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New study into Pama-Nyungan languages finds no correlation between grandparent and cross-cousin terms

7 July 2020

A new study co-authored by Professor Fiona Jordan has found no support for the correlation between grandparent and cross-cousin terms in 134 Pama Nyungan (Australian) languages, with shifts in the classification of grandparents only occurring synchrously.

The research, led by Dr Catherine Sheard of the School of Earth Sciences and involving academics from Yale Universityused phylogenetic comparative methods to find that shifts in ways of classifying grandparents do not change with community marriage patterns, post-marital residence, or most other kinship terms. This was an unexpected finding.

Instead, shifts in systems for classifying grandparents occur synchronously only with shifts in systems for classifying grandchildren, highlighting the need to consider kinship categories individually as well as part of a single theoretical apparatus.

Further information

Sheard C, Bowern C, Dockum R and Jordan FM (2020) Pama–Nyungan grandparent systems change with grandchildren, but not cross-cousin terms or social norms.

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