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Kinship terms in one picture

July 28, 2020

Via Ilya Klishin (@vorewig) on Twitter:

I’ve seen versions of this, but this one is as compact and intuitive as any I’ve seen. Note that two words are given common but prescriptively incorrect spellings: husband’s father should be свёкор (not свёкр), and one’s wife’s sister is properly one’s свояченица (not своячница).

This isn’t a complete picture. Your wife’s sister’s husband is your свояк, for instance, and your husband’s sister’s husband is your зять, the same term used for your daughter’s husband or your sister’s husband. Also notice the asymmetry of зять and невестка. Невестка works for your brother’s wife and, if you’re a woman, for your son’s wife, but if you’re a man, your son’s wife is your сноха; on the other side зять covers all the analogous relationships. The situation has become even less parallel as сноха has expanded to encroach on невестка: now сноха can be used to mean a woman’s son’s wife as well as a man’s son’s wife. Ushakov’s dictionary says this is absolutely not allowed (with an exclamation point that proves people were using it that way anyway), and Ozhegov’s more recent dictionary matter-of-factly says it is.

The tweet accompanying this chart says “the human brain is not capable of mastering this information,” which matches my impression that native speakers of Russian recognize all these words as kinship terms and use the ones that mean mother- or father-in-law all the time, but parts of the chart get a bit hazy for them too.

One Comment leave one →
  1. July 29, 2020 9:14 am

    Reblogged this on wordscene and commented:
    Brilliant diagram of the complex kinship terms in Russian. Never seen it explained so clearly before

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