I'm working on my conlang kinship terms, but for now, delving into the Chinese kinship terms. Chinese kinship is akin to the Sudanese system, in which nearly every relative has a different term. To start with your basic terms:
--- genetic kin ---
Father- 父親/爸爸 fùqīn/bàba
Mother- 母親/媽媽 mŭqīn/māma
Older Brother- 哥哥 gēge
Older Sister- 姊姊 jiĕjie
Younger Brother- 弟第 dìdi
Younger Sister- 妹妹 mèimei
Son- 兒子 érzi
Daughter- 女兒 nǚ’ér
--- fictive kin ---
Husband- 丈夫 zhàngfū
Wife- 妻子 qīzi
Godfather- 教父 jiàofù
Godmother- 教母 jiàomŭ
Godson- 教子 jiàozi
Goddaughter- 教女 jiàonǚ
But like the Sudanese system, the Chinese kinship system basically differentiates relatives based on the following criteria:
(1) Father's vs. mother's side- in perhaps a reflection of traditional culture, many of the maternal relatives start with 外 wài, which means 'other' or 'foreign' or 'besides': reflecting the traditional paternal-ness of Chinese culture.
(2) Gender, like English, but more specific: male cousins vs. female cousins, just like male siblings vs. female siblings, are differentiated.
(3) Age- with reference to siblings. Not only does Chinese differentiate between older and younger siblings, it differentiates between the older and younger siblings of both your parents: in effect, aunts and uncles are termed differently depending on whether they are older or younger than your father or mother.
(4) Generation- more or less like English.
To list the complete system would take ages (and besides, there are some good websites, which I just can’t remember at the exact moment, that will tell you exactly how to call your father’s older brother’s wife’s mother in Chinese, for example) but I think it would be instrumental to illustrate some common English terms and show the actual Chinese terms.
伯伯 bóbo- father’s older brother
叔叔 shúshu- father’s younger brother
舅舅 jiùjiu- mother’s brother
姑夫 gūfū- father’s sister’s husband
姨丈 yízhàng- mother’s sister’s husband
First cousin (this one is especially complex)
堂哥 tánggē- paternal male cousin older than you
堂弟 tángdì- paternal male cousin younger than you
堂姊 tángjiĕ- paternal female cousin older than you
堂妹 tángmèi- paternal female cousin younger than you
表哥 biăogē- maternal male cousin older than you
表弟 biăodì- maternal male cousin younger than you
表姊 biăojiĕ- maternal female cousin older than you
表妹 biăomèi- maternal female cousin younger than you
As you can see from the set of terms for “first cousin,” the system isn’t entirely irregular; in fact, the words for “first cousin” are perhaps the most regular in the kinship system: they are made up straightforwardly of 堂 vs. 表 paternal vs. maternal and the appropriate sibling term.
祖父 zŭfù / 爺爺 yéye- paternal grandfather
祖母 zŭmŭ / 奶奶 năinai- paternal grandmother
外祖父 wàizŭfù / 外公 wàigōng- maternal grandfather
外祖母 wàizŭmŭ / 外婆 wàipó- maternal grandmother
Here we can see the difference between your father’s parents and your mother’s parents, which are perceived as being secondary, almost, to your paternal grandparents.
Grandchildren (the last one, I’m getting tired!)
孫子 sūnzi- son’s son (paternal grandson)
孫女 sūnnǚ- son’s daughter (paternal granddaughter)
外孫子 wàisūnzi- daughter’s son (maternal grandson)
外孫女 wàisūnnǚ- daughter’s daughter (maternal granddaughter)
Again we see the distinction made using 外 wài to separate the grandchildren.
Perhaps one of the reasons all of these terms have lasted so long in the modern day is that Chinese people generally don’t refer to relatives more senior to themselves by their given name. For example, from my personal experience, I don’t know any of the names of my aunts or uncles: I call them by their relative term. In case there are more than one of them (which is obviously quite possible: your mother could have three older brothers), they are ordered by number:
大舅 dàjiù- “oldest uncle”
二舅 èrjiù- “second-oldest uncle”
三舅 sānjiù- “third-oldest uncle”
A few things that I didn't include in the main body of the post:
- most of the terms I've included here are the familiar terms; I haven't included the formal terms just because of a lack of stamina.
- if I made a mistake, please tell me. I had to look up a bunch of these because I just don't know them (my father doesn't have any older brothers, so I didn't know how they were called)
Hope this is interesting!
Unfortunately, I don't like this username anymore, but seeing as how I'm too lazy to start a new account, I'll have to stick with this.
Last edited by dragonprince99 on Wed Jan 10, 2007 4:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.