The study of kinship is viewed differently by Sociologists, Anthropologists and Linguists. As a result of their approach it has been established that kinship is the crucial factor in establishing the social relations, because, it is related to the social behavior and organization in a society. Kinship organization to a large extent forms the basis for the larger social organization. But in many aspects they differ from one another. The dichotomous division of kinship organization into two groups of family of orientation and the family of procreation purely on the biological basis of the recognized principles of kin concept is absent in the larger social organization. The kinship bondage, linkage etc., kept for innumerable generations in a recognized identity is absent in larger social organizations. The stability of features of kinship is stronger in its nature in relation to those of larger social organizations. The origin of group concept, which stands in kinship organizations, is purely on the biological basis where in other social organizations it is on other aspects.
Generally there are three types of kinship relations in human society.
1. Consanquineal relation 2. Affinal relation 3. Fictive kinship relation
Those who are related by blood or descent are called consanguine relation. This kind of relation is recognized by society as direct or indirect blood relation (father, son, grandfather, mother, daughter).
Affinal relations are those who are related either directly or indirectly by socially accepted marital union (husband, wife, mother-in-law).
Fictive kin are those persons who are related on a socially recognized basis. Commonly members of a clan or lineage practice adoption, and adopted members become brothers or sisters. In these cases, there is no traceable genealogical relationship among persons addressing one another by kin term. So it is referred as fictive kinship. Usually consanguine and official relationships are more frequent than fictive relationships. Dravidian kinship system has got several unique features. Dravidian kinship system distinguishes between cross-cousins and parallel cousins. Ego’s cross-cousins are offspring of siblings of the opposite sex. It includes ego’s father’s sister’s children and his mother’s brother’s children. Ego’s parallel cousins are children of siblings of the same sex as ego’s own parents and include his mothers’ sister’s children and his father’s brothers’s children. Here the two categories of cousins are distinguished in relation to ego, based upon the sex of ego’s parent’s siblings. The marriage relationship with cross-cousins are allowed and marriage relationship with parallel cousins are prohibited. In addition to cross-cousin marriages nearly 90% of the Dravidian speakers adopt sister’s daughter marriage also. The system of kinship terms is accepting this type of intergenerational marriage also. The term murai in Tamil conveys the sense of order, right and regularity. The phrase muraippen refers to a kins woman whom a man has the right to marry. The term Parambarai refers to the fact of unbroken transmission of rights, capacities and entitlements along a line of males. The kinship system of Tamils is bilateral and it extends equally on the mother’s and father’s side.
The relationship between kinship terminology and social structure is in order; and hence the kinship terminologies reflect the social structure of that society. Also a population’s kinship terminology will reveal information of value in understanding the social relationships and interactions. If two kin types are designated by the same term, it is possible that they share some significance in that population’s social structure. People use different patterns of kinship terminology to define their relatives differently i.e., the kinship terms segment the kinsmen into named categories. Kinship terms are the most important lexical items among the various sets of lexical items of a language, because it reflects the culture of the society. Also one can see the possibilities and problems of semantic analysis with special clarity in kinship terms. All the kinship terms have the concepts like generation, age, sex blood, relation and affinal relation. The kinship terms reflect the marriage system. The term mama in Tamil is used to refer mother’s brother, father’s sister’s husband and wife’s father in certain societies. In some other societies in which the practice of marrying elder sister’s daughter is possible, the elder sister’s husband is also referred to as mama. Thus the term mama in Tamil lumps together at least two or three kintypes, i.e. mother’s brother, father’s sister’s husband and elder sister’s husband. If two kin types are designated by the same term, it shows that they share some commonness in their social structure. But certain terms denote only one particular relation. For example, the terms like husband, wife, father, etc, denote a particular relation. The study of kinship terms is an important factor in the analysis of language because kinship terminology is one of the slowest changing aspects of social organization.
Kinship terms can also be classified as different types on the basis of its nature and functions like bipolar terms, co-occurring terms, kinship terms as gender markers, kinship terms as interjections, kinship terms as addressing terms, kinship terms occurring with possessive attributes, etc.
In this type a particular term is used to denote both the poles of kin relation. Certain terms like sammanti, cakkalatti, orpatiya, sakalan, etc. are occurring as bipolar terms. If X is married to Y, then X’s parents refer Y’s parents as sammanti. When an individual has two wives, the first wife refers to the second wife as cakkalatti and the second wife refers to the first wife as cakkalatti. Here the bipolar terms stand in sibling relation. In the case of cakkalatti, oirpatiya and sakalan, the elder one is addressed as anna or akka by the younger ones, which are the addressing terms adopted for elder brother and elder sister by the younger ones.
Certain kinship terms co-occur to denote different relationships.eg.
annan-tampi 'elder brother - younger brother' akka-tampi 'elder sister - younger brother' akka-tankacci 'elder sister - younger sister' appa-amma 'father - mother' periyappa-cittappa 'father’s elder brother-younger brother' tatta - patti 'grand father-grand mother'
In the first three examples, the two terms involved have direct connection and the first one denotes elder of the two persons involved. But in the case of appa-amma, the persons involved have relationship to a third person, i.e., to their son or daughter.
The kinship terms such as amma, appa, aiya are suffixed to some other term and function as gender markers. The term amma is used to mark the female sex of the referent and appan/aiya is used to mark the male sex of the referent.
eg. Kannamma Kannappan Mariyamma Mariyappan, etc.
Some of the kinship terms like amma and appa are occurring as interjections. In certain situations suffixes are added with these terms like amma-ti, appa-ta in order to express different feelings like relief, pain, etc.
Apart from the original use of reference some of the kinship terms are used as addressing terms. Certain terms of reference have completely different set of address terms. Address terms show great variations depending upon a number of variables like social status, speech context, age of the speakers, sex differences, etc. In certain families the elder brother of the family is referred to as periyavaru by the younger brothers and sisters. Here the term of address and the term of reference are entirely different. While addressing husband different terms like attain, ennanke, e:nke, etc, are used. Similarly, terms like e:nti, atiye:, e:tti etc., are used to address ‘wife’. Here the absence of fixed terms to address wife and husband is not due to confusion or uncertainty but it is due to the prevailing custom and tradition which is responsible for such situation.
Some kinship terms occur with possessive attributes. The attributes ya-for ‘my’ no-, no-, o- and ko for ‘your’ are added with the kinship terms as yappan ‘my father’ noppan ‘your father’ nokka ‘your sister’ omma ‘your mother’ koppan ‘your father’, etc. These terms are found among backward communities and harijans. The Higher caste people like Brahmins and Vellalars consider such forms as terms of low variety of speech.
According to Emeneau (1953 : 339 - 53) the fused construction involving the kinship terms is a Proto-Dravidian feature. In the above forms the first syllables denote the personal pronouns. The first syllable ya-in yappan represents the first person pronoun and the others represent the second person pronoun. But there is a difference between these sets of terms in usage. The forms beginning in a velar consonant or in a vowel do not occur as addressing terms whereas those with initial yacan occur as addressing terms.
The kinship found among all the castes and religious people in Tamil Nadu is bilateral. It extends equally on the mother’s as well as father’s side. One may think that both the grand fathers have the same kind of relation. But some may feel closer to his mother’s father than to his father’s father. In some other societies one may feel closer to his father’s father than to his mothers father. This kind of variations may be due to the type of lineage and other factors which are adopted in their kinship system. Certain caste groups use the term aiya to refer their father’s father and ta:tta to refer to their mother’s father. Here the term aiya shows the intimacy than the term ta:tta. Similarly the Konar caste people living in Thanjavur district use the term a:tta to refer to their mother’s mother and a:tti to refer to their father’s mother. This kind of distinctions in kinship terms between the maternal and paternal side found in the ascending generation are not found in the case of uncle except Brahmins and Muslims. While referring to husband’s elder and younger brothers, the elder- younger distinction is expressed by separate terms among Brahmins viz. koluntana:ru and maccinan. People belonging to other caste groups use different terms to refer such relations like koluntana:ru, koluntan, macca:n, maccinan, etc. One can notice quite a lot of variations while referring to one’s elder sister’s husband and younger sister’s husband in different caste groups. This kind of variations among different castes while expressing the elder-younger distinction is found in the offinal relation only. In the case of consanguine relation, the elder - younger distinction is expressed uniformly by separate terms in all the caste groups. Brahmins use different terms to refer different relatives. They use many descriptive terms like ma:ma:ta:tta 'mother’s mother’s brother' ollutta:tta 'mother’s mother’s father', ellutta:tta 'father’s father', etc. These terms are not found among other caste groups. Among all the caste groups certain relations are expressed descriptively like attemaka, akka:maka, tampi ponta:tti, etc. The occurrence of these forms may be due to the absence of close or direct contact with these relations, because they are in some kind of avoidance relationship.
People use different terms to address and refer different people. Most of the kinship terms are used as the term of reference as well as the term of address. Addressing terms and even reference terms differ due to various social factors. When a kinship term is used to refer to a person there will be genealogical relationship. But kinship terms are used as addressing terms even to address a person who is not genealogically related. Apart from the original use of reference, most of the kinship terms are used as addressing terms. Address terms show great variations depending upon a number of variables like social status, speech, context, age of the speakers, sex difference, etc. For example, in certain caste groups the elder brother of the family is referred to as periyavaru by the younger brothers and sisters. Here the term of referent is changed due to the power or importance of elder brother. In some educated families, children address their father as 'daddy' and mother as 'mummy'. Here the use of such terms are due to the influence of English language. The prevailing custom and tradition is also responsible for the variations in the address and reference system. While addressing husband different terms like atta:n, ennnke, e:nke, etc. are used. Similarly while addressing wife different terms like e:nti, atiye:, e:tti, etc are used. There is no fixed term of address for wife and husband. Here the absence of fixed terms to address wife and husband is not due to confusion or uncertainty, but it is due to the prevailing custom and tradition, which is responsible for such situation. People address others who do not have genealogical relation by using certain kinship terms. Commonly, the kinship terms such as amma, aiya, ma:ma, anna, akka, tampi are used as addressing terms. The use of these terms vary according to the social variables such as age, caste, education, etc. For example, a Brahmin never use such terms to address a Harijan. The term aiya used as an addressing term is found among all the caste groups. The same term is used to refer to father in certain caste groups. This term functions as a term of respect, term of affection and as a formality according to the context. The above said terms are more in use among the people who are equal in the caste hierarchy. Though there is no genealogical relationship a Christian
Priest is addressed as ‘father’. The kinship terms like anna and akka are suffixed with the personal names and used as addressing terms.
e.g. muttu+anna > muttanna: leccumi+akka > leccumiyakka:, etc.
Here, when a person hesitate to address or refer a person by name who is relatively elder than himself/ herself, the kin term anna: in the case of males and akka: in the case of females are added for politeness. While referring certain relations the suffix aru/a:ru is added with the kinship terms as a mark of respect.
e.g. app-a:ru 'father' ann-aru 'elder brother'
Families everywhere are the basic units for reproduction and socialization of the young and legitimacy. There is a great deal of diversity in the organization of the family. In some cultures, the family is little more than a man, women and their children. In other cultures, the family is a much larger organization of kin involving three or four generations of individuals. In some other cultures, the main emphasis in family life is the individual and his or her fulfillment. In other cultures, the emphasis is on the stability and continuity of the larger extended family. In all cultures socialization occurs primarily in the family. Tamil society has elaborate norms governing the early socialization of young children. Legitimacy refers to the relationship between a child and the adults responsible for that child. The traditional families in India were joint families. But most of the families in modern India are nuclear families. In certain socio-economic conditions joint family system is still prevailing. In a joint family the properties are undivided, all the members of the family will live under one roof, they work together and the income will be shared according to the needs. In such families one can notice a kind of cooperation and helping pattern among the family members. When the joint families are divided into nuclear families, the economic condition of the family is also changing. The family properties will be divided and the income pattern is changing.
In the villages of Tamil Nadu most of the families are nuclear one. But joint families can also be found here. In the family structure of Brahmins, the shades of joint family system is still in existence. The family property and their economic system is one of the reasons for the existence of joint family. The reminiscent of joint family system is prevailing among Vellalar caste people also. The joint family system is noticed among the Kallar caste people particularly among the landlords.
Among the lower caste people like Pallar and Prayer most of the families are nuclear families. The size of the nuclear family varies from one child family to five or six children family. The nature of their job and economy plays a major role in their family structure. Almost all of them are landless agricultural laborers. They are the people who set new families after marriage. When one looks at the family organization and social stratification of various caste groups in Tamilnadu, nuclear families are found in majority. But there are traces of joint family system among certain caste groups. Mostly joint family system prevails among landlord families, as they have common income and are in need of co-operative effort to look after the lands. But one cannot say that land Lordism is the only reason for joint family system. Family members, place at work, nature of job, the intention of helping the unmarried younger brothers and sisters, etc. are some other reasons for the existence of joint family system.
Economically backward groups and land less labourers have very little joint families.
Mate selection is a universal factor in all societies. The system of mate selection among younger generation should be correlated with their cultural expectations, because the concept of mate selection among younger generation is changing. The traditional family system does not allow an individual to select the mate on his own desire. Parents and relatives play a major role in selecting a prosperous and good mate. In Tamil society both endogamous and exogamous rules restricts the selection of a mate. Tamil society is divided into a number of castes, which are endogamous groups. The caste is again divided into a number of sub-castes, each of which is further subdivided into a number of sections.
Marriage is not only a union of two individuals but it is the union of two families. So family plays a major role in mate selection. Now-a-days the tendency of selecting mates by themselves is increasing among the younger generation. Though it is not allowed in Tamil society, the tendency is changing. The place of work and the nature of job play major role in selecting the mates by themselves. Moreover, the younger generation people are migrating to town areas in search of job or for higher studies. In such situation they are free from the control of their parents and there are chances to select their mates by themselves. Another kind of mate selection is selecting mates through parents or close relatives. This type of mate selection enables to select a prosperous and good mate. Many problems in married life can be avoided through this kind of mate selection. Because, in Tamil culture, those who have arranged the marriage are responsible for the successful married life of the spouses. So the newly married couple are constantly supported by their parents and relatives. Another important criteria for selecting mate is residential propinquity. In traditional Tamil societies residential propinquity is considered as one of the important factors for mate selection. When the distance from a traditional society is increasing the percentage of same caste, same area, same culture and same religion are the important factors in mate selection. When people are selecting mates by themselves, they may select mates with same education, same level of job condition, etc. Usually girls prefer mates with higher education than themselves. In Tamil society males don’t will to marry a girl who is highly educated than himself. At the same time an educated male will not marry an uneducated female. Now-a-days mates are being selected with equal education and job conditions.
Bride price (parisom) is the amount of money or kind given by the bridegroom’s party to the bride’s party at the time of fixing the marriage It is clear that in ancient days, the practice of parisom existed among all the castes in Tamil culture. In ancient days instead of money some agricultural products like paddy, rice or chicken was given as parisom. It is said that the parisappanam (bride price) is otherwise called a mulaippa:l ku:li. That is the price for nursing the girl. Now a days, this system is existing only for name sake and the practice of dowry system has started and spreading fast. Even now the practice of parisom exists among the lower castes particularly in the families of uneducated people and in the traditional way of conducting marriages. The amount of money given as parisom varies according to the economic condition of the family and the nature of the bride. Usually less quantity of paddy or less amount of money is given as parisom. More quantity of paddy or money is given for beautiful and healthy girls. Now a days the practice of parisom is disappearing particularly among educated people and well to do familes. Nearly thirty to forty years ago many marriages mere conducted without parisom and dowry. Now a days, the practice of dowry is fast spreading particularly among educated and well to do people. The practice of parisom is an important factor found in the traditional Dravidian kinship system. It was influenced by various socio-economic factors and now it is disappearing. Dowry is the practice of giving a huge amount of money or things to the bridegroom’s party by the bride’s party at the time of marriage. Dowry exists in many societies in India. Though the practice of dowry is disappearing in many European countries, it still exists in Eastern Europe, Italy. Now a days the practice of dowry is found in almost all the caste groups. Particularly among harijans this system of dowry started in recent years and is spreading very fast. The educated and economically well to do males demand dowry in the form of jewels. As a result, parents of poor family are undergoing financial crisis during the marriage of their daughters. The dowry system is even leading to problems after marriage. When marriages are arranged among close relatives, they are unable to demand dowry. Consequently, the males of younger generations are avoiding marriages among relatives.
Life cycle ceremonies like birth, naming, puberty, marriage and death are the important occasions where relatives can meet together. Different levels of relatives like primary, secondary and tertiary and even distant relatives also participate in life cycle ceremonies, particularly in marriage and death. When a person invites his relatives for his family functions, his relatives will invite him in turn. Relatives fulfill the important kinship obligations in life cycle ceremonies. Such ceremonies are important factor to maintain the kinship relation. In addition to consanguine and affined relatives, religious people and people of other castes also participate in such ceremonies. Among all the caste and religious groups in Tamil Nadu, it’s customary for a girl to go to her mothers home for maternal care. She leaves to her mother’s house accompanied by her lineage group people like her father, mother, elder sisters, brothers etc. The experienced elder woman of her lineage group assist her during the delivery time. Now a days most of the childbirths are taking place in hospitals. The Childs father’s family visits the child and offer gifts. Similarly child’s mother’s party also offers gifts to the child. After certain period mother and child return accompanied by child’s father’s family people.
The naming ceremony is conducted in child’s father’s house. The maternal uncle and maternal aunt play important role in the naming ceremony. Usually the parents or close relatives select the name of the child. All the caste groups in Tamil Nadu celebrate the puberty ceremony. As soon as a girl attains puberty, it will be informed to her maternal uncle. She will be bathed only after the arrival of the maternal uncle and the maternal aunt will pour water on the head of the girl. Maternal uncle and his party visit the girl with gifts, clothes, sweets and fruits. Again on the 16th day she will he bathed. On that day relatives gather together and offer gifts to the girl. There is no significant role for the village barber and the religious people in this ceremony. In Tamil culture marriage is not only a union of two individuals but it is the union of two families. So family members and close relatives play a major role in marriage ceremonies. Marriage between father’s sister’s daughter and mother’s brother’s daughter is prevalent. In addition nearly 90% of the Tamils adopt elder sister’s daughter marriage also. Though marriage alliances are fixed by the parents and close relatives, it will be finalized with the permission of the maternal uncle. Usually the bridegroom’s party will come to bride’s house and fix the marriage alliance. The marriage ceremonies will be conducted by the Brahmin priests in most of the marriages. The other related ceremonies like blessing the couple and offering gifts are initiated by maternal uncle. The village barber and dhobi have important roles in marriage ceremonies. When a person die, it will he informed to all relatives through a particular section of the Harijans called vettiya:n. The water to bath the dead body will be brought by the lineage groups of the deceased person. There are separate roles for blood relatives and affinal relatives in death ceremonies.
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