The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

book : 'Konyak Nagas' by Christoph von Furer-Haimendorf, (1969)

caption: Appendix: kinship terminology
medium: books
ethnicgroup: Konyak
person: Furer-Haimendorf/ C.
date: 1969
refnum: with permission from Holt, Rinehart & Winston, New York107:1
text: The main features of the Konyak kinship system have already emerged from the foregoing account of the interactions between consanguinous as well as affinal kinsmen. The terms by which they address each other are of unusual simplicity, and so few in number that the same term is used to address persons standing in quite different relationships to the speaker. The basic terms of address and their connotations are as follows:
text: 'u-phu:' Father's father, mother's father; husband's or wife's father; father or mother's father.
text: 'u-phi:' Father's mother; mother's mother; husband's or wife's father's mother or mother's mother.
text: 'u-bha:' Father.
text: 'u-niu:' Mother; father's wife ( in polygamous marriages) .
text: 'u-gou:' Mother's brother; father's sister's husband; wife's father; husband's father.
text: 'u-nie:' Father's sister; mother's brother's wife; wife's mother; husband's mother.
text: 'u-chei:' Elder brother; father's brother's son; father's sister's son; mother's brother's son (older than speaker).
text: 'u-nia:' Elder sister; father's brother's daughter; father's sister's daughter; mother's brother's daughter ( older than speaker) .
text: These terms with the prefix 'u' are used in address, whereas for purposes of reference the prefix 'e' is used with the same root; thus "the father" is 'e-bha' and "the elder brother" 'e-chei.' With these eight basic terms all the terms of address appropriate to persons older than the speaker and, hence, not addressed by name can be formed. Thus, the father's elder brother is addressed 'u-bha-yong' (great father) and the father's younger brother 'u-bha-dzui' (small father) . A man who has three elder brothers addresses them as 'u-chei-yong' (great elder brother), 'u-chei-owo' ( middle elder brother), and 'u-chei-dzui' ( small elder brother) . All these elder brothers address him by name, for kinship terms are used only when speaking to persons older than the speaker. It is birth order and not genealogical position which is decisive. No older man will address a person younger in years with a kinship term, even if he or she belongs to a generation genealogically senior to his own.
text: There are no proper kinship terms for younger siblings or for kin of descending generation. Such relatives are invariably addressed by name, and when referring to them to third persons, the speaker uses the words 'naha' (child, son, daughter) or 'nau' (younger brother, younger sister) in the appropriate combinations. These terms apply to both sexes, and if it is necessary to specify the sex of a person referred to, the words 'netan' (man, male) or 'sheko' (woman, female) are used; thus "son" is 'netan naha' and "daughter" 'sheko naha.'
text: There are no specific terms of address or reference for "husband" and "wife." Spouses do not address each other except as "father (or mother) of so-and-so," and a man referring to his wife speaks of her as 'te-nok sheko' ("woman of my house"), and a wife of her husband as 'te-nok netan' ("man of my house").
text: All these kinship terms are used not only in relation to consanguineous and affinal kin but also in addressing other villagers of appropriate age. Thus, a boy addresses all other boys older than he as '"u-chei,"' irrespective of their clan and morung affiliation; all men of his parents' generation as 'u-bha' if belonging to his father's morung group and 'u-gou' if belonging to the natal exogamous group of his mother. All men of his grandparents' generation are addressed as 'u-phu.' Thus, we see that only in the case of persons one generation senior to the speaker is a difference made between agnates and affines.
text: The only reciprocal terms of address are those used by persons of the same sex and approximately the same age. All boys who entered their morung at the same time address each other as 'shim-ba,' and they use the same term vis-a-vis boys of the same age belonging to another morung of the same exogamous group. The corresponding term of address between boys of intermarrying morung groups is 'ning-ba,' and both these terms continue to be used throughout life by adult men. They overrule the proper kinship terms, and parallel cousins of the same age address each other as 'shim-ba,' while cross-cousins address each other as 'ning-ba.'
text: Corresponding reciprocal terms are used by girls and women; these call their agemates of the same exogamous group 'ou-shim' and those of the intermarrying group 'ou-ning.'
text: These reciprocal terms of address are used not only among persons of the same village but also in conversation with people of friendly neighboring villages. Thus, men of Wakching address the men of similar age of such villages as Wanching, Chingtang, and Tanhai as 'shim-ba,' but address as 'ning-ba' those whose mothers had come from Wakching, and who are thus equated with affines.
text: When addressing friends from Thendu villages, Wakching men used the reciprocal term 'ei-ba.' This is a loan word from a Thendu dialect in which 'ei-ba' is the term of address for a parallel cousin of the same sex.
text: The only reciprocal form of address used between persons of opposite sex is 'a-mai,' and this is used between men and women of different villages, but never between persons of the same village.
text: The most notable feature of the kinship terminology of Wakching is the absence of any distinction in the terms of address used in respect to persons of the same and of a different exogamous group, with the one exception of the terms relating to the generation immediately senior to that of the speaker. Thus, a girl addresses not only her own elder brother and his agemates of the same exogamous group as 'u-chei' but also her mother's brother's son and her potential marriage partners who belong to other wards of the village. She drops this form of address only if the young man in question becomes her lover or her betrothed.
text: Similarly, the term 'u-phu' is used equally when addressing the father's father and the mother's father. The two men must necessarily belong to different clans and morungs, and a man's relationship to his paternal grandfather, from whom he inherits property, and such positions as are hereditary in his lineage, is of a different order from his relationship to his maternal grandfather, who lives in a different ward and, possibly, a different village.
text: Thus, we see that the kinship terms reflect social relations and attitudes only to a very limited extent, and it is notable that the Konyak kinship terminology, though it is of classificatory type, is much simpler and less expressive than that of other Naga tribes such as Angamis, Semas, and Aos. However, before drawing any far-reaching conclusions, it would be necessary to record the kinship terms current in Konyak dialects other than that of Wakching, a task which I was not able to complete in the time at my disposal.