does not apply.

What Mr. Thomas’ schedules from eight tribes illustrate once more is the
overwhelming importance of historical, geographical and linguistic
considerations. A cursory examination of the lists shows that not only
the mode of classifying kin but the words themselves are identical in a
number of cases in two or more tribes. Thus, _mama_ is grandmother in
Karanko, Susu, Vai and Mendi. It is surely no accident that all of these
belong to the same prefixless subdivision of the Sudanese languages: the
similarity is due to historical relations. In some cases an identical
word is shared by members of distinct subdivisions. Thus, the father’s
sister is called _ntene_ not only in the non-prefixing Susu and Koranko
speech, but also in the prefixing language of the Timne. A glimpse at
Mr. Thomas’ map shows, however, that the habitat of the Timne adjoins
that of both of the other tribes; a kinship nomenclature is, in a
measure, a function of geographical position.

The last-mentioned term is suggestive in another way. Restricted among
the Koranko and Susu to the father’s sister, it is applied by the Timne
to the maternal aunt as well. Turning once more to the map, we discover
that this latter mode of grouping, though not the same word
phonetically, occurs among the Bulem, the immediate coastal neighbors of
the Timne, who belong to the same linguistic subdivision, and also to
the Mendi and Vai, to the east and southeast, who are members of the
complementary subdivision. So far, this only indicates the spread of a
terminological trait over a continuous area. But the data further
suggest that the word _ntene_ may have been borrowed by the Timne rather
than in the reverse direction, and that, as Mr. Thomas himself remarks,
the Timne secondarily extended the term to include a maternal as well as
a paternal aunt. This possibility is theoretically significant, first,
because it indicates that Hawaiian analogies may develop independently
of any such generation principle as dominates the Oceanian system;
secondly, because it suggests that such simplicity of nomenclature,
instead of being primitive as Morgan supposed, may represent a later
development. To this point we shall have to revert later.

_The Dakota Principle._ Let us now turn to that principle which first
aroused Morgan’s interest and which since his time has occupied perhaps
more attention than any other, the classificatory principle _par
excellence_ in Dr. Rivers’ opinion, which finds expression among such
tribes as the Iroquois and Dakota. Like the Hawaiian principle, the
Dakota alignment groups together, regardless of proximity of
relationship, members of the same generation, but differs because in the
speaker’s generation, the first ascending and the first descending
generations, it separates the paternal and the maternal line. Another
way of expressing the facts is to say that collateral and lineal kin are
merged irrespective of nearness of relationship but with strict
bifurcation of the parental lines. Thus, in Dakota[15] the father,
father’s brother, father’s father’s brother’s son, father’s father’s
father’s brother’s son’s son are all addressed _até_; the mother,
mother’s sister, mother’s mother’s sister’s daughter are all called
_iná_. So far we have a classing together of kin who in English are
distinguished from one another. But there is separation of kin whom we
class together, inasmuch as the mother’s brother is designated by a
term distinct from that for father’s brother, _viz._, by _dēkcí_, and
the father’s sister by a term differentiating her from the mother’s
sister, _viz._, by _t ‘uwí_. Now, relationship is a reciprocal
phenomenon, and accordingly we may expect that all those whom I class
together under the term _até_ or _iná_ will address me by a correlative
term. Actually, we find that the Dakota have a single word, _mi
tcíñkci_, for son, brother’s son (man speaking), father’s brother’s
son’s son (man speaking), etc., and for sister’s son (woman speaking),
mother’s sister’s daughter’s son (woman speaking). To put the matter
into our own speech, for the sake of simplification, those whom I call
father and mother call me son. If logic shall prevail, the data hitherto
cited involve the condition that the mother’s brother must not call his
sister’s son ‘son’, but shall designate him by some distinct appellation
correlative only with the term _dēkcí_; and this holds for the Dakota
system where a man (not a woman) calls the sister’s son _mit ‘úncka_.
Further this term is also used by a woman addressing her brother’s son,
a point to which I shall have to return presently.

There are other logical implications in the features already mentioned.
If the term for father embraces a number of other collateral relatives,
we must expect a corresponding fusion of kin in the speaker’s
generation. This is exactly what happens. Like many other primitive
systems, that of the Dakota classifies brothers and sisters according to
relative seniority and the speaker’s sex, but the same terms are applied
to the other individuals who jointly designate the same members of the
next higher generation as their fathers and mothers. In other words, a
considerable number of cousins, irrespective of their varying degree,
are classed with the brothers and sisters. But certain other cousins are
_not_ so classed: they are the offspring of the father’s sister and the
mother’s brother. Corresponding exactly to the fact that sister’s son
(man speaking) and brother’s son (woman speaking) are denoted by a
single word, we have the correlative phenomenon that the children of the
paternal aunt and the maternal uncle are relatives of a special order,
the boys calling one another _t ‘ahá ci_ and the girls _hà kā´ cí_, the
girls calling one another _tcē´ pąci_ and the boys _citcé ci_.

In short, so far as the three middle generations are concerned, there is
at least an approach to a real system--a unified logical scheme by which
blood relatives are classified. If I am called father by a group of
people, they are my sons or daughters; if I am their uncle, they are my
nephews or nieces. In the former case, my sons and daughters are their
brothers and sisters; in the latter my offspring are their cousins, with
various refinements of nomenclature that are immaterial from a broader
point of view.

The system is not perfect, because of the terminology applied to the
offspring of cousins. As might be expected, a man regards the children
of those cousins whom he classes with his brothers as brother’s sons,
_i.e._, from the foregoing scheme, with his own sons. But contrary to
what might be expected, he puts into the same category the sons of those
male cousins designated by a distinctive term where we should expect a
distinct correlative designation. Even Herr Cunow, who lays stress on
the rational character of primitive relationship systems, is obliged to
admit that there is inconsistency here.[16]

It cannot be too strongly urged that a given nomenclature is molded by
disparate principles. It is, therefore, worth while to point out that
the principle by which brothers and sisters are distinguished by
seniority and the principle by which _Geschwister_ of the same sex use
different designations from those of opposite sex have no functional
relation whatsoever with the principle by which collateral and lineal
kin are merged. Another trait of the Dakota system which is similarly
independent of what I call the Dakota principle is the differentiation
in stem for vocative and non-vocative usage or with the first, second
and third person. Thus, the mother is addressed as _iná_, but ‘his
mother’ is _hų´ ku_, from an entirely different root. Passing to the
second ascending generation, we find a Hawaiian feature inasmuch as the
principle of bifurcation no longer holds, grandfathers of both sides
being designated by a common term. The Dakota case once more shows that,
as Professor Kroeber long ago pointed out,[17] every system is in
reality a congeries of systems or categories which must be analytically
separated unless complete confusion is to result. There is no Hawaiian
_system_, no Dakota _system_. But we can legitimately speak of the
principle of generations and the bifurcation principle of merging
collateral and lineal kin; and we can speak, by conventional definition
of the geographical terms employed, of Hawaiian and Dakota features to
express these and only these elements of the Hawaiian and Dakota

To revert to the Dakota principle, as Morgan points out,[18] the same
principle has in part molded the Iroquois system, and when we find that
in addition to the logically related elements the apparently irrational
classification of cousins’ offspring is likewise common to the two
terminologies, the case for historical connection becomes very strong.
This becomes a certainty when we find that in its essentials the
principle finds expression in the system of the intermediate Ojibwa,
while among other Algonkian tribes and among Siouan tribes other than
the Dakota a marked variant from the Dakota type makes its appearance.
In short, we have the Dakota principle spread over a continuous region,
which is sharply separated from adjoining regions. It has, then,
developed in a single center in this part of North America and has
thence spread by borrowing.

If we ignore the mode of designating cross-cousins’, _i.e._, cousins who
are children of a brother and a sister, and disregard certain other
deviations constituting sub-types, we get a very much wider range of
distribution for the Dakota principle in North America. The neglect of
degree of kinship and the clear separation of the maternal and paternal
line in the middle generations are features characteristic, probably, of
the entire region east of the Mississippi and occur also in the
Mackenzie River district, among the Tlingit and Haida of the Northwest
Coast and most of the Plains tribes, in a part of the Pueblo territory
(notably among the Hopi), and among the Miwok and adjacent populations
in California. Since we are not by any means familiar with the kinship
systems of the entire continent, it is necessary to supplement this
statement with another indicating the regions where the Dakota principle
is actually known to be lacking. The Dakota features are not found among
the Eskimo, Nootka, Quileute, Chinook, various Salish tribes, the
Kootenai, the Plateau Shoshoneans, nor in a large section of California
to the north and east of the Miwok, and they are also absent from
various Southwestern terminologies. The glib assumption of many writers
that all of North America is characterized by a ‘classificatory system’
on the Dakota plan, is demonstrably false. The only reason for this
belief is the historical accident that Morgan was conversant with the
systems east of the Rocky Mountains and practically altogether ignorant
of those of the Far West, and that since his time no one has
systematically presented the data for what to him was a _terra

Let us extend our search for evidences of the Dakota principle to other

For Mexico, the data are not very satisfactory since we are obliged to
rely on old Spanish sources and cannot be sure that our authorities were
on the alert for differences from the familiar European nomenclature or
always correctly represented what they did find. Thus, Dr. Paul Radin,
who has kindly compiled for me a Tarascan list from Gilberti’s
_Diccionario de la Lengua Tarasca_ (1559), finds the children of the
father’s brother and of the mother’s brother classed with the son and
daughter (contrary to the generation principle), but distinguished from
the children of the father’s and mother’s sister. This would indicate a
departure from both the Hawaiian and the Dakota scheme. A bare
suggestion of the latter is found in a common term for father and
paternal uncle. The Nahuatl data supplied by Molina in his _Vocabulario
de la Lengua Mexicana_ (1571) show no difference between the paternal
and maternal aunts and uncles. This does not apply to the Maya system
reported by Beltran in his _Arte del Idioma Maya_(1742), but here the
maternal and paternal uncle and aunt are not only distinguished from
each other, but also from the father and mother, so that there is no
merging of collateral and lineal lines in this generation. Accordingly,
it is somewhat surprising to find that the children of a brother are
classed with one’s own children (male speaking?) and that a woman
applies the same term to her sister’s children, in accordance with
Dakota usage. A very interesting feature of the Maya nomenclature is
that differences in generation are conspicuously ignored in several
instances. The paternal grandfather is classed with the elder brother, a
single reciprocal term is used for daughter’s son and mother’s father,
one word denotes the son’s son and the younger brother.

For Central and South America the data, from a cursory inspection, seem
somewhat more adequate, though we must eagerly await a more
thorough-going survey of this region than can at present be offered. The
Miskito of Nicaragua call the mother’s sister _yaptislip_, which is
merely a modification of _yapti_, mother, but while the father’s
brother, _urappia_, is classed with the step-father, he is distinguished
from the father, _aisa_. At all events, there is a distinctive term for
maternal uncle, _tarti_, and correlatively a special designation,
_tubani_, for the sister’s son (man speaking). For the father’s sister
our authority gives only a descriptive term: _saura_ may be the
correlative term, but it is simply translated ‘brother’s child’. Of the
four terms for cousin, one is descriptive (child of brother or sister),
two coincide with the regular words for _Geschwister_, the fourth is
unfortunately not clearly defined so that its application to the
cross-cousin, which would conform to Dakota usage, remains
problematical. The terms of affinity are interesting inasmuch as the
principle of reciprocity appears here. Thus, _dapna_ means both
father-in-law and son-in-law, and the same descriptive expression, oddly
enough, is applied to the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law in female
speech.[19] The former instance of reciprocity recurs among the Chibcha
of Colombia and we may thus have here another case of the geographical
localization of kinship features. The Chibcha list supplied by one of
Morgan’s informants,[20] imperfect though it is, records some suggestive
facts. The term for father’s brother seems only a variant of the word
for father, and is clearly distinct from that for maternal uncle. The
designations for both kinds of aunt are doubtful. In the speaker’s
generation ‘parallel’ male cousins, _i.e._, the sons of two brothers and
of two sisters, are grouped with brothers and distinguished from
cross-cousins, as they are in the Dakota system. That a woman calls her
father’s sister’s son by the same term as her husband is a fact of some
theoretical importance since it suggests the possible occurrence of
cross-cousin marriages.

From Martius’ rather confusing Carib list we may reasonably infer that
the paternal uncle was classed with the father in male speech and
distinguished from the mother’s brother. One of three terms used by a
man in designating his son coincides with that applied to a brother’s
son, but differs from the word applied to the sister’s son. These are
Dakota features; and the peculiar statement that children of sisters
were allowed to marry while those of brothers were not, coupled with the
remark that _Geschwisterkinder_ call one another brothers makes us
suspect that we have here merely an abortive attempt to describe the
difference between parallel and cross-cousins recognized on the Dakota
principle. The Tupi terminology furnished by the same writer does not
suggest the bifurcate feature. Though a single word denotes the father,
his brother and other paternal kinsmen, it seems to extend likewise to
the corresponding relatives on the mother’s side. In the second
ascending generation the grandfather’s brothers and male cousins are
classed with the grandfather--a Hawaiian trait if both sides of the
family are meant to be included, but one common to most systems on the
Dakota plan for the middle generations.[21] From the third great South
American family I can get no satisfactory evidence of bifurcation on the
Dakota plan. According to an accessible glossary of various Arawak
tongues, the Siusi is the only language that discriminates between the
paternal and maternal uncle, and even here the former is also
distinguished from the father, so that there is no merging of
collateral and lineal kin. Similarly, the word for aunt is different
from that for mother; and here the principle of bifurcation is
completely discarded, since a single word denotes father’s and mother’s

Bifurcation may be a dominant feature of systems which nevertheless
differ markedly from the Dakota nomenclature because of their
demarcation of collateral and lineal kin. Thus, the Araucanians of Chile
call the father _chao_, the father’s brother _malle_, the mother’s
brother _huecu_; the mother is _ñuque_, her sister _ñuquentu_, the
father’s sister _palu_.[23] Here the designation of the maternal aunt is
clearly derived from that of the mother but we cannot tell whether this
merging is an ancient feature which appears in other parts of the system
or a recent development. We learn from another source that the brother’s
sons are differentiated from the sister’s,[24] but unfortunately there
is no statement as to whether the former in male speech and the latter
in female speech are classed with one’s own sons.

Bifurcation without reduction of the collateral lines is characteristic
of the system of the Sipibo, who inhabit the country about the Ucayali
River. Here the father is _papa_; the father’s brother _eppa_, the
maternal uncle _cuca_; the mother _tita_, her sister _huasta_, the
paternal aunt _yaya_, and of the three words for brother’s son (_pia_,
_nusa_, _picha_) none even remotely resembles that for son, _baque_.[25]

To sum up the facts hitherto cited. If the doctrine of the unity of the
American race depended on the uniformity of kinship terminologies in the
New World, it would have to be mercilessly abandoned. Meager as are our
data for the area south of the United States, we can find positive
indications of nomenclatures with Dakota features only among the Caribs
and the Chibcha, with occasional suggestions elsewhere. The Tupi and
Arawak systems are markedly unforked; the Araucanian and Sipibo
terminologies are forked but non-merging. Taking into account the large
section of North America already defined as lacking bifurcation with
merging, we thus have an immense territory in America in which the
Dakota principle does not occur.

But, as the African facts cited above show, the Dakota principle is not
confined to a portion of the Western Hemisphere. It is impossible
completely to define its distribution in various parts of the globe, but
the main regions must be indicated. As Morgan pointed out on the basis
of Rev. Fison’s information,[26] the principle occurs in the
nomenclature of the Coastal Fijians, and corroborative evidence has
recently been furnished.[27] Rivers has shown that the typical Dakota
principle appears in other parts of Melanesia, often with a very
interesting additional feature in the designation of cross-cousins, who
are not only rigidly distinguished from the parallel cousins but classed
simultaneously as brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, _e. g._, in
Guadalcanar.[28] Bifurcation with merging of collateral and lineal
relatives also characterizes at least some of the terminologies of New
Guinea.[29] The same certainly holds for a large portion of Australia,
though almost everywhere certain local refinements are apparent. Thus,
the Urabunna apply one term to the father and the father’s brothers, as
might be expected. But instead of merely separating the mother’s sisters
from those of the father by grouping them with the mother, there is an
additional dichotomy into the mother’s elder sisters, _luka_, who are
classed with the mother, and the mother’s younger sisters who are
differentiated as _namuma_. Corresponding differentiation occurs in the
speaker’s generation, where the father’s elder sister’s daughters are
distinguished not only from parallel cousins but from the father’s
younger sister’s daughters. Nevertheless, the essentials of the Dakota
principle are manifest.[30]

Here it is worth while to point out again how misleading it is to treat
accidentally associated features of a given system as functionally
correlated. The Urabunna system, like that of other tribes, is not an
organically unified whole. Thus, over and above the usual trait of
bifurcate merging, we find the feature that a grandparent and grandchild
use a common term in addressing each other. This reciprocity is often
referred to as characteristic of ‘classificatory systems’. It is nothing
of the kind. In North America it occurs precisely in systems lacking the
classificatory principle altogether. Apart from this, there is no
manifest connection between the principles of grouping together
relatives of alternate generations and the principle of classing under
one head relatives of the same generation and side of the family. The
mere fact that kinsfolk are united whom we happen to separate in
nomenclature is a purely negative and insufficient reason for
postulating an essential relationship between two modes of

Finally, there are a number of Asiatic tribes whose systems reveal the
essentials of the Dakota principle. At least a close approximation
occurs in the nomenclature of the Gilyak of the Amur River country,
where, except for the grouping together of father’s and mother’s sister,
the two parental lines are kept apart while on either side the customary
merging takes place.[31] The system of the Tamil, as Morgan emphatically
pointed out, is almost identical with that of the Seneca Iroquois.[32]
The essential resemblance to this type of the Toda,[33] Singhalese and
Vedda[34] terminologies has since been established.

We are here again confronted by a problem in distribution that does not
differ in principle from ethnological problems relating to other phases
of culture. A sharply individualized feature is found not like the
Hawaiian principle practically within the limits of a single continuous
area but in several diverse and remote regions of the globe. It is
impossible to hold with Morgan that the similarity found is an index of
racial affinity unless we are willing to assume that the Indians of the
eastern United States are not related at all to those west of the Rocky
Mountains. The principle of diffusion obviously accounts for much. No
one would hesitate to assume that the Singhalese and Vedda systems are
connected and we should willingly regard both as historically related to
the nomenclature of southern India. We might even be willing to grant
that the Melanesian and Australian variants of the Dakota principle had
the same source of origin. But how can we explain the predominance of
the identical principle precisely in the eastern regions of North
America and its absence in a great part of the Far West? And how can we
account for the African approximations to the same pattern? We seem to
have an independent evolution of the same highly characteristic trait in
at least three distinct areas. Must we content ourselves with simply
accepting the data as irreducible ethnological phenomena or can we carry
our analysis a step further?

That the inclusiveness of terms which strikes us in the systems sharing
the Dakota principle is somehow connected with the social divisions of
the tribes concerned has been repeatedly noted. Even in his earlier,
purely descriptive work Morgan remarked that among the Iroquois clan
members were brothers and sisters as if children of the same mother.[35]
Similarly among the Tlingit we are told that a single word is applied to
the mother’s sister and all other women of the same moiety and
generation.[36] The Yakut apply one term to any woman older than the
speaker and belonging to the same gens.[37] Such instances might easily
be multiplied. It is therefore rather natural to look to a clan or
gentile system for the explanation of the ‘classificatory feature’,
_i.e._, of bifurcate merging.

This hypothesis, which has recently been discussed by Swanton,[38] was
already advanced only to be proved inadequate by Morgan himself. Taking
the Seneca for illustration, where descent is in the maternal line,
Morgan shows that the children of two sisters would indeed be members of
the same clan and hence clan brothers and sisters but that this
explanation no longer holds for the children of two brothers. By the law
of exogamy these would be required to marry into another clan and there
is no reason why their wives should belong to the same clan. Hence the
brothers’ children will not be clan brothers and sisters, yet, according
to Seneca terminology, the offspring of brothers no less than of sisters
are classed with own brothers and sisters. Accordingly, the clan
system--though it has a definite place in Morgan’s scheme of
evolution--is not regarded by him as the determining factor of the
Seneca-Dakota principle.[39]

But the objection vanishes if we accept the theory that the Dakota
principle arose as a reflection not of a multiple clan system but of an
organization with exogamous moieties. This theory, which to my knowledge
was first developed by Tylor[40] and has since been advocated by
Rivers,[41] has obvious advantages. Even on the simple clan hypothesis
it is clear why the father’s brothers should be classed with the father
and separated from the maternal uncles, since the latter by exogamy must
belong to a different clan. The term which we translate ‘father’ would
really be seen to mean ‘male member of the father’s clan and
generation’. With the moiety theory the same facts are explained, but
also in addition the designations for other relatives. To take again the
Seneca instance, the sons of two brothers _must_ be members of the same
social division because with a dual organization the brothers are
restricted to the same division in the choice of a mate; hence it is
quite natural that the sons of brothers should call one another
brothers. Again, the difference between parallel cousins and
cross-cousins is perfectly intelligible. The mother’s brother’s and the
father’s sister’s son can never be of my moiety; if descent is
matrilineal they belong to my father’s moiety, if patrilineal to my
mother’s. Hence it is natural that they should not be classed with my
brothers who in either case are my moiety-mates. This hypothesis also
explains features not yet referred to, but often found in conjunction
with those grouped under the heading of the Dakota principle, _e. g._,
the frequent classification of the father’s sister’s husband with the
maternal uncle. Given exogamous moieties, these relatives must belong to
the same half of society, to my own moiety if descent is maternal, to my
mother’s if it is patrilineal. The Tylor-Rivers theory thus explains
very satisfactorily the rather numerous features that jointly constitute
what I have called the Dakota principle; we can at once see that here is
not an arbitrary rule of classification but a definite rationale.

However, it is worth noting that while the moiety theory explains a
number of traits better and more simply than the hypothesis of multiple
clans or gentes of which it is a special form, the latter is not in so
bad a plight as Morgan would have us believe. That I should call my
father’s brothers and male cousins of the paternal line ‘father’ and my
mother’s sisters and female cousins of the female line ‘mother’, follows
from the general hypothesis of exogamy no less than from the moiety
theory. The difficulty urged is the grouping together of brothers’ sons
who are not clansmen under a matrilineal organization with sisters’ sons
who are. But all terms of relationship are correlative: the concept of
elder brother is meaningless without the correlated concept of younger
brother; so the very fact that I address my father’s brother as ‘father’
has as a necessary consequence that he should address me as ‘son’
regardless of whether his own son is in my clan. Similarly, the fact
that my father’s brother’s son and I both address my own father as
father makes us brothers irrespective of clan affiliation. Clan
affiliation is still the primary determinant since it fixes the
connotation of the word translated ‘father’, while the other usages
mentioned are derivative applications. The objection that naturally
obtrudes itself is why the term for father should be taken as the
starting-point rather than that for son or brother. The answer lies in
the fact that in a number of instances the term for father has an
emphatically clan or gentile significance, being extended even to
father’s clansmen of the speaker’s generation, as among the Crow and
Arizona Tewa. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that from the point of
view of summarizing the data comprised under the caption of ‘Dakota
principle’ or intimately linked with them the moiety theory is
distinctly superior. Thus, the union of father’s sister’s husband and
mother’s brother under a single head does not follow from a multiple
clan or gentile organization but is intelligible on the basis of a dual

The weakness of the moiety theory lies in another direction. In order
that the dual organization may fashion kinship nomenclature, it must of
course exist. Now it does occur in Australia and Melanesia, though not
universally, and in part of North America, but it is lacking in many
regions of this continent and, so far as I know, in Africa. If we derive
the Dakota principle exclusively from the dual organization we are
therefore obliged to assume either that this institution once had a far
wider range of distribution or that the nomenclature it produced
traveled independently of the moieties to a considerable number of other
peoples. This is a difficulty that must be frankly recognized.

In this regard the exogamy hypothesis in the broader sense enjoys an
obvious superiority. Exogamous kin groups occur both in southern Africa
and in many sections of America from which exogamous moieties have never
been reported. Doubtless here, too, we must reckon to a considerable
extent with the effect of diffusion, which repeatedly carried the Dakota
principle to non-exogamous tribes. Yet when we apply the method of
variation to the best-studied regions of the globe, our confidence in
the essential correctness of the exogamy hypothesis is considerably
strengthened. In Oceania it is the non-exogamous Polynesians who fail
to distinguish the maternal and paternal sides, while the generally
exogamous Melanesians recognize the principle of bifurcation. In North
America, the non-exogamous tribes are either bifurcating but fail to
merge the collateral and lineal lines or neither bifurcate nor

Certain instances are especially illuminating because they permit a
refinement of the method of variation by the practical or total
elimination of other factors to account for the phenomena. Thus on the
northwest coast of America we find certain tribes like the Kwakiutl and
Nootka who are not organized in strictly exogamous groups, and here
neither merging nor bifurcation occurs. “The terms for ‘uncle’ and
‘aunt’ refer equally to the father’s and mother’s fraternity;” and
specific terms distinguish father and mother from more remote kindred.
When we compare such systems with those of the more northern and
exogamous tribes, _viz._, the Tsimshian, Haida and Tlingit, we discover
at once a striking difference. In all these terminologies men of the
father’s are distinguished from those of the mother’s moiety or clan;
and the collateral lines are wholly, or almost entirely, merged in the
lineal lines.[43] Here we are not dealing simply with a contact
phenomenon, for no good reason can be given why the Tlingit system
should not have extended southward or the Kwakiutl system to the north.
Nor are we simply confronted by a difference of tribal affiliation:
while the Kwakiutl and Nootka belong to the same stock, and affinity has
recently been claimed for the Tlingit and Haida languages, the Tsimshian
stand apart. It is the difference in social organization that runs
parallel with the difference in nomenclature.

A similar case is afforded by the Shoshonean stock. Within this family
specific terms for father and mother as opposed to uncles and aunts are
the rule and cross-cousins are generally not distinguished from parallel
cousins and brothers. There is thus a combination of extreme Hawaiian
inclusiveness in the speaker’s generation with the tendency to
non-classificatory nomenclature in the first ascending generation. But
among the Hopi, the only member of the group organized into exogamous
clans, the Dakota principle holds sway. Since no Southwestern system is
known that so clearly reveals the forked and merging principle, the
possibility of borrowing seems barred and we have proof of the
independent evolution of this feature in correlation with a clan

So far, then, as the distribution of the Dakota principle over
discontinuous regions of the globe is concerned, the hypothesis of
exogamy gives a reasonably satisfactory explanation of the facts, while
within each continuous area we shall assume a greater or lesser degree
of dissemination. Applying this, _e. g._, to the Northwestern Indians as
a whole, we shall indeed regard the evolution of Dakota features as a
response to the exogamous organization, but when we turn to the three
exogamous tribes individually, we shall face the problem whether the
terminology did not spread from one tribe to its two neighbors. It is
quite true that theoretically there is the possibility that the _clan_
system, not the terminology, was the diffused feature and that the
organization in each case independently produced an appropriate
nomenclature. However, we have undoubted instances in which features of
nomenclature were not associated with any social institution, indeed,
where the very words have been borrowed. Further the development of an
appropriate terminology is not an absolutely automatic process, as is
shown by the failure of some tribes with exogamy to develop one. Hence
it seems probable that within a limited continuous area the Dakota
principle developed only once and then spread to neighboring tribes.
That the existence of an exogamous organization among the borrowers
would be a favorable condition for the adoption of the nomenclature is
obvious, also that the organization and the terminology may be borrowed

In order to strengthen the case for the exogamous theory it is necessary
to show that the same results could not be accomplished, or not so well,
by other conditions of equally wide distribution. As a matter of fact,
an alternative interpretation has recently been advanced.[44] In the
case of the non-exogamous Californian Yahi Dr. Sapir connects the
merging of lineal and collateral lines with the marriage regulations
obtaining there and suggests that these rules “may no doubt not
infrequently be examined as an equally or more plausible determining
influence”. The practices referred to comprise the levirate, _i.e._, a
man’s marriage with his brother’s widow, and marriage with the deceased
wife’s sister. (Why, _deceased_? we may well ask Dr. Sapir, since a
man’s preëmptive right to his wife’s younger sisters is a widespread
custom in North America.)

I do not doubt for a moment that the customs in question have affected
kinship nomenclature, but I seriously question whether they constitute
an adequate substitute for exogamy as an interpretation of the
empirical distribution of the Dakota principle. The levirate, it is
true, is an exceedingly widespread institution: Tylor found it among one
hundred and twenty out of some three hundred peoples.[45] But the
levirate alone will not do since it only explains the extension of the
father term to the father’s brother and the correlative extension of the
term ‘son’ to the brother’s son (man speaking). It remains to be seen,
therefore, to what extent the levirate is united in different regions of
the globe with the usage of marrying two or more sisters, which would
further explain the classification of mother’s sister with mother and of
the sister’s children with the children (woman speaking). So far as I
know, the range of the two usages jointly has not been ascertained;
pending its determination, the distribution of the Dakota principle is
not accounted for, as it approximately is by exogamy.

There are certain other objections to the levirate hypothesis. One of
them was already urged by Morgan, who examined it under the heading of
polygamy and polyandry, which together might obviously lead to the same
results as the Yahi usages.[46] These customs do not necessarily take in
the entire population. A man may not have a brother to inherit his
widow, nor have all women sisters to join or follow them in wedlock. On
the other hand, clan or gentile affiliation is an automatic affair not
touched by such contingencies.

Further, we may ask, what is really explained by the Yahi rules? The
relationships of paternal uncle and maternal aunt and their
discrimination from the mother’s brother and father’s sister are
certainly accounted for; and correlatively, the distinction between the
offspring of such relatives. But though discussion has hitherto for
simplicity’s sake been mainly restricted to these nearer kindred, the
Dakota principle involves far more remote relatives. It is not only the
father’s brother but the father’s father’s brother’s son and the
greatgrandfather’s brother’s son’s son that are classed with the father;
not only the mother’s sister but the mother’s mother’s sister’s daughter
and mother’s mother’s mother’s sister’s daughter’s daughter that are
classed with the mother. No doubt an explanation can be patched together
on the levirate-polygyny hypothesis. Since my father is brother to my
father’s father’s brother’s son, the latter is my potential father under
the levirate rule, and so forth. But even with the multiple clan or
gentile hypothesis, the facts are more directly explained. From this
point of view the relative in question is simply a father’s clansman
with paternal descent, while with matrilineal descent the designations
for the mother’s mother’s sister’s daughter _et al._ are at once clear.
The moiety theory, of course, accounts for all the relevant data in the
simplest manner.

It is, indeed, manifest that the levirate-polygyny rule stands to the
exogamous principle somewhat in the relation of a part to the whole or
of a special instance to a broader principle. Assume exogamous
divisions, and my wife becomes _ipso facto_ my brother’s potential wife
while my wife’s sisters are my and my brothers’ potential wives even
though marriage be never actually consummated except monogamously.
Incidentally, it is by no means certain that in reported cases the
levirate is limited to the real brother or the multiple sister marriages
to own sisters; indeed, in some cases the reverse is stated, cousins or
members of the same clan or gens being expressly included. With the dual
organization the case is especially clear. The kinship terms then appear
simply as status names. I am brother to those who are potential husbands
of the same group of women and since all of us males occupy this common
status there is correlatively a single term by which all of us are
called by our children. The status assumption is supported by such facts
as the Gilyak rule by which men of a gens must take wives from a
particular gens and where the gentes as units are regarded as standing
to each other in the relationship of father-in-law and son-in-law.[47]

In short, where the levirate-polygyny usages coexist with exogamy, it
would be rash to derive a merging and bifurcate nomenclature from the
former rather than from the latter.

Still another objection is implied in Dr. Sapir’s own statement of the
case. It is not necessary for the natives to look at the levirate from
the point of view hitherto assumed. Instead of defining the paternal
uncle in terms of his potential fatherhood, they may have a word
distinct from that for father to designate the step-father and the
paternal uncle. Dr. Sapir cites the Upper Chinook by way of
illustration. In other words, the action of the levirate is equivocal.
It may affect nomenclature so as to produce the semblance of the Dakota
principle, but it may also produce quite different results. It may also
fail to affect terminology at all, as apparently is the case in Semitic
languages with their descriptive nomenclature.

In this connection a qualification must be made that applies equally to
the exogamy hypothesis. Though the ultimate cause of a terminological
feature be the levirate, the immediate cause in a given instance may
well be an historico-geographical one. If the Chinook nomenclature is
differently affected by the levirate from that of the Yahi, the
proximate reason may be simply the fact that the Chinook did not come
into contact with the same peoples as the Yahi and thus had no chance to
borrow their nomenclature. In other words, admitting an influence of the
levirate, it is not necessary to assume that it has repeatedly produced
the same terminological effects independently.

I know of at least one instance in which the hypothesis advanced by Dr.
Sapir seems definitely excluded, leaving exogamy in the field as the
efficient cause. The Hopi system conforms to the essentials of the
Dakota type, but neither the levirate nor the marriage with two sisters
is in vogue. It cannot be argued that the Dakota features were borrowed
from some other Southwestern tribe possessing these usages, first,
because the Dakota features are far more highly developed among the Hopi
than among other Pueblo Indians; secondly, because it is very doubtful
whether the practices in question occur among other Pueblo tribes.[48]

In justice to Dr. Sapir it must be pointed out that he does not advance
his hypothesis as a general interpretation of the phenomena. As he
suggests, it is most serviceable where the exogamous factor does not
occur, or, as I should add, where diffusion of features from a system
affected by exogamy seems improbable. I have examined his hypothesis as
if it were designed to account for all the relevant phenomena simply in
order to bring out clearly its inferiority from this point of view to
the theory of exogamy.

There are two series of cases which strongly corroborate the theory of
the effect of the exogamous organization on the kinship nomenclature.
They constitute a distinct variant of the Dakota principle, the
deviation being in the designation of cross-cousins. While these are
still differentiated from parallel cousins, they are not placed together
in a single category but are classed, one group of cousins with the
first ascending and the complementary group with the first descending
generation. In short, the generation factor which is fundamental in the
Hawaiian scheme and only modified by dichotomy in the usual type of
bifurcate merging schemes is here overridden by some other factor. Now
what is the nature of this new determinant? Let us look at the facts.

The Hidatsa class the father’s sister’s son with the father and the
father’s sister’s daughter and all her female descendants through
females to infinity with the father’s sister; correlatively, the
mother’s brother’s son, in the absence of special words for nephew or
niece, is classed with the son, even by women. That the Crow scheme is
almost identical, is readily intelligible from the historical relations
of the two tribes, who speak very similar languages of the Siouan stock.
But the essentials of the classification reappear among the
geographically, linguistically, and culturally remote Hopi, with
suggestions of similar features among the Tlingit and even in Melanesia.
We are again confronted with a puzzling problem of distribution.

An analysis of the Hidatsa data clarifies the situation. According to
the statements of the natives themselves, the term ‘father’ is applied
to any father’s clansman irrespective of age and would accordingly
include the father’s sister’s son. This suggests that the clue to the
entire situation may lie in the clan feature. As a matter of fact, we
find the daughter of the father’s sister’s _son_ is not classed with the
daughter of the father’s sister’s _daughter_. The only difference that
can be connected with this distinction is that in clan membership: the
former relative, owing to the exogamous clan system, can never, and the
latter relative always must, belong to the father’s sister’s clan. Hence
the former, being a father’s sister’s son’s, _i.e._, a ‘father’s’,
daughter, becomes in Hidatsa speech a sister, while the latter is
designated by a word translated paternal aunt’ but really embracing
likewise all the lower generations of females in the paternal clan. That
we are dealing with the clan factor, is corroborated by the fact that in
Hidatsa terminology the mother’s brother, instead of being designated by
a specific word, is classed with the elder brother, a term also applied
to the mother’s mother’s brother. The last-mentioned kinsman may be
similarly addressed in Hopi.

Powerful corroborative evidence is supplied by a second series of facts.
Among the Omaha, where descent is reckoned in the paternal line, the
father’s sister’s daughter is no longer classed with the father’s sister
but with the sister’s daughter. These, it may be noted incidentally,
would belong to the same division if the moieties of the Omaha were at
one time exogamous, for which there is some evidence. But the essential
point is that here the mother’s brother’s son and all his male
descendants through males are indiscriminately classed with the
maternal uncle. It is clear that they are all members of the same gens,
and corresponding to our Hidatsa experiment we find that as soon as we
pass outside the gens the terminology changes: my mother’s brother’s
_daughter’s_ son is not my maternal uncle but my brother since his
mother, the uncle’s daughter, is called ‘mother’, belonging as she must
to my mother’s gens.[49]

The Omaha phenomena are absolutely paralleled not only among other
Southern Siouans but also among a number of Algonquians, _viz._, the
Miami, Sauk and Fox, Kickapoo, Menomini and Shawnee. The area covered is
an absolutely continuous one, and it is impossible not to explain such a
distribution by diffusion. This conclusion is accentuated by the fact
that the Ojibwa, though an Algonquian people with a gentile system, do
not share the Omaha variant of the Dakota scheme but conform to the more
usual type found among their neighbors, the Dakota. The mere presence of
a gentile organization, though doubtless a favorable basis for the
development or adoption of the Omaha scheme, is not the only determining
condition; the presence of terminological features in a particular tribe
is also a function of its geographical position or historical
connections. This does not interfere with the ultimate interpretation
of such features but it shows the necessity of taking into account the
geographico-historical situation. At present I cannot suggest what may
have been the differential condition that produced the Hidatsa variant
among some tribes with a clan system but not among the Iroquois; or the
Omaha variant among certain Algonquian tribes but not the Ojibwa.

The exogamy hypothesis, with special reference, to the phenomena just
mentioned, has recently been discussed by Professor Kroeber.[50] He
accepts the empirical correlation between exogamy and the merging of
lineal and collateral kin with bifurcation of the parental lines, but
interprets it as due rather to the differentiation of male and female
lines of descent than to exogamy itself, which latter he regards as
‘perhaps a common but not necessary development, and an overlying
development of the former’. “The basic condition,” argues Dr. Kroeber,
“would be that in which a woman would be felt to be a very different
thing from a man in relationship--less perhaps as an existing individual
than as a factor in the relations of other people. Once this point of
view prevailed, cross-cousins would necessarily be felt to be something
very different from parallel cousins, and cross-uncles and aunts from
parallel ones; and the distinction would find expression in
nomenclature.” Accentuation of the male and female lines of descent with
greater weighting of the one would possibly lead to clan groups.

As a theory of the origin of exogamous groups I have no particular
objection to offer to the foregoing. For reasons to be stated below (p.
163) I heartily concur in the assumption that the family, in America at
all events, preceded the clan or gens. If I understand him correctly,
Dr. Kroeber’s remarks merely paraphrase the fact of this sequence. But I
do not see that acceptance of his view on this point involves a
rejection of the influence of the clan when that has once developed. Of
course it is not directly exogamy that is expressed but the alignment in
groups which exogamy brings about. On Dr. Kroeber’s assumption it is
unintelligible why father’s sister’s son and mother’s brother’s son
should so frequently be classed together since the one is clearly
related through the father, the other through the mother. We can hardly
credit the native mind with a tendency to algebraic equalization of a
plus and minus quantity by which the product of a male and a female
relationship shall be standardized by a common designation. Generally
speaking, Dr. Kroeber’s factors explain only bifurcation but not
merging. The fact that even remote father’s cousins are grouped with
the father is what the clan or gentile hypothesis explains over and
above the dichotomy of relatives. That such merging occurs among tribes
with definite exogamous groups, and generally not in loosely organized
ones, can hardly be an accident. Dr. Kroeber’s case is, however, weakest
as regards the Hidatsa and Omaha variants of the Dakota scheme. If
‘unilaterality of descent’ rather than clan or gentile affiliation is
the determinant here, then why is the Hidatsa variant uniformly found
among matrilineal tribes and the Omaha variant uniformly with a gentile
system? In other words, why does not the Omaha call his father’s
sister’s son ‘father’ and his father’s sister’s daughter ‘aunt’? The
cross-cousins in question are as clearly related to me through the
father among the Omaha as among the Hidatsa, but in the former case they
are not, and in the latter they necessarily are, my father’s clansfolk.
Similarly, the mother’s brother’s son and his male offspring are as
emphatically related to me through my mother among the Hidatsa as
anywhere, but they are not aligned in the same social group with one
another and they are not classed together in terminology. For the sake
of clearness I will, at the risk of repetition, formulate what I
consider the probable course of events. Among certain loosely organized
tribes the bifurcation of immediate kin evolved, as we find it among a
number of our Far Western tribes. This tendency was amplified and became
superseded by a definite clan or gentile scheme. As this scheme
developed, possibly as a part of its growth, kinship terminology became
not only forked but more inclusive as well. Finally, the fully
established organization was able, in certain instances to exert the
extreme retro-active influence on nomenclature revealed in the Hidatsa
and Omaha variants.

In his extremely valuable paper on Miwok organization[51] Mr. Gifford
also suggests a rival explanation in place of exogamy. The Miwok of
California are organized in approximately exogamous moieties, and their
nomenclature bears some resemblance to that of the Omaha. More
particularly is the mother’s brother’s son (and his male descendants
through males?) classed with the mother’s brother. According to Mr.
Gifford, this is due to the custom of a man marrying, either
polygamously or after his wife’s decease, the daughter of his wife’s
brother. This form of marriage is actually practised among the Miwok in
addition to the more generally diffused marriage with the mother’s
brother’s daughter. Obviously, the facts of terminology are consistent
both with this usage and with the moiety principle. Mr. Gifford objects
that among the Miwok “there are no clan or moiety brothers and sisters,
all relationship being based on blood and marriage ties.” This, however,
is not the essential point. It does not matter whether the unrelated
members are _called_ brother or sister provided they are aligned
together in the same social group; the very existence of such social
groups implies a differential attitude towards fellow-members as
compared with the rest of the tribe. That mere affiliation along moiety
lines does not solve all the mysteries of Miwok terminology, is quite
true since a sharp distinction is drawn between the mother’s brother’s
daughter and the father’s sister’s daughter. Since both these relatives
are eligible mates from the point of view of exogamy while as a matter
of fact marriage with the paternal aunt’s daughter is prohibited, Mr.
Gifford’s objection seems to be sustained. That is to say, here the
social organization explains the classing together of certain relatives
but not the exclusion of certain other relatives, while the specific
marriage regulations of the tribe do account for this phenomenon. But on
the other hand, the marriage rules fail where the moiety hypothesis
succeeds. Why are the mother’s younger sister, who cannot be married,
and the father’s brother’s wife classed with the marriageable
cross-cousin and the wife’s brother’s daughter unless it is because they
are all members of the same moiety?

So far as the merging of a maternal uncle’s male descendants through
males with the uncle himself is concerned, I do not see how any marriage
rule would directly explain the extension of the term _ad infinitum_
while moiety alignment at once renders it intelligible. An advantage
which the exogamous principle enjoys over every special marriage rule is
the universality of its sway over the population. An individual’s wife
may not have a brother and her brother may not have a daughter for the
husband to marry, but where exogamous groups exist every tribesman is by
birth a member of a particular group.

To the subject of specific marriage rules I shall have to revert below.
My position as to the Miwok nomenclature is that special regulations
undoubtedly account for some of its features while the dual organization
successfully explains others and more particularly the Omaha variant of
the Dakota principle.

We may sum up our discussion of the Dakota principle with the statement
that its distribution, coupled as it is with exogamous groups, supports
the theory of an organic connection between the two phenomena. On the
question which I have hitherto shelved, _viz._, whether it is exogamy in
any form or more particularly the dual organization that gave rise to
the features under discussion, I am at present unable to reach a
definite decision. Though the distribution of the moiety is far more
restricted than that of exogamous groups generally, there is no doubt
that not a few elements of the Dakota principle are most readily derived
from a dual organization. It remains for the future to determine what is
the relative part taken by the multiple kin group and the moiety
organization in fashioning kinship nomenclature.

Before leaving the Dakota principle, it seems desirable to allude to two
important theoretical problems with which it seems connected--its
relations to the Hawaiian principle and its bearing on the antiquity of
the clan organization. The Dakota scheme in its more usual form may be
logically regarded as merely a complication of the simpler Hawaiian one.
As Morgan pointed out, the two coincide in practically half of all the
relationships. Inspired no doubt by the general trend of evolutionary
thought in his day, Morgan converted the logical connection into an
historical sequence and assumed the priority of the simpler system. He
indicated how, if grafted on the Hawaiian scheme, the clan or gentile
organization would transform it into the Dakota type. It does not seem
to have occurred to him that the evolution might have taken place in the
reverse direction. Development, as shown precisely by linguistic
phenomena, such as the history of the English language--and kinship
terms, no matter what else they may be, are elements of human speech--is
not always from the simple to the complex. Morgan’s belief was
influenced by the view that humanity started their social existence at
an extremely low level, for which opinion he found support in the social
conditions he inferred from the Hawaiian schedules. These, he argued,
suggest brother-sister marriage since such marriages would explain the
use of the same term for mother’s brother and father. Such unions
certainly _would_ produce the observed terminology but Morgan failed to
consider that an alternative explanation was at hand. His fundamental
error lay in attaching to the primary kinship terms of the Hawaiians and
other peoples the notion of actual cohabitation. From this
starting-point he consistently argued that all men addressed as father
had actual access to the speaker’s mother. As Cunow has well shown,[52]
there is not a tittle of evidence that this represents the native point
of view, from which the term ‘father’ merely indicates tribal status
with reference to the speaker. When we have once recognized this fact,
there is nothing so intrinsically primitive in the Hawaiian scheme of
ranging kin as to demonstrate hoary antiquity.

All empirical considerations, indeed, point in the opposite direction.
For one thing, all the peoples whose systems are characterized by the
Hawaiian feature rank relatively high in the scale of civilization. No
one would dream of placing the Maori culture below that of, say, the
Fijians. Secondly, we have the most powerful circumstantial evidence
from distinct quarters of the globe to prove that Hawaiian features
develop secondarily within the Dakota scheme. Thus, among some Iroquois
tribes, the tendency has developed to call the father’s as well as the
mother’s sister ‘mother’. The Crow differ from all other Siouan tribes,
even from their closest relatives, the Hidatsa, in similarly extending
the word for mother in direct address. Among the Torres Straits
Islanders a corresponding change of usage was recorded by Dr.
Rivers,[53] and similar developments seem to have occurred among the
Gilyak.[54] Relevant data from West Africa have already been cited in
another connection.

All this does not prove that as a general proposition Morgan’s sequence
must simply be inverted. For this there is no evidence in North America,
where complete Hawaiian schemes, or even approximations thereto, are
lacking. But the data at our disposal do indicate that in so far as a
tendency toward Hawaiian elements appears it is often due to secondary

To turn next to the problem of the exogamous kin group. Some theoretical
writers have assumed the priority of the clan or gens to the ‘loose’,
_i.e._, clanless or non-gentile, organization in which the family and
local group usually form the only important social units. To support
such a view appeals have sometimes been made to kinship nomenclatures.
So far as North America is concerned, this argument is certainly without
foundation. It was Dr. Swanton, I think, who first showed that in North
America the exogamous system is found precisely among the more highly
cultured tribes while generally speaking it is lacking among the more
primitive peoples. Now as I have shown above, exogamy in North America
largely goes hand in hand with the Dakota principle. It is therefore
rather remarkable that the more primitive clanless North American tribes
of the Plateau and neighboring regions also lack the Dakota principle.
The suggestion sometimes offered that a clan or gentile system has once
existed and simply eluded the field worker’s scrutiny on account of the
degeneration of aboriginal life under modern conditions thus breaks
down. We cannot argue positively that where the Dakota principle reigns
exogamy must necessarily have occurred, because the correlation, while
high, is not perfect and because the principle may have been borrowed
without the social organization. But an exogamous organization is so
frequently associated with the Dakota principle and there is so little
reason for a change of kinship terminology provided the native language
is preserved that the total lack of Dakota features over a wide area may
be regarded as exceedingly strong evidence against the former or at
least ancient existence of exogamous groups.

_Supposed Features of ‘Classificatory’ Systems._ Under the misnomer
‘classificatory systems’ some writers have included consideration of the
principle of differentiating elder and younger brothers and sisters. The
distribution of this distinction is simply staggering when one attempts
to trace it more or less systematically. Of North American systems, I
can offhand recall only two, the Pawnee and Kiowa, in which it does not
appear. We find it in association with the Hungarian and Chukchee
terminologies, both of which lack the Dakota principle, and it occurs
with the Hawaiian no less than the vast majority of bifurcate systems.
So far as I know, the only one who has offered any explanation of the
phenomenon is Dr. Rivers, who once connected it with a difference in the
time of tribal initiation.[55] But since there are many peoples, _e.
g._, in North America, who do not practise any form of tribal
initiation, the hypothesis hardly seems tenable and we must rest content
to accept the facts of distribution.

Another feature that is often erroneously treated in association with
the Dakota principle is that of reciprocity, which has already been
referred to as the usage of designating a pair of relatives, more
particularly two belonging to different generations, by a single term.
Thus, the Shoshone call the mother’s father and the daughter’s son (man
speaking) by one term. Such usage would be manifestly opposed to the
Hawaiian principle with which it does not seem to be associated. It is
found in connection with the Dakota scheme in Melanesia and
particularly in Australia, but is markedly absent from the merging
systems of North America. Since here it is highly developed where the
Dakota principle does _not_ occur, it cannot be regarded as an essential
element of ‘classificatory systems’. The question remains how we are to
account for the facts of distribution. Australian data forcibly suggest
that, there at least, the reciprocal feature is a reflection of social
organization. Grandparents and grandchildren, by the curious rule of
descent that regulates affiliation with the matrimonial classes of the
area, are necessarily in the same class, _i.e._, a father’s father and a
son’s son or a mother’s father and a daughter’s son (man speaking) are
fellow-members of a class. The fit seems too close to admit of an
accidental association. But when we turn to the North American region of
reciprocal features the interpretation no longer holds since no vestige
is found there of any institution that might align the relatives under
discussion in a common group. The inference is that there has been
convergent development, and perhaps the most plausible explanation of
the North American terms is that they are designations not so much of
the relatives as of the relationship itself.[56]

If we cannot give more than this general interpretation of the
reciprocal feature as found in North America, we can on the other hand
show quite definitely that its occurrence is a function of geographical
position there. The practical absence of this trait in the immense
region particularly dealt with by Morgan is as remarkable as its spread
over a practically continuous region in the Far West, among the
Lillooet, Spokane, Kootenai, Nez Percé, Wishram, Takelma, and various
Californian and Shoshonean Plateau populations, as well as in a
considerable number of Southwestern tribes. The Pacific, Plateau and
Southwestern regions obviously define the distribution of reciprocity in
North America, which thus becomes intelligible only through diffusion.

_Various Features._ The principles of kinship nomenclature that have
been treated hitherto are far from exhausting the variety found in a
survey of the world. A very odd mode of addressing relatives after
presentation of a gift has been mentioned for the Masai (p. 104), and
there is little doubt that more extensive knowledge will reveal equally
quaint notions elsewhere. Here I merely wish to enumerate a few examples
from the particular point of view assumed in this chapter.

It is a remarkable fact that while in Australia the principle of
bifurcation is consistently carried to the grandparental stratum of
society in conjunction with the reciprocal feature, the North American
region in which the Dakota principle is especially prominent lacks the
distinction between mother’s and father’s parents, so that Morgan does
not even dedicate special columns to these relationships in his
elaborate schedules and notes the discrimination with some surprise for
the Spokane.[57] This feature is nevertheless widely spread in the Far
West, coinciding to some extent with that of reciprocity. We find it
among Salish and Shoshonean tribes, in California, among the Takelma and
Wishram, and to some extent in the Southwest. Both the positive and the
negative facts of distribution indicate the occurrence of diffusion.

The change of terms after the death of a connecting or other relative is
another feature of considerable interest. Thus, the Kawaiisu of
California address the father as _muwuni_, but by the quite distinct
term _kuguni_ after the loss of a child.[58] Again, the Kootenai have
one word for the father-in-law before and another after the wife’s or
husband’s death. This peculiarity appears also among Californian tribes,
the Chinook, Quileute, and several Salish tribes. This distribution
again demonstrates diffusion from a common center. On the other hand,
the probably even higher development of _post-mortem_ nomenclature among
the Timucua of Florida[59] cannot be ascribed, in the present state of
our knowledge, to anything but independent origin, though we are not in
a position to state what common cause, lacking in the intervening area,
produced the common effect in the southeastern United States and in the
remote regions of the Far West.

I will only call attention to one other kinship usage of more general
interest, that embraced in the term ‘teknonymy’, the custom of denoting
an individual in terms of his relationship to a child, _viz._, ‘father of
Mary’, ‘grandmother of John’. This practice exists in South Africa and
India,[60] in Melanesia,[61] and in the Pueblo area and on the Northwest
coast of North America.[62] Tylor connected it with the custom of the
husband’s residence with his wife’s kin, of the father’s assertion of
his paternity and his ultimate recognition as more than a stranger by
the wife’s family with whom a condition of ceremonial avoidance obtains.
However, it should be noted that among the Zuñi and the Hopi, though the
husband lives with his wife’s people, there is no parent-in-law taboo,
and the wife is as often referred to teknonymously as the husband.
Thus, my Hopi interpreter always spoke to me of his wife as ‘Herman’s
mother’. Tylor’s explanation is accordingly inadequate and would seem to
require at least amplification. But whatever result a systematic survey
of the subject may lead to, it is certain that the effect of diffusion
will have to be taken into account. It is inconceivable, _e. g._, that
the practice originated independently among tribes so geographically
situated and so intimately related in culture as the Zuñi and Hopi.

_Special Forms of Marriage and Social Customs._ There can be little
doubt that a well-established marriage rule often finds expression in
nomenclature. Even the exogamous principle can be brought under this
head since it expresses the potential matrimonial status of members of
the community. In a dual organization my ‘father’ is one who
potentially, if not actually, is a mate of women of my mother’s group,
while a ‘mother’s brother’ is one who can under no condition occupy that

Of the specific forms of marriage the levirate has already been
considered and the cross-cousin marriage briefly mentioned. Dr. Rivers
has demonstrated the close dependence of nomenclature on the latter
practice in Melanesia. Here the custom itself is found in full swing,
and it would be unreasonable to deny that the terminology had its origin
in this usage even in parts of Melanesia where it cannot be observed.
This does not mean that cross-cousin marriage necessarily obtained
throughout the range of distribution of the corresponding terminology
but that the terminology spread from a center where it reflected the
social institution. Thus, in Guadalcanar the cross-cousin marriage still
persists and we find cross-cousins, brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law
comprised under a single appellation. In Anaiteum, cross-cousins of
opposite sex address one another by the terms used for husband and
wife.[63] It seems to me methodologically quite justifiable to interpret
similar features in neighboring islands as having their ultimate origin
in cross-cousin marriage. But the argument fails where similar
connotations of terms occur without evidence of the marriage rule unless
it can be demonstrated that no other cause could have produced the
result. Thus, I must consider unsuccessful Dr. Rivers’ attempt to
deduce, though with qualifications, the former existence of the
institution in question from the system of the Dakota Indians.[64] The
classification of brothers-in-law with cross-cousins might be simply a
reflection of the dual organization, by which these relatives would
fall within the same group; or, to put it differently, if the term
cross-cousin is given the wide significance with which we are familiar
in primitive systems, so as to include members of the opposite moiety
and one’s own generation, a man’s brothers-in-law are necessarily
members of the cross-cousin class. The superiority of the moiety
hypothesis in this instance lies in the fact that the dual organization
occurs among several contiguous and related tribes while the
cross-cousin marriage is extremely rare in North America and its highest
development occurs among remote peoples of the Pacific region. Regarding
special forms of marriage, it is rather important to ascertain whether
the terms used by our authorities are to be interpreted in our own or in
the more inclusive primitive sense. For example, Tylor reduced the
institution of cross-cousin marriage to the principle of exogamous
moieties by assuming the wider significance.[65] As Dr. Rivers points
out,[66] the two rules are not identical if marriage is prescribed with
the own daughter of the own mother’s brother. In that case, the moiety
rule is only a larger framework with which the specific institution is
not incompatible but which does not determine cross-cousin marriage.
Looking at the matter chronologically, I can even conceive the
development of larger social groups from such specific marriage
regulations. If in the absence of an own cross-cousin, a more remote
cousin comes to be regularly substituted, we should have a whole class
of possible mates, of whom the nearest cross-cousin would be only
_primus inter pares_.

It must be understood that while special marriage regulations, like
exogamy, tend to be mirrored in nomenclature, there is no absolute
necessity for this occurrence. As the New Mexican Tewa have exogamous
groups without the Dakota principle, so the Miwok of California have the
cross-cousin marriage with little or no indication of it in
terminology.[67] One factor that must always be considered in this
connection is the time element. A recently acquired custom may not yet
have developed an appropriate nomenclature, while, as Morgan supposed,
the nomenclature may survive after the custom has become obsolete. That
the frequency of marriage according to a certain rule, and the
coexistence of other rules, possibly antagonistic in their effects, must
have an influence, is obvious. As regards the latter point, Mr. Gifford
shows that while marriage with the cross-cousin is not suggested in
Miwok nomenclature, marriage with the wife’s brother’s daughter is
reflected by twelve terms.

Among the Thonga of South Africa several interesting forms of
preferential matrimonial union occur. As among the Miwok, marriage with
the wife’s, younger sisters and wife’s brother’s daughter is considered
peculiarly appropriate, and these affinities are subsumed under a common
caption. Levirate extends only to the elder brother’s, not to the
younger brother’s, wife, and quite consistently these affinities are
distinguished by distinct words. A man may inherit his maternal uncle’s
wife and therefore classes her with the wife. On the other hand, logic
does not hold sway undisputedly. A man calls cross-cousins by the same
term as parallel cousins and brothers, yet it is possible for a man to
inherit his parallel cousin’s, but not his cross-cousin’s (father’s
sister’s son’s), wife. The explanation given by Junod seems quite
satisfactory from a comparative point of view. My cross-cousin cannot
belong to my gens, my parallel cousin must belong to it.[68] Since the
Thonga usually distinguish marriage potentialities with considerable
nicety, we may reasonably infer that the present terminology for cousins
is a recent innovation, which conclusion once more indicates the
relatively late development of Hawaiian features.

A systematic comparison of the effect of definite forms of marriage on
nomenclature, in different parts of the world is highly desirable. When
we shall have examined how such an institution as the inheritance of a
maternal uncle’s wife affects the systems of the Tlingit of northwestern
America, of the Banks Islands in Melanesia, and the Thonga of South
Africa, and know the action of whatever coexisting institutions may
occur, we shall have gained considerably more insight into a very
suggestive problem. It is fairly clear that a form of marriage does not
determine nomenclature univocally, as the facts relating to the levirate
indicate. To ascertain in how far parallelism actually occurs, is a
matter of great moment.

_Conclusion._ The question with which this chapter opens has now
received an answer. Terms of relationship form a proper topic of
investigation for the ethnologist, first because they are often directly
correlated with cultural phenomena, such as social usages regulating
marriage; secondly, because the features of kinship nomenclature are an
index of tribal relationship. Any particular system is not a unified
logical whole but a complex product of internal development and foreign
connections. Accordingly, its features cannot be understood by
themselves any more than other cultural phenomena, but only in
association with concomitant traits of the native culture and in the
light of a comparative survey of like features among neighboring tribes
and ultimately throughout the world. By utilizing our ethnographical
knowledge in applying the method of variation it is possible to
ascertain, at least to a considerable extent, the causes, whether
primary or secondary, that have shaped a given system.

When, for example, we endeavor to explain the system of the Hopi, we can
start with the fact that their speech constitutes them a member of the
Shoshonean family, _i.e._, we can begin by comparing Hopi nomenclature
with that of the Paiute, Paviotso, Ute and Shoshone. One fact that
strikes us here is the great difference in the actual vocables employed
by the Hopi from those of their congeners, an observation which by no
means extends to all of their language. Morgan held the view that
kinship words were the most persistent elements of speech, but however
this rule may work in other stocks, such as the Athabaskan, it certainly
does not obtain among the Shoshoneans, nor, I may add, within the Siouan
family, where even such closely related languages as Crow and Hidatsa
reveal far greater differences in the lexicon of relationships than
might be expected from other vocables. It is, however, in the
classification of kin that the distinctiveness of the Hopi seems most
remarkable. Their system is not characterized by the prominent features
of the Plateau Shoshonean terminologies, such as reciprocity and the
separation of paternal from maternal grandparents. On the other hand,
they employ the Dakota principle with the Hidatsa variation. That
variant occurs, so far as we now know, only among peoples historically
quite unrelated to the Hopi so that neither genetic connection nor
dissemination accounts for the similarity. On the other hand, all the
tribes having this feature share exogamous groups with maternal descent.
Such clans are characteristic of the Hopi also, but are lacking among
the other Shoshoneans. We infer from this that the Hidatsa variant among
the Hopi is functionally connected with their clan system. If the
neighboring Zuñi do not share this characteristic, a possible
explanation may be found in the relative weakness of the Zuñi clan
concept, as recently expounded by Professor Kroeber, when contrasted
with its dominance in the social life of the Hopi. In other features the
intimate cultural contact between the Zuñi and Hopi is emphatically
apparent. Probably for no other tribes is there evidence for such
exaggerated reliance on teknonymy, while a certain looseness in the use
of terms common to both seems to be a general Southwestern trait. The
Hopi system thus reflects both the social fabric of the tribe and its
historical relations,--the ancient ones reduced to a few lexical
resemblances, while the more complex tribal organization and recent
cultural affiliations with the Southwest, and particularly with the
Zuñi, stand out in bold relief.

A strictly similar inquiry might be made into the system of the Crow.
Here the almost complete coincidence of certain very unusual features
with Hidatsa ones bears eloquent testimony to the exceptionally close
genetic relationship of the two tribes. Thus, a wife who has been
married before is distinguished by a specific word, and spouses
generally refer to each other not by a specific term, which seems
restricted to non-vocative usage, but by a demonstrative expression. Not
only is there a confusion of generations according to the Hidatsa
variant, but the mother’s brother is classed with the elder brother and
so is the mother’s mother’s brother. The last-mentioned features are
partly found among the Mandan. All three tribes differ from the other
Siouans, and indeed from all other Plains Indians in having matrilineal
descent. Since this is likewise the rule among genetically unconnected
peoples sharing the Hidatsa variant, we regard the latter as
functionally connected with the clan organization. But there are other
traits in which the terminology of the Crow differs from that of their
nearest congeners, and here we must systematically consider the possible
effect of all such peoples as the Oglala, or Blackfoot, with whom they
have come into contact. Such divergence may be merely the effect of
internal readjustment. Thus, the Crow classification of the father’s
sister’s husband with the father admits of a plausible interpretation as
the result of another peculiarity--the classing of the father’s sister
with the mother in direct address. Instead of having two deviations from
the Hidatsa norm, we should thus have at bottom only one.

It is clear that a far more intensive investigation of kinship
terminologies must take the place of what has hitherto been attempted.
Precisely the so-called minor peculiarities of a system are important
historically because they are the differential indications of cultural
contact with definite tribes. The phonetic inadequacy of Morgan’s
schedules, which has been brought to light by Dr. Michelson and Mr.
Spier,[69] requires a reëxamination of the entire field covered. Still
more important is the thorough-going determination of the innumerable
systems, both in and outside of America, not touched upon by Morgan at
all. Fortunately the work of Dr. Rivers, Mr. A. R. Brown and Mr. A. M.
Hocart in England, of Dr. R. Thurnwald in Germany, of Dr. J. R. Swanton,
Mr. Leslie Spier and Mr. E. W. Gifford in America bids fair to reduce
our ignorance of the facts. With our lamentable absence of knowledge on
some of the most essential points it would be rash indeed to claim for
the present sketch a more than preliminary value. I am content with
calling attention to the tremendous ethnological significance of kinship
terminologies, with combating premature confidence in generalizations
based on sheer ignorance, and above all with suggesting that the most
rigorous logical formulation of problems is possible in this too long
neglected domain of the science of culture.



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 [28] RIVERS, W. H. R. _Ibid._, vol. 1, p. 244.

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