Posts Tagged ‘Oroch’

Kinship Terms and Naming Taboos: Oroch

Friday, April 13th, 2012

Among the Altaic-speaking Oroch (Orochi) in eastern Siberia, personal names are subject to various pragmatic restrictions. Personal names can’t be duplicated or pronounced loudly, and they shouldn’t be used when cursing somebody or an evil spirit would harm the name-bearer. Kinship terms are not subject to any taboos and can be used freely. Parents can use personal names to address their children but even in this case there is a special set of birth-order terms to refer to children that’s used alongside names.

Source: Startsev A. F. “Nomenklatura rodstva,” in Istoriia i kultura orochei. St. Petersburg, 2001, p. 28 (in Russian).

It appears that cross-linguistically kinship terms, unlike personal names, are not subject to speech taboos. It’s also noteworthy that, by being taboo-free, kinship terms function as substitutes for personal names and, as such, approach the function of pronouns (Russian mestoimenie, lit. ‘name substitute’). The difference between kinship terms as name substitutes and pronouns is that kinship terms index deictically not the Speaker (vocative terms do), but the Name-Bearer.