“Isn’t she your mother?”: Learning the language of kinship in Datooga

Alice Mitchell

University of Cologne

Friday, April 1, 2022
9:30 a.m.–11 a.m.

Via Zoom (Registration required)

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Over the course of childhood, children learn to operate with a culture-specific set of kinship concepts. That is, they come to share particular ways of thinking about, categorizing, talking about, and behaving with kin. This talk discusses aspects of this process of kinship socialization among Datooga-speaking children living in a rural part of northern Tanzania. One focus of the talk is the use of kin terms in transcribed recordings of children's everyday interactions. While the linguistic negotiation of kinship reaches far beyond kin terms, words like "mother" and "father" offer useful handholds for studying children's kinship concepts, as I will show. Adult use of kin terms in child-directed speech also points to the important role of informal teaching in the transmission of kinship-related knowledge.