Journal of Universal Language
Sejong University Language Research Institue

Componential Analysis of Kin Terms - Some Problems and their Solutions

Vladimir Pericliev1,
1Institute of Mathematics and Informatics, Bulgaria
Corresponding Author : Vladimir Pericliev, Institute of Mathematics and Informatics, bl. 8 1113 Sofia, Bulgaria. Phone: (+3592)9792877; Email:

Copyright ⓒ 2016, Sejong University Language Research Institue. This is an Open-Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Received: Jan 24, 2014; Revised: Feb 20, 2014; Accepted: Feb 27, 2014

Published Online: Jan 01, 2017


Componential analysis of kinship vocabulary has a long tradition, but a look at the practicing of the method reveals two basic problems. The first pertains to ensuring “consistent” kin term definitions (i.e., definitions with necessary and sufficient components), and the second to the discovery and handling of multiple solutions to kinship systems. The paper introduces a computer program implemented to handle these two problems, and in general, designed to study kinship vocabulary. The program guarantees consistent componential models and the discovery of all alternative models, as well as introduces simplicity constraints to reduce the usually huge number of alternatives to a unique or just a couple of models. We illustrate the problems with examples from the literature and apply the program to a complex kinship vocabulary (Serbo-Croatian) to show its operation.

Keywords: componential analysis; kinship terms; the KINSHIP program



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