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This 'baby talk' register is discussed below. ... domains the child is expected to lean by observation. ... name), and at the abstract relational stage the children showed .... generation can be referred to as ngaju-purdangka 'my same generation.

Pragmatics l:3.3I9 -344 InternationalPrasmaticsAssociation


Introduction The paperdiscussesaspectsof the socializationof the Warlpiri child, concentrating on the child's exposureto the kin terms and kin system.It reportson a study which investigatedwhen the children have knowledge of thekin termsand the systemwhich underliestheir use. The acquisitionof all languagesis embeddedin a particularsocial context.The child learnslinguistic forms throughsocial interactionas well asthe sociallyappropriateusesfor theseforms. In addition,languageitself canbe a socialtool (Vygotsky 1978). How the child is perceivedin the culturedeterminesto some extendhow the adults and siblings interact withthechild. This interactionwill affect the acquisitionof the knowledge of thelanguage,knowledgeof the forms as well as knowledgeof their use. Interactionpatternsvary dependingpartly on the cultural expectations of the child. As Ochs (1986:8)points out, societiesdiffer in thedevelopmental point at which and the situationsin which it is appropriate for the child to assumeparticularroles. For example,Ochs (1986;1988) describesthe WesternSamoanpatternin which the focus of leamingis on the child, and Schieffelin(1986) describesthe teasing routinesusedby adult Kaluli speakersin addressinga child, as well as the modellingof appropriateforms. Theseare ways of Lontrolling the children in theprocessof socialization. The culturalview of the Warlpiri people,like that of other Australian Aboriginalgroupsis that knowledgeis gainedthrough experienceand maturity.The Warlpiri, like other AustralianAboriginal groups,do not generallyattemptto teachwith direct verbal instruction. Ratherthe child acquires knowledgeby observationand experiencein real life situations. Knowledgeis acquiredas the child matures. Some knowledgemay be withhelduntil an individual is mafureenoughto use it. Youngchildrenare not assumedto be talking Warlpiri when they first utterexpressions2. Thus adultsand older siblingsdo not expandor recast


Edith L. Bovin

children'searly attemptsto communicate,althoughthey do teasethe children by imitating their attemptsto pronouncelhewbrds. This 'baby talk' registeris discussedbelow. Interpretationsare not given to the earty utterancesmade by thc child, nor until the child is assumedto have very little in an adult$gyl.Oge to convey. The under 2 year-oldutters child interactionsettirrg,but will producemore 'talk' wiih just anotherchild present.This indicatesthat the child, evenat this early agl, ir socializedto produce only when there is knowledgeto convey or when one has the statusto hold the floor. Schieffelin& Ochs (1986) identify the socializationprocessas rhe transmissionof cultural knowledgethat is necessaryfor the child to becomea competentmember of the society. A major part of the sociali-ationprocessin a Warlpiri communityis leaming aboutthe subsection(kinship) systemand its control of social beliavior.The system is tied to the social and political organizationof the people,and to become a functional member of the community,it is necessaryto gain an understandingof the system. The importanceof the systemis reflectedin the adult use of explicit verbal instructionfor kin termi, whereasin other domainsthe child is expectedto lean by observation.In addition,adults modify the kinship terminology when they are directly addressinga young child. As Rogoff (1989:65-66)pointsout in her discussionof socialization in other communities,adults frequentlyselectactivitiesand materialsthey considerappropriatefor children of a particularage.By regulatingaccess and difficulty of a task the adult structuresthe learningactivity. Ho*euer, as will be shown in this paper,the structuringby the Warlpiri adultsdoes not lead to early masteryof the systemby th-eWarlpiri children. Rather, as in English speakingcommunities,both maturity and experienceare necessaryfor a child to acquireknowledgeof a kin systemand the terrns associated with it. 2

Studies on the acquisition of kinship terms

Acquisitionstudieson kinship terms(English)suggesrrhat a young child is not able to deal with a kinship systemas an abitraction.Ai firstthe child usesterrnsin referenceto particularindividuals,whereasolder children and adults use the terms in a more general,relationalway (Benson& Anglin, 1987).Knowledgeof the systemtakesmany yearsro

The acquisition of Warlpii kin terms


acquire.Kin terms,unlike other nouns,are relationalratherthan referentialbecausethey identify a person in relation to others in the kin groups.Piaget(1928) sfudiedchildren'sunderstandingof brother and sister,and identifiedthree stagesin children agedfrom 4 to 12 years.The childrenfirst identified a featureof meaning(sex), and later showed awareness of the relational aspect,and finally the reciprocalnatureof theseterms.Danzier (1957) interviewedchildren agedfrom 5 to 8 years andidentifiedfour stagesin the child's developmentof the concepts identifiedby the terms brother,sister,daughter,cousin and uncle. At the precategorical stage,children identified a specificperson,at the categorical stagethey gave some featuresof meaning,at the concrete relationalstagethey gave associations(such as 2 peoplehaving the same name),and at the abstractrelational stagethe children showed awareness of the system. A numberof other studieson children'sunderstandingof kin terms havebeenconducted(e.g. Elkind 1962;Haviland & Clark I9l4; Chambers & Tavuchis t97 6). Factorsthat have been found to influence theacquisitionof the adult-like understandingof the terms include semantic complexityand frequencyin the child's experience.Haviland andClark (I97 4) proposedthat kin terms which requiredmore semantic features to identify them within the systemare more complex, and therefore harderto acquire,than terms with fewer feafures(basedon the component analysisof Bierwisch 1970). On this basisthey hypothesized thatgrandfatherand grandmotherare more complex than father and mother,while father,mother, son and daughterare less complex than brotherand sister. They investigatedfifteen kin terrns:mother, father, grandmother, grandfather,son, daughter,grandson,granddaughter, brother,sister,aunt uncle, niece, nephew,and cousin, with (American) Englishspeakingchildrenfrom 3 to 8 years-of-ageusing an interview technique. The resultssupportedthe view that semanticcomplexity predicted the orderof acquisition. At first children either failed to respond, respondedincorrectly or named a particularperson. At the secondstage,thechildren used some featureof meaning;at the third stage theyshowedawarenessof the relation. Only the oldest subjectswere awareof the reciprocalnature of the terrn. Anglin (1985)surnmarizinga numberof studieswhich focussedon thechild'smeaningsof words, noted that there is a qualitativechangein thestructureof definitionsas the child gets older, a changefrom concrete


Edith L. Bavin

definitions basedon personalexperienceto abstractdefinitionsin terms of genusand differentia. Anglin used an interview techniqueto study children'sunderstandingof kin terms. A questionnaireubout the children's familiarity with the terms was given to th'eparents.The terms studies were mother, father, sister,brother, son, daughter,wife, husband,aunt, uncle, grandmotherand grandfather.The chifdren were aged from 3 to 6 years,and a gro-uPof adults was also tested.The 3 year-dldswere found to n_ameparticular people; after 3 years,there *as i.r increasein the tendencyto talk about the terms in more generalways. By 6, most of the children were either giving relevantfearurts in their definitionsor were expressingsome knowledg.eof the relation.Reciprocitywas not frequentlyfound in the definitions,even from the adults.It was found that semanticcomplexity did not correlatesignificantlywith order of acquisition,whergas_experience did. other studiei also (e.g. Danziger 1957, chambers & Tavuchis 1976,Benson& Anglin rq'gz) have illustratedthat the child's experienceis a factor in"theacquisitionof kin terms. In summary,the sfudiescited above indicatethat English-speaking children acquireknow_ledge g{ the kin systemgraduallyoi., a p^eriodo} years;children under 5 have little k19wiedg" o1 kin reiations,.u.r, though sometermsare familiar as namesof individuals.

The Warlpiri kinship system 3.1


. Y"ggit (1962)discussesthe Warlpiri kinship sysremin relationto rhe social organizationof the Warlpiri peopte.a Aetaitedanalysisof the systemis given in Laughren(1982),Nash (1980) discussesthe relarion betweenthe kinship systemand land, and Wafei (tgSZ) comparesrhe Warlpiri kinship systemwith otherAboriginalkinship systems.Keen -kinship (.1988)gives an overyiew of the study of systemsof Aboriginal Australia. Laughren (1982:72) describesthe warlpiri systemas a complex hierarchicallyorganizedstructurewhich encompasses a conventionalized set of relationsbasedon the maternaland patemal relations.These relationshold betweenindividualson the bisis of actualgenealogical

The acquisition of Warlpiri kin terms


relationship,or on the basis of their membershipof recognizedrelated sets.The kinship systemis extendedto the relationshipsbetweenpeople andtheir actualand ontological world. Thus it encodesthe social and politicalorganization.Social, ritual and political organizationis encodedin termsof kin relations.Avoidance relationsare determinedby the system, asare suitable marriagepartners. As Laughren(1982) points out, terms denotingkin relationsmake up a largepart of the lexicon. In addition, the morphology of the language makesseveraldistinctionsbasedon kin versusnon-kin terms. One exampleis the use of the possessivenyanu; this is attachedto a kin term andis usedin conjunction with the dative case-markedname of the individualwho is in a particular kin relation to the nyanu marked form. Examples aregiven in (1). (1) a. ngati-nyanu kurdu-ku mother-Poss child-DAT 'the child's mother' b. ngati-nyanu Jangtla-ku mother-Poss Jangala-DAT 'Jangala's mother' Otherpossessivemorphemesare used for non-kin terms: the form (as in (2a)) and nyangu is the kurlanguis usedwith nominal possessors pronominal possessor form (as in (2b)). In addition to the specialkin possessor nyanu, there are other morphemeswhich encodeinformation aboutgenerationof relations. For example,someoneof the same 'my generation can be referredto as ngaju-purdangka samegeneration 'my kin'or ngajupalangu older generationkin'. (2) a. karnta-kurlangu woman -POSS 'thg woman's' b. ngaju-nyangu 1: sg-POSS 'ming' Relationssuch as mother and father are binary in that if one knows thata personA is mother of a child C, then one also knows that C is the


Edith L. Bavin

child of A. But other relationsare not binary. A personin the Warlpiri conununity has relationsto any other memberof the community dependingon his/her own subsection(often called skin-name)and the subsectionof the other (Laughren 1982:76).For each of the 8 subsections,there is a male name, which smns with J, and a related female name, which startswith N. Thus there are 16 subsectionnames, and every individual in the communitywill belongto a subsectiongroup, the particular one dependingon the subsectionsof the parents. The systemis complex, and there are many levels at which an individual in the community has a relationto others.Distinctionsare made on the basis of maternalversuspaternalmoietiesas well as generation. Some aspectsof the subsectionsystemwill be describedin the next section. 3.2

The subsection names

The eight subsectionsare given in figure 1. Dependingon the mother and father's subsections,the child's own subsectionname can be workeC out. Marriage partnersare chosenon the basisof their skin group. I will illustratewith first choice marriageshow the subsectionof the child is determinedby the subsectionsof his parents.The naming is basedon a patrilineal system,with a male child having the samename as his father's father. -->Japaljarri Napaljarri

Nakamarra Jakamarra4--

Japangardi Napangardi



Japanangka Napanangk

Napurrula Jupurrulaz-

Jungarrayi Nungarrayi Fig. 1: the Warlpiri sub-sectionnames

The acquisition of Warlpiri kin terms


The horizontalarrows in figure I representfirst choice marriage partnersand the vertical arrows representfather-sonrelations.The figure illustrates, for example,that a male namedJapaljani has a sister Napaljarri,and a male namedJakamarrahas a sisternamedNakamarra. A Jakamarramarriesa Napaljarri,and a Japaljani marriesa Nakamarra.The childrenof Japaljani and Nakamarraare Jungarrayi andNungarrayi.The children of Jakamarraand Napaljarri are Jupurrula andNapumrla. Note that in those instanceswhen a woman marries someonewho is notin the right subsectionfor a first choicemarriagepartner,the child has two skin names,one that is associatedwith the classifactoryname for the mother'schildren,had stremade a first choicemarriage,and one that is associated with the biological father. The subsections are divided into two moieties(Nash 1980).These arekirda,ego'spatrimoiety,and kurdungurlu. the oppositemoiety to ego. Withineachmoiety there are two sections. Ego refers to his own section askuyuwapirra,and the other sectionin a patrimoietyis kuyuwurruru. Thetwo moietiesfunction in ritual to determinewho 'owns' a particular myth,associated with tracks and sites relatedto dreamings. These are thetracksand sites of ancestralbeings who once inhabited the land, the spiritsof which still occupythe land. In ceremony,kirda perform while kurdun$rlu preparethe ground and sacredsymbols.A personis in a kirdarelationthrough his/her father and in a kurdungurlu relationshipto a dreaming throughhis/her mother. For each of thesesubsectionnames therearevariants,often shortenedwords, which are used affectionately. Forexample,Jakarrais usedfor Jakamarra.


Other kin terms

Many distinctionsare made in the Warlpiri kinship systemthat are notmadein English,and somedistinctionsin the English systemare not madein Warlpiri. The age of the speakermay be relevantin determining theformsto use.For example,there is a distinctionbetweenolder brother andyoungerbrother and betweenolder sister and younger sister,but for youngchildrenthe distinctionis neutralized.Whereasan adult and older childwouldusepapirdi for older brotherand kukurnu for youngerbrother,


Edith L. Bavin

a young child would usekakiyi for both. Similarly, whereasan older speakerwould use kapirdi for older sisterand ngawurru for younger sister,the young child would use yeyi. That is, the young child is not expectedto have the full rangeof terms.This knowledgeis expectedto developas the child matures. For the male child, the initiation period is an importanttime for showing maturity. ln the Warlpiri systern,the mother and her sistersare linked with one kin name, and the father and his brothers are linked. Ngati is used for both biological mother and mother'ssisters.Plmirdi is usedfor father's sister,and for mother'sbrother ngamirni is used.There is not one term for grandmotheror for grandfather;this dependson whetherone is referring to the parentsof father or mother. For example,father'sfather and his sisterare warringiyi, while mother'sfather and his sisterarejAgltdi. Father'smother and her brother are yaparla, and mother'smother and her brother are jqiA. Thus the basis of the kin terms is matrilineal versus patrilineal rather than sex.


Skin names and kin terms

In terms of the immediatefamily, if a Napaljarri'smother has two sisters,there are three people who will be referredto as ngati, but in the systemas a whole, any Nangala is in the mother relationto Napaljani. For Napaljarri, Japaljarri will be the subsectionname for a number of relationsincluding brother, father'sfather, father'sfather'ssister and brother,and brother'sson'sson. Namesthrough the male line will be the samein alternate generations.Thus Japaljarri'sfather'sfather is Japaljani. This is one of the cyclic featuresthat representsthe cultural model of the Warlpiri people.Other linguistic manifestationsof it are in the use of one word for both the sourceand product (e.g. warlu 'fire, firewood'; kuyu 'animal, meat'. Hale (1987) refers to this as the logic of complementarity,or the logic of eternity. Non-linguisticmanifestationsare seenin the interaction of past and presentin story telling, paintings,and ceremony.

The acquisition of Warlpiri kin terms



Input speech to young children

Although adults do not attemptto expandor recastthe child's early utterances, they use a stylized 'baby talk' with children. Laughren 'baby describes this talk' as an adult constructwhich imitates featuresof (1984:73). childlanguage The style involves a numberof phonological substitutions which has the effect of reducingthe consonantinventory. Theadultsystemusesfive placesof articulation,and the 'baby talk' three. Bilabialand velar stopsare retained,but the apico-alveolar,apico-domal andlaminalpalatalare all producedas lamino- palatal. In addition, consonant clustersmay be reduced,and initial consonantsdropped. A numberof the few lexical items specific to 'baby talk' are in the kin domain.For example,mamiyi usedfor ngati 'mother'and papa is usedfor 'father'3. Children of 4 years demonstratesome awarenessof this style; theyusethe registerto their youngersiblingsin teasingsituations, mimickingtheir attemptsto articulate. From an early age the baby hearsthe subsectionnamesof ego and others.In my experiencein Yuendumu over an 8 year period, I have observed that even a very young baby is 'introduced'to othersin the immediate environmentby being told that person'ssubsection(skin) name;the skin name of the baby is also announced.The baby may be wokenup to be 'introduced'.Although there are affectionateforms for the skinnames,the full adult forms are usedfor 'introductions'and the adult formsare generallyused when a child is called to from a distance.The affectionate forms are used in familiar contexts,for example,when older siblingsaffectionatelypinch the baby'scheeks. Youngchildren (2-3 years)are introducedto their parentsand parents brother'sand sistersby terms which signify the fundamentalkin relations on which the Warlpiri kinship systemis based:the paternaland matemalrelations(Laughren 1984:82).Semanticfeafuressuch as sex of individualmembersof setsare not pertinentat this age. Thus in talking to a baby,the adult may use papa to signify father,father'sbrother and fatherssister,and mamiyi to signify mother,mother'ssistersand mother's brother.By the time the child is 3-4 years,sex is distinguished;pgp (for fatherandfather'sbrother)is distinguishedfrom pimiyi (=pjmirdD 'father's sister', while mamiyi (for mother and mother'ssister)is distinguishedfrom aminyi(=ngamirni)mother'sbrother.


Edith L. Bavin

Wafingiyi is the 'baby talk' form of waningiyi. for father'sfather and his siblings.The specialform tartartamay be usedfor mother'sfather, and his siblings The adult usesjamirdi. For yaparli 'father'smother',the 'baby talk' form is aparli, and this is usedwith the young child. For mother's mother the adult form jaja is usedeven with young children.In addition, as noted above,kakiyi may be usedfor all brothersand yayi for all sisters, irrespectiveof their age. Another overgeneralization is allowed in the use of ngaju-ku purdangka 'my samegeneration'for grandparentsas well as siblingsand cousins,as opposedto ngaju-kupalangu'my ascending generation'(Laughren 1984:85).Thus the generationlevels are not distinguishedas in standardWarlpiri, but the link betweenown generation and grandparents'generation is reinforced. Although there are attemptsto modify the labels for kin, and to simplify the systemfor young children,as indicatedabove,the special 'baby talk' is not all the child hears.The families live in campsin extended families. Peoplesit togetherin groups.The child is part of the daily activity of the camp, and sleepswhen the adults sleep,togetherwith family members.The noise level of the campsmay be quite high with people constantlyinteracting. It is not possibleto relateto an individual if that persondoesnot have a name, and thus the naming routine is predominantfrom the time the child is born. The attempt to introducethe child to a simplified set of the kin terms through baby talk is a formal attempt to induct the child into the complex systemwhich will needto be masteredif the child is to becomea competentmember of the society.It is an acknowledgement that the systemis difficult. Just as other knowledgeis controlled,and withheld until the individual has reacheda level of maturity that the people feel is sufficient for more knowledgeto be imparted,so is the kin terminology controlled. The patternof naming and teachingis basedon the generalcultural view of levels of knowledge.Knowledgewill be withheld until the individual has shown readinessto cope with it. The society recognizesmaturity and developmentrather than imposing knowledgeto lead to development.

The acquisition of Warlpii kin terms



What children use: naturalistic data

YoungWarlpiri children (under6) do use somekin terms when addressing particularindividualsor talking aboutparticularindividuals, althoughit is more usual to hear personalnamesbeing used. When skin namesareused,they function like personalnamesin that they are used to referto an individual. A few examplesof children'suse of kin terms are givenbelow. Theseare taken from one 30 minute tape with 3 children talkingtogether.The age of the speakeris given in bracketsafter each example. (3) kala nyampu-rla ngawumr . ngampu-rla but here-LOC sister here-LOC 'How about here, sister.' l a ; 11 l (4) yaparla nyangka-wiyi grandma,look-first 'Look first, grandmother.' [3;8]

(s) iqia 'grandma'


Thereare other exampleson the tape: the 3;8 year-old namesa doll aslJapal9 for Japaljani, and the 4;11 year-oldcalls out Napumrla to a girl with the skin name of Napurrula.One Z year-oldtapedon other occasions regularlyreferredto herself as Lalala for Nangala,her skin name.

The study

6.1 Introduction Giventhe exposurethe children have to the kin terms, it was hypothesized that young Warlpiri childrenwould be familiar with the terms by the ageof 5. The study was designedto test this hypothesisand also to investigate at what age the children had knowledgeof the kin system. An interviewtechniquewas used.



Edith L. Bavin

Data collection

A matureWarlpiri lady (mid 40's) interviewedchildren from different age levels to find out what they knew about the forms and system.A total of 39 children were interviewedand for purposesof discussion,thesewere divided into 6 groups.Details are given in table 1. Group | 2 3 4 5 6

N 7 I 7 6 6 6

Age range 4:l-5;9 5;10-6;4 6;5-6;11 7;4-1;fi 8;7-9;8 10;0-13;6

Mean Age 4;9 6; 1 6; 7 7: 7 9; 0 11;10

Table 1: Age rangesof children interviewed Included in the interviewswere terms that two adult female Warlpiri thought the children would know at 5 years.Theseare listed below in table 2. I have given one glossfor eachterm, althoughfor someof the tenns there are severalrelations that can be so named, such as mother's sisterfor mother. For cultural reasons,not all children interviewedwere askedabout each of the terms. If a child seemedto be 'shamed'by a lack of knowledge (kurnta), or if the child just repeatedthe words given or just gave his/her own skin name for the first few items, the interviewerdid not continue. She decidedthe child did not have the knowledgeand was not ready for the questions. The subsectionnameswere also included in the interview (seefigure 1), but how many were askedagaindependedon the situation.The assistantdecidedwhat was appropriate.

The acquisition of Warlpiri kin terms

Parentsgeneration: ngati kirdana pimirdi ngamimi mamiyi papa Grandparents generation: waningiyi yaparla jamirdi jaja Owngeneration: papardi kukurnu kakiyi kapirdi ngawurru yayi wankili jukana kalinyanu Youngergeneration ngalapi kurduna

'mother' 'father' 'father's sister' 'mother's brother 'mother' 'father' 'father's father' 'father's mother' 'mother's father' 'mother's mother' 'older brother' 'younger brother' 'brother' 'older sister' 'younger sister' 'sister' 'cross cousin-male' 'cross cousin -female' 'spouse' 'brother's children' 'sister's children'



Table2: Kin terms used in the study The questionsusedto elicit the informationincludedthosegiven in (6) (8). Useof thesequestionsassumesthat the child understoodthe morphology. In fact, chilclrenof 3 do know the following: the question word,the pronominalforms (bound and free), the tenseforms, the verbs, andthe caseforms used. (6) Nyiya nyiya ka-npa nyina-mi nyuntu-ju? a'What skin IPFV-2:SG:SUBsit-NP you(SG)-FOC skin are you?'


EdithL. Bavin

(7) Nviva ka-nsku

nvina-miJaoaliarri-kr IPFV-2:SG:OB sit-NP Japaljarri-DAT a nyuntu-ku-ju? you(SG)-DAT-FOC 'What is Japaljarrito you?'

(8) Nviva ka-npa

nsarra-rninvuntu-nvansu IPFV-2:SG:SUB call-NP you-POSS a -vaoarla? yaparla? 'What yaparla is to you?'

6.3 6.3.1

Responses Overview

The children of 9 and older showeda greatdeal of interestin questions, the treatingthe interview like a puzzleto be solved.In fact, severalof the children interviewed cameback on other occasionsto talk about the kin names. When they were not able to respond,the older children indicatedif they had heard the terrn and were just not sure what it meant to them, or if the term was unknown. Most of the youngestchildren failed to respondto most of the terms asked. Nor did they want to guessif they were not sure of a relation;they avoided responding,following the cultural expectationsthat the child speaks when she/hehas knowledge to give. When they did respond,the youngestchildren sometimesgave the location of the individual with a gestureor locativeexpression.For exampleyali 'there'or ngurra-ngka 'at home' were used. A few (correctly) gave the first name. For example,for pimirdi (FS),one child of 4;8 gavea personalname,and for warringiyi (FF), a child of 4;4 gavea personalname.Responses from the 5-6 year-oldswere varied;a boy of 5;8 respondedwith ngaju-ku purdangka'my samegenerationkin' for kaki),i (B), and a child of 6;8 gave the skin namefor her kapirdi (S). By the age of 13, the children were quite confidentwith many of the terms, but only a few could generalizebeyond their own perspective.In contrast,the adultsquestionedcould respondto all

The acquisirtonof Warlpiri kin terms


itemsand could also take anotherperson'sperspective.One piece of evidence that the children understoodthe terms was that they could giveacceptableresponses;anotherwas that they could give translation equivalentsin English. Patternsof responsefor each age groupare summarizedin the following sections. 6.3.2 Group I responses The youngestchild to producean appropriateskin name in response to a kin term was aged 4;8. He knew that Jangalawas E& Oneotherchild in group 1 also correctly respondedto pgp. However,the oldestchild in the groupjust gavehis own skin name for all questionsasked,indicating that he was aware that the terms relatedto one domain,but he was not able to interpretthe relations. Four other skin nameswere producedfrom the two 4;8 year-olds. Thesewere not appropriate,but reveal some interestingerror pattems.One responsewas FF for FM, and the samechild then gave MM for FF. That is, the generationfeaturewas correct,but not the moietyor gender.The other child producedMF for F and MFS for MM. The secondexamplehas the correct generation,moiety and genderbut not the correct relation.The other error is in overgeneralizing the skin name of her mother'sfather to her own. This indicates that child hears a kin term and skin name usedby the parents but associates them with a particularindividual. A child of 4;4 usedygyi S in responseto kapirdi OS, but also usedyayi for other femalekin terms (for example,ptmlrdi FS). He usedngaju-kupurdangka'mygenerationkin'in responseto kakiyi B, butusedit also for Jungarrayi MB. Theseresponsesindicatethat he hadknowledgeto give: he knew yayi is a term for a sisterrelation but wasnot respondingfrom his own perspective. The responsesgive were not wild guesses.The children thought aboutthe termsbefore responding.The resultsfrom group 1 indicate somefamiliarity with a few of the terms,but the children do not show anunderstanding of all of the terms or the system.


Edith L. Bavin


Group 2 responses

The use of a parent'sperspectivewas more evident in responses from group 2. A child of 5;10 usedher father'sperspectivein giving the responsejqiA MI\4, the term her father would use for the skin name questioned.That the child later gave the sameskin name for the prompt j4ia indicatesthat the responsewas not a guess.Two children used MM for MF, identifying the generationand moiety, but not gender,and one used M for two grandparents.Only 5 of the 7 subjectswere able to identify the skin name of a grandparent.No-one gave more than one, and there were differencesin which grandparent was named. This indicatesthat experienceis a factor in the learning of the kin relations.One of the grandparentswould be more salient than the others,dependingon the family. The best known relation was M. Of the 7 children, 5 were able to identify the skin name of M, and the other 2 gavea personalname. For the B and S relations,one child respondedappropriatelyto all six terms. Another child knew the three sisterterms,but only kakiyi for brother. A third child knew kakiyi and ygl only. Two responsesfor S were MM. This is an overgeneralizationacrossgenderin that a boy and his grandfatherhave the sameskin name,but not a girl and her grandmother. Group 2 subjectswere not able to identify skin namesof cross cousins(children of father'ssister or of mother'sbrother).Nor could they identify the skin namesof their own children'sgeneration.This is not surprisingif experiencefacilitatesthe acquisitionof kin terms. For the questionsin which the subjectwas given a skin name and was expectedto provide a kin term for that name,most found the task difficult. However, one boy gave more correct responsesfor this task than the reverse,when skin nameswere elicited. He provided kin termsfor the following relations:FS, MM, MB, F, S, B,CC (male).In addition he gave a personalname for FF. He chosekakiyi for identifying his brother'sskin group, and yayi for his sister's.He also usedtwo English terms, 'uncle'for MB and 'cousin'for a CC skin group.

The acquisition of Warlpiri kin terms



Group 3 responses

Group3 responseswere similar to group 2. Tltree children were ableto give the skin group for FF and two for M. It was evident that somechildren were more familiar with the terms than others. For example, one girl of 6;5 (subject 16) gave appropriateskin namesfor thefollowingkin relations:FF, F, FS, Sp, OS, and YS. For MF she usedthe skin name of FF, and for MM she identified the skin name of FM, so confusedthe moieties. Two other children in the group used FM for MM and one used FF for MF. The use of English terms was one of the patternsthat emergedin responses from group 3 for identifying kin relationsfrom skin names. Theseweregiven to a Warlpiri interviewer,an seniorlady in the community. For example,subject16 identifiedFF in Warlpiri, but she gavethe following English terms: 'father','uncle'(for MB), 'sister',and 'brother'(for CC). Other children usedpgpa and mamiyi; thesecan beexplainedin that they are used in the 'baby talk' register. However'uncle','aunty',and 'cousin'reflect that the children are exposed to English in the community school.The 6 year-oldsare generallyin grade1, and they acquireEnglish kin tenns before they havemasteredthe Warlpiri forms. 6.3.5 Group 4 responses Somechildren are more advancedthan others in acquiring the formsandin understandingthe system.One subjectin group 4, a girl of 7;6,identifiednine kin terms with appropriateskin namesfrom her perspective, while anotheridentified only four. The nine were: FF, FM,MM, F, FS, M, Sp, B, and CC. Four of the six childrenidentified FF.Onechild confusedthe moietiesgiving the skin name of FF for bothMF and MM. MM skin group was identified for M by three children,suggestingthey hear their mother using her own mother's skinname. Three children were able to identify CC relations. Papa wasthe term for F that the children respondedto, not warringiyi, but bothngatiand mamiyi were known for M.

Edith L. Bavin



Group 5 responses

More awarenessof the kin Systemwas evident from the responsesof group 5, that is the 8 and 9 year-olds.It was possibleto give the full set of questionsto most of the subjects,whereasthis was not possiblewith the younger children. The rangeof appropriateskin namesgiven for kin terms was 5-9. The terms yayi S and kakiyi B were known by the subjects. The other items that were best known are listed below. Note that four of the childrenknew the skin name of their classifactoryspouse. Relation Response(N=6) M6 MM6 FF5 FS4 Sp4 Of the sibling terrnsother than yAy! and kakiyi, kapirdi OS was best identified with three appropriateresponses,but no-one correctly identifiedthe skin for YS or YB. For the task eliciting kin terms from skin names,the FF relation most often elicited a personalname ratherthan kin term. Only one personusedwaningiyi. FM was not well known. Four of the six children knew MM, but none knew MF. F was referredto as papa by five of the six, and M as mamiyi by all six. Pimirdi was given for FS by 'Uncle' was usedfor MB by all six. For the S 'aunty' by two. three and 'sister', two usedyAyi S, and one kapirdi relation, three children used 'brother'.Both OS. For the B relation,two usedkakiyi and one used 'child' and kurdu 'child' were usedfor the skin namesof children. 'spouse's sister'was known by two children.Crosscousins Mantirri 'cousin', and this term was occasionally were identified as overgeneralizedto other relationsif the responderwas not sure of the 'aunt'were also overgeneralized,'utlcle' 'uncle' and correctterm. Both 'aunty' female skin names. to to male skin names.and

The acquisition of Warlpiri kin terms


Group 6 responses

The responsesfrom the oldest group (agesranging from 10;6 13;6)revealedmore awarenessof the systemthan did the responses fromthe youngergroups.Correct responsesfor the task asking for skinnamesfor kin terms rangedfrom Il-17 . All childrenknew kakiyi B andyayi S. The following lists the numberof appropriateresponses for fourteenrelations. (Only five of the six subjectscompletedthis partof the interview.) RelationAppropriateResponses(N=5) FM5 FS5 M5

Sps os5 FF4 MM4 F4 MB4 MF3

oB3 YS3 CC3 SC3 For the subsectionquestions,similar patternswere found with group6 as with group 5. (One of the subjectsdid not completethis partof the interview.)For MM, jaja was usedby 3 of the 5 questioned, and pApAfor F was usedby all. Mamiyi was usedby 4 andngatiby one child for M. For FS, pimirdi was usedby 3 and 'son'and 'aunty'by 'Uncle' was usedby 4 of the 5 for MB. Kurdu, 2. 'older sister'was used 'daughter' were all used for children. Kapirdi 'sister' by onegirl but by the other subjects.Kakiyi was chosenby 3 'brother' 'Cousin'was and the generalform for CC. Mintirri by 2. 'spouse's sister'was usedby 2 of the group.



Edith L. Bavin

Discussion The patternsof developmentin the acquisitionof the Warlpiri kin terms do not dependcotallyon the semanticcomplexity of the kin relations. Terms for at least one grandparentare used and understood quite early. The first distinctionsthe children make are between generations,and then moiety. Genderis not one of the first distinctionsthe child makes. This doesnot supportthe findings from the studiesof English, reportedin section2. Ratherit illustratesthat the systembeing acquiredinfluencesthe acquisitionpattem. In the adult system,as well as in the modified systemused when addressing a young child, genderdistinctionsare not crucial.For example,the sameterm is used for FF and his sister,even in the adult system. The skin group-kin term relationsfor grandparent'sgeneration, same generationand parent'sgenerationwere understoodat an earlier age than were younger generationterrns,but not all children testedunderstoodthe sameterms. This indicatesthat a factor other than semanticcomplexity influencesthe acquisitionof the terms. The individual differencesin what was understoodand used suggeststhat experiencewith the terms is crucial for their acquisition. Since the terms were first usedrefer to particularindividuals,this also is evidencethat experiencemust affect the order of acquisition. If a child doesnot have a living grandmother(MM), for example,there would no occasionsto use the term jgja. Although children in the 4th age group showedsomeknowledgeof kin terms, it was only at the 5th age group (with a mean age of 9) that the childrenrevealedsomeknowledgeof the system. By 11, the childrenhad an understandingof many of the relations,but still not all. Thus, as with children acquiringthe English system,the child moves from particular individualsto generalizationto abstraction.The Warlpiri systemis complex and requirescognitive maturity in order to understandthe abstractions,just as other systemdo. Recall that the studieson the acquisitionof Englishkin termsshow an understanding of the relational aspectsof the terrns are not masteredbefore 8 years of age. Becausethere are severalways of referring to one individual, the Warlpiri child needsexperiencein working out which terms can replace others. In addition,the practiceof neutralizingsomeof the oppositionsin the baby talk registerand in modifying the phonologyof the words might

The acquisition of Warlpii kin terms


addto the difficulties in working out the meaningsof the words used in the adultsystem.The interviewer was surprisedthat the 4 and 5 year-olds foundthe questionsdifficult to answer. She had assumed,as did othersin the community,that becausethe subsectionnameswere so frequently used,the children would have a better graspof them at that age than they do. Althoughthe Warlpiri adultstreat kin terms and skin namesin a specialway by giving explicit verbal training,the children do not learn the termsor masterthe systemuntil they are ready. They acquirethe forms andknowledgeof the systemthrough constantexposureto the terms in socialinteraction,storiesand ceremonies.The children learn about the systemfrom hearingthe terms,but they are also socializedto appropriate behaviorwith peopleof other skin groups. This reinforcesknowledge aboutthe system. For example,a man will avoid walking close to his mother-in-law; by observingthis behavior,the child will developsome awareness of avoidancerelations.This type of behaviorwill provide a basisfor understanding that a particularskin group is in a particular relationship to another.Similarly, observationsthat food is sharedwith somemembersof the comrnunityand not othersprovide somebasisfor anunderstanding of the complex social relationsbetween the skin groups. Knowledgeaboutkinship relationscontinuesto developas the child growsinto an adult and as the implicationsof the systembecomemore crucialin his/herown social interactions.From about the age of 11, boys who are consideredmature go through initiation ceremonies,ceremonies in whichnew knowledgeis imparted. During theseand other ceremonies, theboyswill be exposedto someof the more complex kin terms.By observingthe behaviorbetweenthe skin groupsat ceremonies, knowledge of relationsthat imposeobligationsand reciprocitydevelops. Forexample,peoplein specifickin relationsto the boy will be responsible for teachinghim about the initiation processand for arrangingthe ceremonies. This puts certainobligationsonto the boy's family. A numberof Warlpiri adults told me that the children will learn the kin termswhen they need to, a reflectionof the view that children will acquireknowledgethrough experience. It is notablethat one subject (aged 11;8) has two skin namesbecauseher motherhad interviewed manieda secondchoicehusband.For someof the questions,she was ableto give forms relevantto both names,althoughher preferencewas to givethe classifactoryforms rather than those associatedwith her real


Edilh L. Bavin

father. Since she has been exposedto both orientations,she was more aware of taking other perspectivesthan most other children interviewed. Some adults expressedconcem that the older children are spontaneouslyusing someEnglish terms in place of the Warlpiri ones. For examplepapa was used consistentlyby the childrenand 'cousin'was sometimesused to representMS's and MB's childrenas well as FS's and FB's children. This showsmodification in the system,sinceMS is also 'mother' in the Warlpiri system,and her children are treatedas siblings. Similarly, FB is also 'father',and his children are siblings. The errors noted from some of the children in naming the skin of mother'sparents and father'sparentsmay also have been influencedalso by the English system,which doesnot differentiate. The use of English terms is influencedby two factors:one is the use of p-ap and mamiyi in the 'baby talk' register. The use of English terms marks the registeras 'not real' Warlpiri. Another is the fact that children are exposedto the English kin terms through the books that are used in the school. In addition,TV programshave been availablein the conununity since late 1987. What is clear is that the early exposureto the namesdoesnot lead the child to an early understandingof the abstractsystem. Knowledgeof kinship terms and an understandingof the systemare acquiredover a period of time, through exposureto them in daily social encountersas well as in ritual. The children are exposedto the importanceof the subsection namesfrom an early age,through introductions.They are exposedto their importancethroughhunting trips sinceland is identifiedby subsection groups,e.g. Jakamarracountryor Napaljarriland. Childrenhear stories about the land as they are driven along to hunt. They leam something about the implications of the subsectionsystemin ritual as they observe the women painting other women with their traditionalbody designs,or men painting other men. They know which people they can go to stay with, and which people to go hunting with, before they understandthe complexitiesof the social obligation systemsdeterminedby subsection group membership. Thus the child is socializedinto the subsectionand kin systemthrough many paths.The acquisitionof the terms is relatedto the experiencesof the child as well as the child'scognitivedevelopment. Social and cognitive developmentare both necessaryfor the child to masterthe system.

The acquisition of Warlpii kin terms


Notes Abbreviations used (other than those introducedin table 2): DAT Dative case POSS Possessive LOC Locative case a Questionword FOC Focusmarker IPFV Imperfective aspect 2 2nd person SG singular SUB Subject 0B Object NP Nonpast I Warlpiriis an aboriginallanguageof centralAustralia.The data in this paperwerecollectedfrom Yuendumu,which is 300km northwestof Alice Springs. The researchhas been funded by the AustralianInstitute of Aboriginaland Torres Straight IslanderStudiesand the Australian Research Council.I am grateful to the Warlpiri community for their supportover the years.I am particularly grateful to Kay Napaljani Ross for her assistance in this project. 2 This can createproblemsfor the researcher.The old people assume thata researcher should be talking to adults not children becausethe child'stalk is not Warlpiri. The children soundlike crows accordingto someof the older Warlpiri speakers. 3 this useof English terms in a a baby talk registeris not restrictedto Warlpiri. It seemsto be fairly wide spreadin Aboriginal contexts.For example, in Anindilyakwa, a non Pama-Nyunganlanguagespokenon GrooteEylandt,mummy and daddy are usedfor parents.


Edith L. Bavin

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