Kincretism in crosslinguistic perspective


  • Tran Truong Pennsylvania State University
  • Nathan Thompson Pennsylvania State University



kinship, syncretism, typology, distributed morphology, impoverishment


Traditional anthropology in the vein of Morgan (1871) distinguishes between descriptive and classificatory kinship terms. Mainstream US English father functions as a descriptive term, as it conventionally only indicates one relationship type: `'ego's begetter'. In contrast, Aboriginal English father functions as a classificatory term, as it conventionally indicates both 'ego's begetter' and `'ego's begetter's brother'. We propose that it is possible to study classificatory kinship in the same manner that we study morphological syncretism in nominal and verbal paradigms. We propose toy features for kinship and demonstrate that Murdock's (1949) classical hexapartite typology of kinship patterns is best thought of as a set of metasyncretisms (Harley 2008) generated by impoverishment. In theoretical terms, we contribute to the broader research program of Crossmodular Structural Parallelism (Nevins 2008), in that we argue that kintactic features may interact and be modified in ways homologous to phonological and morphological features. In empirical terms, we provide a genealogically diverse sample of underdescribed language-specific kincretisms outside of the broader Murdockian typology, with an emphasis on kincretisms that involve affinal terms.




How to Cite

Truong, Tran, and Nathan Thompson. 2024. “Kincretism in Crosslinguistic Perspective”. Proceedings of the Linguistic Society of America 9 (1): 5722.