Prescriptive and Proscriptive in Anthropologese

Thu, 25 Apr 1996 14:13:27 -0700

Because Holly comments on Ralph Holloway's reference to prescriptive and
proscriptive in the anthro literature, and she provides a definition of the
current meaning of 'prescriptive' in educationese, I thought I should forward
to the list (for the benefit of non-kinship specialists) my earlier private
response to Ralph concerning the meaning of the pre- and pro- terms in



The prescriptive/proscriptive terminology that you recall does not refer to
types of families but to marriage systems. Proscriptive systems are those
which specify who you cannot marry, e.g., parallel cousins in some systems.
Prescriptive systems are those which tell you that you must marry someone from
one or more named social categories. These categories are usually labeled by
referential kin terms. For example, some systems prescribe that men must marry
women who belong to the category which contains the mother's brother's

Phil Young

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