Culture Notes | Six Linealities and Six Localities

Culture Notes | Six Linealities and Six Localities

One of the very first things to consider when
creating a culture is… how do the members of that culture trace their descent? And how do they change their living arrangements
when they get married? Do they change them at all? There’s a bunch of different options you can
choose from. Systems of descent can be divided into cognatic
and unilineal. The first one of the two can be divided into
kindreds, stocks and ramages. The first one of these is probably the one
you know best. In this system, you trace your descent through
both of your parents and all your grandparents, and then back down to everyone who shares
your ancestry, with the entire group forming a kindred. Then we have a stock. You take an ancestor, and go down the family
tree through both the male and the female lines. All the descendants of that ancestor form
a stock. And finally, we have the ramage, where your
kin are select members from your father’s or your mother’s side, and a spouse could
choose to join the ramage of the person they married. Over on the unilineal side, we have systems
that are patrilineal, matrilineal, and dual. In a patrilineal system, you trace your descent
through the male line. In a matrilineal one, you trace descent through
the female line. And in a dual system, both are combined. There you might wonder: how is a dual unilineal
system different from a cognatic one? Let’s say that your maternal grandmother owns
a piece of property and she wants to pass it on to one of her grandchildren. In both a kindred system and a stock system,
all of her grandkids are eligible, regardless of whether they are the children of her daughter
or of her son. But in a dual unilineal system, that is not
the case. She can pass her piece of property down the
female line, and the female line only. Your maternal cousins trace their male line
through their father’s side of the family, and they cannot inherit from their paternal
grandmother. In a ramage, some lines of inheritance could
be closed as well, but it has nothing to do with gender, so it’s a different sort of system. We’ve covered descent, now onto residence. We have six main options. First is neolocal residence, where a couple
gets married, and then they live together. They have their children, and when those get
married, they move away and form their own nuclear families. This is a system common in modern industrialised
societies, and among hunter-gatherers, because it allows for mobility. In a hunter-gatherer society, families move
to where the food is, and in an industrialised society, they move to where the jobs are. And the nuclear family is the smallest possible
mobile family unit. So that is something to keep in mind when
worldbuilding. Next is patrilocal residence, where a wife
moves in to live with her husband and his family. Their daughter will move out when she gets
married, but their son will stay. This gets coupled with patrilineal descent
a lot, but is very common with cognatic descent as well. Next, matrilocal residence! A husband moves in to live with his wife and
her family. Their son will move out when he gets married,
but their daughter will stay. Every society that has this as a rule is matrilineal,
but you might be able to justify it in other ways when worldbuilding. Next, ambilocal! The newly married couple decide on whether
the wife is moving in with the husband’s family or the husband is moving in with the wife’s
family. They might even skip around from one family
to another, together with their children. Next, natalocal residence! A man and a woman get married, but both remain
in their mother’s households, and simply opt for regular nightly visits instead. This is always coupled with a matrilineal
society, because in this arrangement, the children live with their mother, so every
matrilineage lives under the same roof. But in a worldbuilding context, you could
justify a reversal of this, where the children are raised by the father’s family, and the
entirety of every patrilineage is under the same roof. And finally, we have avunculocal residence. The wife moves in to live with her husband. When their children grow up, the daughter
gets married and moves away to live with her husband, and the son moves away to live with
his maternal uncle. This results in households with granduncles,
uncles and nephews all living together, with their wives, and with any young children that
might still be around. It keeps all adult men of the same matrilineage
under the same roof, so it’s always coupled with a matrilineal society. You could reverse it for a patrilineal system,
but you would need a good excuse for why you’re specifically keeping women of the same patrilineage
together. The reason why it happens in matrilineal societies,
is because those often feature men owning all the property, but it gets transmitted
to them through the female line. So keeping granduncles, uncles and nephews
together means keeping the heirs to the same piece of property in the same house. So the reverse would be women owning everything,
but inheriting it through their paternal line, which you maybe could justify. In any case, looking at societies I’ve created
over the years, I have never used some of these residence patterns, nor have I ever
thought of dual unilineal systems of descent or of ramages. So that’s something to play around with in
the future.

38 thoughts on “Culture Notes | Six Linealities and Six Localities

  1. What systems would you put your Basin culture under? I'd assume at the very least it would be mostly matrilineal for obvious reasons.

  2. So informative , I love it ❤️
    I think I’m gonna try to play around with different kinship systems in my world.

  3. This was incredibly illuminating and I feel I will be coming back to check on it regularly to get the minutia and the names down to memory.

  4. An interesting thing I found while looking up more about ramages was the idea of an ambilinial system. Apparently it functions similar to a unilinial system, except there's a level of choice when it comes to which section line you would be a part of. Essentially, a person could actively select between being part of the patrilinal group or the matrilinal group upon marriage. I found the info on the U of Manitoba website, ( and it appears that ambilinal systems are a subset of ramages.

  5. This is assuming that the creatures have humanoid behaviors, which may or may not be the case in alien worlds. There are some lifeforms that change gender throughout their life, so of alien creatures that exhibit those possible positions, "mother" and "father" may not have any separable meaning. Cultures may even have multiple partners in order to breed, then you have multi-lineal systems to deal with. Then you've glossed over the possibility for interbreeding/inbreeding, as it may be taboo for our human culture, this does not instantly negate all cultures from doing it.

  6. This is so interesting, I never think about inheritance while world building, but it really can make a huge difference to culture

  7. I would love to see a video on how same-sex relationships could be handled, as well as trans and non-binary people etc. Great video as always 🙂

  8. What do the people in the River basin call their King is his title name based off of the fact that he is considered to be a vessel of a god of fertility or is he named for the fact that he is the provider of fertility

    Ex: in a translation he could be called fertilizer because that's his purpose

  9. One society I created consisted completely of magic users (it's kinda a wainscot) and their kin system works like this:

    When a couple gets married the magically weaker partner joins the family of the stronger partner, lives under their family's roof and the kids belong to the stronger partner's family. I guess this is kinda ambilocal but doesn't really fit any standard lineality. It works for them though.

  10. Illumiens operate off a mixture of atomic families and the couple deciding which parent to live with.

    There isn't a lot of property to pass down for the most part, considering how communal the society is.

  11. Re. natalocal: because patrilinial succession requires proof of paternity, a strictly patriarchal-natalocal system wouldn't work in a society without genetic testing, because paternity cannot be otherwise guaranteed if the woman is not part of her husband's household at least until pregnancy is confirmed. However there is an option that is superficially similar, and resolves the paternity problem: womb-rental, which involves the transferral of women back and forth between households. This is one of the two forms of marriage practiced by the Ferengi in Star Trek and is about the most misogynistic arrangement you can imagine, although that's perhaps not surprising in a society where a woman's status is indistinguishable from that of property, and her monetary value is tied to her ability to bear children.

    In the Ferengi system, an unmarried woman is the property of the head of her birth household – usually her father or brother, but occasionally her uncle or cousin – who has both absolute power over her, and full responsibility for her actions. A man from another household who wants a child but cannot afford the cost of a life-marriage can pay the head of her household to use her to provide him with a child. (The pregnancy itself is considered a rental of the woman's womb, and the lessee – the man wishing to become a father – has certain rights in Ferengi law. The woman has no rights whatsoever; the lessee can control everything about her life, including what she is permitted to eat.) The woman acts as part of the lessee's household until the birth, at which point the contract ends and she returns to her birth household. The child is raised by its father's family, and the mother never sees it again. In Deep Space Nine, this was how Rom came to have his son Nog – the brother and nephew (respectively) of Quark.

  12. I've been binge watching your videos since yesterday. What is your native language? Your accent sounds quite interesting.

  13. Wow this is so well explained, thank you so much! Now I’m going to try to adapt one of these systems to a society of gnomes with only one biological sex (but who still need to be two to procreate).

  14. I was just writing random syllables into my conlang's updated kinship terms when I realized that I accidentally made the suffix for adopted/non-blood related from a syllable in the world father and thought "hey, what if I just made it so that the father's side of the family isn't considered blood-related and is instead "adopted" into the main family", like a matrilineal system but not really…" Things went from there.

    I didn't know about cognatic systems while I was creating my world's culture. Turns out I accidentally made a cognatic ramage kinship system. Awesome to know that there's an actual term for it.

  15. One of my cultures is ambilocal, and which family each new couple stays with is determined by the families' status and resources. The new couple is meant to join the 'clan' which has the lower status/members/wealth, with the intent to keep clans relatively equal.

  16. I’m truly surprised and impressed that you are able to make every one of these minimalist doodles look so damn individual and unique with just subtle changes. It reminds me of Junji Ito, as his characters look different with minimal but unique designs and postures.

  17. I’ve got one culture from a while back where people don’t live with their parents or their spouses but with a group of friends/roommates. They consider chosen families more likely to be functional and happy than ones you’re stuck in, while sexual relationships are considered best kept separate from daily life

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