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The Coming of the Maori

Kinship Terms

Kinship Terms

Generations English Terms Maori Terms Maori Collaterals
– 2 Grandparents Tipuna, tupuna
Grandfather Tipuna tone = Grand uncle
Grandmother Tipuna wahine = Grand aunt
– 1 Parents Matua
Father Matua tane = Uncle
Mother Whaea, whaene = Aunt
0 Elder brothers of male Tuakana = Cousins
Elder sisters of female Tuakana
Younger brothers of male Teina, taina
Younger sisters of female Teina, taina
Brother of female Tungane
Sister of male Tuahine
+ I Children Tamaiti (s), tamariki (pl.) Tamaiti keke Iramutu nephews and nieces
Son Tama, tamaroa
Daughter Tamahine
+ 2 Grandchildren Mokopuna
Grandson Mokopuna tone = Grand nephew
Granddaughter Mokopuna wahine = Grand niece

A greater number of terms is given by Best (16, vol. 1, p. 362), but the above are those in common use.

In the grandparent's and grandchildren's generations, the terms tupuna and mokopuna are of common gender and, as there are no special terms to denote sex, the qualifying words of tane (male) and wahine (female) are added to indicate gender. Thus the grandfather is a tipuna tane or male grandparent and the grandmother is a tipuna wahine or female page 340grandparent Similarly, the grandson is a mokppuna tane and the granddaughter is a mokopuna wahine. The qualifying term tane is added to matua (parent) to denote the father or male parent. The female parent is matua wahine, but the specific terms whaea, whaene, and koka have been evolved also to denote the mother relationship. The fact that three terms are used by different tribes indicates that a specific term for mother is not very ancient. In the children's +1 generation, the term tama for child is widely spread through Polynesia, but it has been qualified by terms which have fused into single words. Thus tamaiti, which is singular for child, is composed of tama iti (little child) and the plural is tamariki, a euphonious shortening of tama ririki (little children). Probably iti and riki (ririki), meaning "little ones" was used originally as forms of endearment, but the terms now have a wider meaning. In Mangareva, the term teiti (te iti, the little one) is used for child and in Hawaii, the dialectal form of keiki is used similarly. To denote sex, the qualifying terms of tane and wahineare also used, as in tama tane (male child) and tama wahine (female child). However, daughter has received the specific term of tamahine, in which tama is qualified by hine. Though hine may originally have been a shortening of wahine, it is now an independent word meaning "girl" or "young unmarried woman". Thus, daughter having received a specific term, the term tama was free to be used for son without causing any ambiguity, though tamaroa was also used. However, tama came to mean first-born son and tamaroa was applied to the other sons.

In the four generations already dealt with, the kinship terms denote the place in lineal descent and, when required, the sex. In the zero generation of brothers and sisters, a new element was introduced by the framing of terms to denote the succession of birth in the one family. This is indicated by the terms tuakana (senior) and teina (junior) but they can be applied only to members of the same sex. To sum up briefly, a male is tuakana to all his younger brothers and teina to all his older brothers. Thus the first-born son (matamua) is tuakana to all his brothers and teina to no one. Similarly, the last-born son (whakapakanga, potiki) is teina to all his brothers and, as he is last, is not tuakana to anyone. The intermediate brothers have and are both tuakana and teina. If there are any daughters in the family, they follow the same principle, being tuakana to all their younger sisters and teina to their older sisters.

As the terms tuakana and teina cannot be used between brothers and sisters, their relationship is expressed by a different set of terms. A male terms his sister tuahine and a female terms her brother tungane. Thus tuahine and tungane are cross terms indicating sex. The system is simple but it was of vital importance in succession to rank and in prestige.

The kinship terms listed in the table cover five generations which is sufficient for all practical purposes. Great grandparents and others farther page 341back are included under the general term of tipuna, which includes all ancestors. Similarly, great grandchildren and their children are included under the general term tnokopuna. However, great grandparents and great grandchildren may be designated by adding the term tuarua, as in tipuna tuarua (grandparent to the second degree) and mokopuna tuarua (grandchild to the second degree). Further detail is expressed by reciting the immediate lineage and ticking off the generations with the fingers.

The kinship terms used for collaterals—such as grand uncles and grand aunts, uncles and aunts, and cousins—are the same as in the similar generation levels in direct lineal descent. For uncles and aunts, however, the term matua may be qualified by the term keke which means in a different line of descent to that of father and son. The line of descent from the uncle or aunt (matua keke) will result in a nephew or niece who may also be distinguished by the term keke as a tamaiti keke. Nephews and nieces have also received the specific term of iramutu. The terms matua keke, tamaiti keke, and iramutu are of common gender, and sex can be indicated by using the qualifying terms of tane and wahine. However, in discussing relationship, the persons interested are using personal names and the sex of the person mentioned is usually known. Thus it is rarely necessary to use cumbersome combinations except to explain matters to students belonging to another culture.

In the cousin relationship, the terms tuakana and teina are also used; but, as in lineal descent, they are confined to persons of the same sex. The prestige of the tuakana is inherited, for the cousin whose father was tuakana or senior in birth to the father of the other cousin remains tuakana and his cousin remains teina. It follows that all the sons of a tuakana brother remain tuakana to all the sons of a teina brother, hence relationship is perpetuated through succeeding generations for this particular lineage. Thus the tuakana and teina relationship which commenced with the individuals of one family is carried on as a family group relationship. Some individual members of a teina family may be older in years than some members of a tuakana family but that does not alter the relationship. Hence it is preferable to refer to the relationship as senior and junior rather than as older and younger.

A similar use of the tuakana and teina terms applies to female cousins. The cross terms denoting sex, as tungane and tuahine, apply to cousins in the same way as between brother and sister.

The question of the relationship between individuals far removed is easily decided by the lineages of the two concerned and the five-generation key of kinship terms in the table. Each person in turn recites his lineage from the nearest common ancestor's family, at the same time counting the number of generations down to himself. The two totals are then subtracted and the difference in number decides the kinship terms they may page 342use towards each other. For example, if the difference is two generations, the person who is two generations shorter is in the –2 generation stratum and is thus tipuna to the other. The other, who is correspondingly two generations longer, is in the +2 generation and thus is mokopuna to the first. Similarly, if the difference is one generation, the person who is one generation shorter (–1) is matuaand the other, one generation longer (+1), is tamaiti. When the number of generations is equal (0), they are in the cousin stratum which uses the terms tuakana and teina. However, in their recital from the first common family, they have already made known which of their ancestors was senior to the other. And, as this seniority is inherited, the question of who is tuakana and who is teina has been already decided. If the difference is more than two generations, the terms tipuna and mokopuna are still used. Even when the two lineages are not equal, the family claim to the tuakana seniority is considered of more importance than the other kinship terms. Though one may be mokopuna to the other on the lineage count, he may also be tuakana from family descent. He is thus both mokopuna and tuakana to the other. If this double relationship is translated into the most literal English, he occupies the unique position of being both grandfather and elder brother to the same person. This absurdity shows the danger of identifying terms in another culture with the nearest English equivalent and treating them as synonyms.

The double relationship is recognized and honoured by the term karanga-rua, which means two relationships. In the course of several generations various complications may arise from later marriages. Thus, if members of senior and junior families married two sisters, the classification would undergo change if the senior male married the junior sister. His children would remain tuakana on their father's side but become teina on their mother's side. Though the father's line was usually the more important, it sometimes happened that the mother's line was more aristocratic and powerful. In such an instance, the junior family on their father's side would naturally stress their acquired seniority in their mother's family line. In the double relationships, the family claim to seniority was more important than the individual relationship derived from a lineage count. Thus, through all the ramifications of lineage, seniority carried the greatest prestige.

The use of similar kinship terms for close relatives and distant relatives had a valuable psychological effect in Maori society. When I was told that an aged visitor whom I had never seen before was a tipuna to me, my heart warmed towards him. I placed him in the same category as my other tipuna who resided in the same village and had lavished affection upon me. He was a member of the family. I believe that the kinship terms meant more to the Maori than such terms meant to Europeans. The use page 343of the Maori kinship terms helped to keep alive the fact that all members of the tribe belonged to the same family, and the stressing of the blood tie made them stick together through fair and foul weather.