The Cultural Aspect and Concept of Lithuanian Kinship: Validity of Free List Method for Creating a Representative Kinship Model

  • Victor C. De Munck
  • Rūta Dapkūnaitė
Keywords: Lithuanian kinship, kinship model, cultural construct, free list method


The article presents a detailed and methodologically systematic description of the Lithuanian kinship system. A study of kinship relationships was conducted in order to describe the formal and pragmatic structure of the modern kinship system as it is conceptualized by different generations of Lithuanians. We show how this system both remains a formal system, but the salience of kin types changes across different generations. The authors of the article are aware that there are many formal methods of kinship analysis, but a semi-formal research method that priviledges a pragmatic ‘bottom’s up’ approach is used in order th analyse kinship as an interpersonal and dynamic rather than static system. Our free list methodology was chosen because of its emic perspective that allows for comparative etic (i.e. statistical) cross-generational analysis.The results of our research show that Lithuanian kinship systems are not only holistic, but also holographic, and the main structure with its attendant terminology is flexible and adaptive to the requirements of different generational concerns such as courtship, mating, parenting and being grandparents. The results confirm a premise of the anthropological sciences – that thoughts are expressed in language and language (as thoughts or concepts) in turn shapes behaviour. This idea is given credence and supported by our study: the observed approach to change is a non-linguistic result, i.e. it is determined by behaviours, experiences that fall into the linguistic category, and shapes them not according to an imaginary monolithic configuration, but according to individual experience and relationships. Based on the data, it can be concluded that they reflect different collective conceptualizations of kinship – both blood-related and marital kinship. The study found that different behavioural requirements create assumptions for emphasizing appropriate social relations; it is particularly noticeable that the displacement of certain kinship names in the periphery is associated with a corresponding absence of kinship relations. The results also motivate a subsequent study that would look at testing the behavioural systems between kin that are indicated by this study.