A formal analysis of intertranslatability of kinship terms: A case study of English and selected African languages
Kutete, Nasongo Michael
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Anisomorphism exists in kinship translations. The main cause of partial translation of kinship terminology may be linked to differences in material culture, social culture, ideational culture, ecological location and language structures among different language speakers. Most of these aspects affect kinship terminology directly such that some of the sociological ideas in one language cannot be imposed on another. To solve this problem, there is a need to use a neutral language for translating kinship terminology. Translational formulae for kinship terminology are derived from a metalanguage that is believed to be neutral across languages and cultures. In this sense, a number of factors must be considered in a kinship relation. First, the nature of any kinship relation varies in scale or quantity from one relation to another. In a universe of a kinship relation, the nature in which people relate to one another is undefined. In a further related case, person and number will determine the size of any relation. This means that any kinship relation involves two sides with one side having either similar or different kinship forms of referring to the other. In most cases, people refer to one another with one common kinship term, especially, if they have the same generation and distance. The type of sex of persons in a relation also determines kinds of kin terms to be given by another kin. Gender in these instances will determine kinship terminologies for women or men. Terms related to patrilineal or matrilineal linkages are some of the few examples that explain how sex affects kinship terms. Interpretation of these terms in relation to gender differs from one language to another. Relatedness is based on both blood and non-blood bonds. Blood relatives arise as a result of (series of) kinship chain(s) between genitor and the genetic product, giving rise to consanguine relatives. Affinity is also another factor which affects kinship terminology. This is because marriage ties give rise to non-blood relatives like in-laws and step relatives among others. Kinship metalanguage is based on the principle of universality that lacks in most translations of kinship terminology. Elements of kinship terms are chosen carefully in these cases, to ensure that any interpretation of any kinship term is based on a neutral language. This helps to ensure that aspects of one language are not transferred to another language. Five languages have been chosen: English, Kiswahili, Luganda, Lubukusu and Ateso for the purpose of testing and verification of the kinship metalanguage. This has been done through establishment of a formula for universal kinship implications that gives universal aspects of kinship practices. I have also tested the language-specific kinship terminology, which gives guidance on several forms in which specific kinship terms are interpreted in different languages. Finally, unique forms in which every kinship term can be interpreted for each of the languages have been established to give related meanings that associate with these terms. It has been established in this research that every language has its own way in which each and every kinship term can be interpreted. In some instances, the interpretations of some kinship terms are shared among a few languages. In other instances one kinship term may give several or fewer equivalent kinship terms in another language. The main cause for this difference has been established in this study as inequality in cultural practices among different languages.