Re: Chomsky

Tue, 5 Dec 1995 12:21:00 PST

Watts writes:

"Scheffler's 'extensionist' kinship theory and Lounsbury's
'reduction rule' approach are generative models of kin term

Not true. The extensionist argument BEGINS with a simplified kin term
strucuture and, in effect, asks how the (supposedly) full range of kin types
classified by kin terms can be derived from this structure. The
structure is a given and the analysis does not account for the structure.
The role of rewrite rules is to allow for expansion of the so-called kernel
kintypes for the kin terms to be expanded to the full range of kintypes
included under a kin term.

The approach makes the STRONG assumption that kinship is primarily about
geneology and that kin terms are essentially means to classify sets of kin
types. It is NOT generative in that there is no account made of the assumed
structure to which the rewrite rules are applied. Note that there is no
constraint on the content of rewrite rules, so in effect ANY pseudo kinship
terminology can be analyzed using rewrite rules. Of course, with "strange"
artificial terminologies, one may not arrive at a very parsimonius set of
rewrite rules.

The assumption that kinshp is primarily about geneology has, of course, been
heavily criticised by David Schneider. However, this kind of debate can be
interminable and what is needed is demonstration.

In my own work on kinship terminology strucutures I demonstrate the precise
sense in which a terminology constitutes an abstract, cultural construction
distinct from the notion of a geneological space. Further, the modeling I do
demonstrates (a) the sense in which this structure is "generatable" and (b)
clarifies (I believe) the sense in which we can talk about "surface strucure"
and "deep structure" by the analysis also providing a sequence for the
inclusion of sturctural rules. Thus, for the AMerican kinship temrinology,
the "deep structure" is generated by the equation Parent of Child = Self; our
Cousin Terminology (Ith cousin J times removed) uses a rule that is at a
"surface level", etc.

D. Read