Methodology: Data collection
 Methodology: Data analysis

Title: Analysis of Washo conjugal relations
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00083833/00001
 Material Information
Title: Analysis of Washo conjugal relations
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Spring, Anita
Publication Date: 1967
Subject: Africa   ( lcsh )
Spatial Coverage: Africa
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00083833
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: African Studies Collections in the Department of Special Collections and Area Studies, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.

Table of Contents
        Page 35
    Methodology: Data collection
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    Methodology: Data analysis
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Full Text

^ CoCrn eLtYoLr c"0 ?If C'L MU V 2a 2 ,1 2 (PN7


Anita Spri ng..
Department of Anthroppiogy
Cornell University

The field of ethnoscience has been developing over the last decade to deal
with the problems of language and culture, and cognitive processes. Specialized
techniques such as componential analysis, contrast level mapping, programmed
specification, and reduction analysis are techniques which have been devised in
formal ethnographic semantics and applied to investigations of native cognition.
The studies of Frake (1962; 1964b), Metzger and Williams (1963), Mathiot (1964),
Berlin and Romney (1964)'- Fischer (1964) and .!allace (1965) in particular have
provided guidelines in the development of the present technique and analysis.

SiMany of the analyses already performed by anthropologists along these lines
have sought formal accounts of kinship or some other terminclogy which provided
minimum rules for prediction of.a terminological event according to binary or
other operations. Lounsbury (1964), in-the -introduction to his excellent analy-
sis of Crow and Omaha terminologies notes that deriving from this very parsimony,
S. formal accounts are likely to be peculiarly unsatisfying to many anthro-
pologists" because. rues set out in a componential analysis style "fails t9 tell
him cther things that he wants to know about the society. (1964:352 .)"
Loun~s-ury goes on to note that reductiCon to the minimum information necessary
is the characteristic 'that can give them (formal accounts) their value in
te-rs of cross-cultural generality. (1964:352). The present writer, while
impressed with theljparsimony and elegance. of many formal analyses, is in the
category of those who desire to know more about the society as well.

A technique .s3 sought which could deal with segregates .in. the domain2
of marital relations which have a range of meanings that could be ranked by
informants. Th basic assumption is that a term may have several attributes
of differing crticalness as determined by the persons who use these terms.
This paper deas with "significatum or intensional definition--the clusters of
components. properties, attributes or distinctive features 'that constitutes a'
particular definition (Colby: 1966:5)'

The method here consists of specifying the criterial attributes of any
class or segregate in a domain of terms. Furthermore, discrepancies between
Informant's usages and conceptions of criticalness are maximized rather than
minimized in orderctto point to the flexibility in tersinological usage.result-
ing from varying conditions of the same phenomena by several individuals of the
same culture. The reader will be made cognizant that the differences between
informants as to usage and. meanings may be a result of ideational, generational,
and acculturative differences of the individual. .. -
-. i, "'

1 A segregate is "the" terminologically distinguished array of obje:tas. (Frake:
2 A domain is the total range of meaning of its segregates (Sturtevant:1964:

The kinds of queries that the writer is interested 'in are based on a model
discussed by Frake that asks "If a person is in situation X, performance Y will
be judged appropriate by native actors :(1964a:133)." An explicit review of the
methodological approach will elucidate this kind of model and will illustrate
the kind of data that is most profitably analyzed by the clustering of attributes.

Methodology: Data Collection

One phase of field work3 consisted of eliciting terms in the areas of.mar-
riage and divorce in order to discover the native categories. Informants were
asked for the Washo word for a particular English category. For example, the
term for Indian marriage was given as t'anugumla:?ya?eti -- which is simply the
word for 'Indian" plus the word for marriagee Similarly, "to get married by-
license' was given as laysin gumla:?vasemueti, where 1iygin is a"Washo-ization"
of the English word "license.' But these were not Washo categories nor even
used in native speaking. They were simply translations of English categories.
To combat this, informants were asked if there could be a "Washo way" for des-
cribing some real or hypothetical category, and terms were sought in context.
This way some of the native terms were obtained.

While in the field, it was decided that if an informant could use some of.
the native terms and apply them to behavioral situations, i.e.,- actual conjugal
unions, each term and its meaning and the rx.gi' of terms in the domain-of con-
jugal relations could be better determined.-- The information elicited from two
of my seven informants was obtained by using a census technique. The writer said
to the informant, "Let's start at the end of Dressletville and go house by house.
Tell me about "X" and 'Y." Can you describe them (in terms of their "marriage"
relationship) in Washo? .What does that mean in English?" Each informant was:
asked how long the couple had been together and how many children resulted from
the union, and about separations, divorces, and subsequent relations. Not only
did the informant consider the present, on-going unions, but also each indivi-
dual's past union or unions. In this way, information concerning fifty-five'

3 During the summer of 1965 the author conducted field work among the Washo
Indians of Dresslerville Colony, Nevada under the auspices of the Tri-
Institutional Field Training Project in Cultural Anthropology (Univer-
sity of Nevada, University of Pittsburgh, and Stanford University) and
sponsored by a National Science Foundation grant. The Washo are the
only speakers of the Hokan stock in the Great Basin. Aboriginally, they
were hunters and gatherer's who.practiced a complete seasonal migration'
in .Western' Nevada and Eastern California. They were organized into band-
like groups consisting of small, independent family units. Descent was-
bilateral. Traditional marriage was by tribal custom and liasons outside -
the conjugal union occurred. Divorce was easy and frequent. Since contact
and since the Washo's have been localized in Colonies, Christian and
legal marriage and divorce forms have'been introduced and have conflicted
with traditional' conjugal unions and divorce procedures.- This paper at-
tempts to discover categorizing propositions and evaluations placed on
conjugal forms as a result.

unions from one informant and eighty unions from another was obtained.4

In essence, the eliciting procedure took on the following
would you describe the behavior of this pair of individuals"?
form, "What does this word mean?" or "What Washo word would be
behavior?' was not sufficient to elicit native categories.

form: "How
The eliciting
used for this

Methodology: Data Analysis

Each individual in Dresslerville was given an identifying code designa-
tion so that he could be located through many unions and relationships. This
procedure facilitated identification by inspection because the Washo practice
the form of serial monogamy and consequently, any individual may have from one
to seven or more unions in a lifetime.

The data sheets were arranged for each informant's information as to its
Washo designation and the English equivalent or comment for each union given:

'Coded couple"

Washo word

English equivalent
or comment

In analyzing this information, terms which were similar in each language
were clustered together. The principle attributes of each Washo term were
charted as were the Washo categories and sub-categories, their frequencies,
and English attributes: For Example:

Washo term


Group I
(A) (di)gumla:?ya?semu
.(B) dibume:li?emu
(C) dimuld:ya? emu

Group II


English equivalents

Really married. Long time to-
gether. Legally married. Long
time together and legally married.
Quite awhile together. Almost a
life time together. Married by
license, etc.

5 Were married but one spouse left.
Pretend marriage, pretend wife,
pretend husband, etc.

SThe Dresslerville Colony can be considered as a closed system for purposes
here in that the area and population can be defined and bounded.. The
total population, 154 in the summer of 1965, is located within this small
and defined region. Houses and people are close enough to know and see
everyone's "business" and personal details and backgrounds are often com-
mon knowledge. The relational and social systems add to the communication
of this knowledge. Hence, all persons within the Colony are known and
their personal histories are common information to the majority of adult
residents of the community. Consequently, informants had no difficulty
in carrying out-the task of discussing the marital situations of their
relatives, friends, and neighbors.

SWhen working from the English to Washo, the English designations were
listed and the categories in Washo to which it referred were noted.

These were tallied as to frequency and'the Washo category appropriate
to the English. For example:

English freq. Washo Category Informant's

long time/quite 20/27 cases gumla:?ya?Temu A, B, C
a while

Legally married 9/11 : gumla:?ya?Semu A, B

Long time plus 7/11 gumla:?ya?66mu A, B
legally married

Next, these English categories were ranked within the Washo categories
for criterial attributes: For example:

Washo English

guml4:?ya?6mu 1. Really married
2. -Long time together
3.- Tending toward permanent
4. Legal union, married by
5. Long time together and
legally married
6. Get along well together
'7- Stay together a life-time

At this point, it was possible to make non-statistical statements about
the kinds of differentiations and distinctions each informant was making. And
the writer was able to dicipher vhat the categories were and what each meant.
From this information an abstraction of each informant's classificational prop-
ositions was made. These propositions (see below) explicitly show the premises
and criteria used to categorizeconjugal situations.

At this point interview data was correlated with these designations for
clarification and congruency. Finally, each informant's categories were charged
into segregates of the domain of conjugal.relations. The criterial attributes
of each segregate was clustered by importance, that is, in ranked order from
highest to lowest frequency. In this way, the defining criteria and sub-criteria
of each segregate were apparent (Figures 1 and 2).


The analysis shows that there are a range of terms in the.domain of conjugal
relations. The term for expressing the union of a man and a. wpman--loosely



grlaH : ?ya? 1. being married
2. Tribal custom marriage
(not a legal union)
3. over 2 years together
4. spouse left or died

teB'divgumla: ?y? g nla: ?ya? 6mu

1. newly weds; just 1. really married
married 2. long time together, tending
2. young people to be e permanent union.
3. legal marriage (i.e., license
4. long time together and legally
5. get along vell
6. stay together a life time
'i ......i.....

--- 1

no term given*

1. live together

2. stay together
3. house together

*Annie Jones'

guml: ?ya?4aja

1. pretend union, i.e., not
2. unstable
3. union did not last very
4. one spouse left union
5. not real spouse, i.e., sex
partner only

no term given

1. couple

_____________________ 4 L---


Iumaypa? i.. separated (gumbi:geli) 1. separated, and re-
2. divorced unite, i.e., possibility
(3. could get together again) of getting back together

gumaaytmun (gunay?daSa)
1. real divorce 1. separate a few month
2. leval divorce (2. not really divorced)
(3. never see each other again) (3. if longer than a few months, will not get back



_.~ __

gum:la: ya?

*gumnla:?ya? -

l.newly weds;
Just married
2.young persons

long time together; permanent union
considered man and vife, i.e., public

recognition of the union as a custom
4. getting along


1.short time

*I~DIrBa Shaw's

guml: ?ya?


l.long time
2.1ifetime toe
3.grow old

gumla: ?ya-

1.never se-
2.live to-
gether all

gFmil :ya?-

1. White mar-
riage i.e.,
legal union
2. married by
(3. short time
so far)

E-mma Shaw combines into gumla:?ya?semu

4,~ .. .

4 0




1.two or
more sis-
ters (sor-
oral poly-

..live to-
'.share a
.help each

---- FT-

gmla: ?ya?-

1.pretend union.
not real
3.not living to-
gether or not
4.not getting

"lak'ahr 'a-

1.running away
with another
2.quiting the

__________________ _______________________4.------.------,

**Distinction as to whether one is looking back (ha?lida-) or ahead (-mi?le?i?yi?).


1. not living together gumbi:geli
2. separated

1. leave each other and reunite
(2. person separated from)


1. separated
2. divorced



i _I ___~,_~.,~.,,, ,,,~_~,~,,.,.~,,,,,,.,.,.,^,- ,.J;-----;-1--1-1----I--~ I---------------ICLI C-1

translated as "being married" or "in the state of being married" -- is gumla':?ya?.
There are several prefixes and suffixes which can be.added to this term'and there-
by used to designate a specific category of a conjugal relationship. The suffix
semu means real, really, or genuine. The suffix 6aia means pretend or not real.
Hence, gumla:?ya?9emu means really or genuinely married, while gumlad:?ya?daga
stands for a'pretend or unstable union.

There are suffixes that refer to the length of duration of a union: -teslut'i?,
a recent or young union; -leli?, short time; -mi?le?i?yi? (constantly; always) long
time union. There are also prefixes which-refer to a recent or new union, tesdiw-
and a union which has been in progress for a long time, ha?lila-. Additionally,
terms which denote an alien spouse such as a'Paiute or White is sometimes used with
the Washo word for husband or wife, ba?lew dimla':ya? / dibum6:li?, Paiute wife /
husband; dabd?o dimla:ya? / dibume":li?, white wife / husband; and welmelti'i?
dimla:ya? dibume:li?, Northern Washo wife / husband.

Other terms besides those denoting a marriage or a spouse can be given:. these
refer to non-marriage type relations, such as living together (gumguweyi) r an
adulterous affair or elopement ('lak'ahak'a Mo?ya? 'he (she) ran away with someone').

There are several terms for separations, divorces, and stages of these.
gumay?a? is the main term for separation and divorce. It is possible to use the
same suffixes semu and Djaa, discussed above to mean real or pretend divorce. The
term gumbesit is an alternate term for denoting separations, but. implies'residen-
tial separation. And gumbi:geli is used to refer to the condition of being separated
and then re-uniting.

Two women informants, Emma Shaw and Annie Jones,5 judgments and criteria of
"Dresslerville Marriages" are now considered.

Emma Shaw, is about 45 years old. She does not speak of her
.first marriage which lasted less than a year. There was one child
and her husband died of tuberculosis. Her second union lasted.26
years until her husband's death. They had three children. Both
these men.were Washo. For the past three years, her third and cu-
rrent marriage has been to a Paiute man. There were no children
from this'union, although he has had children by. anotherlWash6
women. Emma Shaw has a fairly fluent command of Washo, even.though
she is somewhat acculturated as compared to the older Washo women
at Dresslerville. She.wears modern American clothing, drives a car,
and uses medical facilities. She is traditional in her'basket making
and preparation of Washo foods

Emma Shaw makes the distinction between really married, married, pretend, or
unstable marriage, living together, and married and not living together (Fig..1).

5 Emma Shaw and Annie Jones are fictitious'names.
6 These are some of the writer's quick 'indicators" of acculturation on a scale
from traditional to less traditional persons. .

The majority of unions are real or genuine marriages in her classification
(Fig. 3). From an analysis of her use of terminology, and each term's criter-:
ial attributes, some propositions about her criteria for categorizing can be

1. Most long term tribal custom unions are gumla:?ya?semu i.e., "real
marriages" but if something happens in the relationship, e.g., a split-up or
unfaithfulness, then the union is just gumla:?ya?, i.e., "being married."

2. A legal marriage is always gumla:?ya?semu, unless it lasted a-very
short period of time and/or one spouse was unfaithful or left the other person,
in which case it is just gumla:?ya?.

3. A pretend union or a very short union is-gumla:?ya?ga4a. This term
also implies a break-up in the union.

4. The distinctions do not seem to be made on the presence or absence of
children, since some "real' or semu unions have not produced children.

5. Emma does not consider unions with non-Washo as different from unions
with a Washo spouse.

The second informant, Annie Jones, is 65-70 years old. Her
first marriage lasted 14 years until her husband's death. There
was one child. Her second and current marriage began in 1943.
There are no children. Her first husband was a Washo and so is
her current spouse. Annie Jones is very traditional in dress,
activities, and living style. She was raised by her maternal
grandmother and lived the life of an aboriginal Washo girl. She
has a fluent command of Washo.

Annie Jones makes distinctions between being married to a Washo and having
a non-Washo spouse, being married by law, living together, and a pretend-union.
She also distinguishes custom unions on the basis of the duration, according to
newly wed, short or long.duration (Fig. 2). She distinguishes between pretend
unions, separations and divorces, and adulterous elopements. Annie gives sepa-
ration terms for unions no longer extant, and she differentiates between sepa-
rations, divorces, not living together, and reconciliations. Some propositions
of her criteria for classifying unions are as follows:

1. The main criteria of successful marriage unions are co-habitation, du-
rations, permanency, and peaceful domestic relations.

2. .Custom unions are gumla:?ya?, that is, being married, unless there is a
non-Washo spouse, a recent legal or White-style marriage, or an unstable or pre-
tend union, in which case she uses/ other terms.

3. A pretend union is gumla:?ya?aQa. This term implies the couple is not
living together and not getting along.

4. Most separations are divorces and are called gumay?a?, unless the
couple is simply not cohabiting, or if the separation is not final, or there
are reconciliations. In these cases another term is used.



SEmma' Shaw





(no term given--living

gumla:?ya?da a

(no term given-Zaffair")




Total number of unions

Annis Jones







gumla: ?ya?


gumla: ?ya?leli?

ha? li:agumla`: ?ya? -,.

gumla:?ya? mi?le?.i?yi?
gumla: ?ya?semin-.

dabo?o gumla:?ya?semu

dibu?e?i. /. degumbu?e?yi ?.;

balew .
wemelti? adimla$:ya? /
dabo?o dibume: li?

gumguweyi .

gumla: ?ya?da a

lak'ahak'a Mo?ya?

gumay?a? :



Total number of unions












: 14





5. The presence or absence of children in a union is not used in the dif-

6. Annie also uses a term for co-wife in a polygnous union (dibu?e?yi?).
Although polygyny is no longer extant today, one woman living in Dresslerville
was married in a polygynous marriage around 1900. The union was actually a
situation of sororal polygyny and Annie used the term deguwic,'ugi?, "two or
more sisters. 7

Some of the principle categorizations of these two informants follow.

SA. Terms for marriage type relations. Emma Shaw uses the term gumla:?ya?-
semu to categorize the majority of unions. Bu her usage the term has two main
criterial attributes: (1) "long time" (duration) or permanency; and (2)
legality. The English equivalents she uses for this term are "really married,"
"long time together,' legally married,"and "long time and legally married."
Emma uses the unmodified term gumla:?ya? to describe some of the other unions.
Here, the criterial attributes describe a marriage union, but one that is not
legal. Sometimes this term'is used to refer to a union in which one spouse de-
parted or died.

The principle.term Annie Jones uses to.categorize unions is gumla:?ya?.
There are three criterial attributes to this term according to her usage: (1)
being married and considered as man and wife or public recognition of the union;
(2) long time. or permanency; and (3) evidence of good domestic relations.

A primary criteria Annie uses in selecting terms which are applicable to a
marriage union is time or the'duration of the union. The term gumla:?ya?,
discussed above, connotes some length of time, probably 3-10 years. The infor-
mant uses another term for recently wed, for a short time union (less than 1-2
years) and for a long time union (about 20-30 years).

The clear-cut use of the term gumla:?ya?semu in the case of Emma Shaw to
classify both long time and legal marriages, does not occur so distinctly in
nni-es-t-ermiieiegy.- Annie uses the term. dabo?ogumla: ?ya?emu literally meaning
"white real marriage" and she givesthe English statements married by license"
and "married by law." The surprising fact is that she only noted two unions8 as
legal ones in the "Dresslerville Marriage" data, although at other times she
mentioned many more.

SAccording to W. H. Jacobsen, Jr. who has written a dissertation on the Uasho
Language, the term has no necessary implication of sororal polygyny (per-
sonal communication).
8 These two couples are young relatives of Annie's. One possible explanation
here.is that Annie has taken the legal unions of older couples and incor-
porated them into Washo custom unions, since their behavior in terms of
permanence, long duration, and other criteria are similar to other Washo
custom marriages. However, with these young relatives, this mechanism is
not operative yet.

Annie described some unions by using the term for a non-Washo person (e.g.,
Paiute, White, Northern Washo), followed by the term for husband or wife, the
translations being "Paiute's wife" or having a White man for a husband," etc.
The implication is that couples in which there is a non-Washo spouse are being.
differentiated from a true Washo union.

There are terms which informants use for a recently married couple or a
young couple who married young (tesdiw- and -teslut'i?). According to the usage
of this term, it is surmised that it is preferable to use the term for newly
weds than to say they have been together for a short time and use the suffix -leli?.
The -leli? term was used in cases where the union lasted a short time and then
terminated. It was used to describe unions no longer extant.

B. Terms for non-marriage" type relations. There were three unions which
Emma Shaw found difficult to describe. Two of these situations concerned a woman
and her "husband who were not living together. According to Washo custom, a
union is no longer in evidence unless there is cohabitation. Hence, it is very.
difficult for a Uasho to conceive of persons still considered as married if they
are living apart. Emnra could only give a Washo sentence to describe these rela-
tionships which meant "she and her husband are not living together." The third
case concerns a 60-70 year old widow who has a 30-40 year old man staying at her.
house. The reason this relationship is difficult to describe is because the couple
do not openly consider themselves as man or wife or as married, although they live
together and perhaps have sexual relations. Emma gives a sentence meaning "have a
house and stay together" as the English equivalent. Here one could question if
there might be a possible lack of certain attributes in the informant's classifi-
cational view which would account for the difficulty in describing these "unions."

Annie on the other hand, was able to give a term which differentiated living
together from a marriage relationship. There.are three cases (including the 60-70
year old widow) which she describes as gumguweyi (living together or have a house
together). There is the connotation of helping one another in household tasks (the
woman cooks and washes and.the man chops wood and hunts).

The term gamla:?ya?4a`a as explained above means a pretend union. "Pretend"
in the Washo connotation is the opposite of real" or semu. In Emma's usage the
criterial attributes are instability i.e., a "pretend relationship or early
separation from the union by one or both spouses. The English equivalents of
this term are as follows: were once married but one spouse left the union; a
pretend union from beginning to end; a pretend wife or husband. The latter two
indicate that perhaps .the :pretend spouse" was just being visited for sexual
privileges without the intent of temporal permanency or economic support. During
another interview session, Emma said that -g~ia is applied to the person who
doesn't stay in the union, that is, the person who leaves the union first; whereas,
the -semu term is applied to the person who stays behind. This might imply that
one person can be considered as."more married" than the other if one person acts
this way. The informant also mentioned that -da/a can sometimes be used to indicate
that'the couple is not living together as man and wife.

Annie uses the same term gumla:?ya?tada to mean "pretend union." The attri-
butes of this are instability, which Annie attributes to the lack of getting along,
and the lack of continuous joint residence. She considers these unions as :not
real marriages.'

There are two cases in which Annie does not use a "marriage" or "divorce"
term and instead gives a phrase to describe the situation, (lak'ahak'a M6?ya?)
"he (she) ran away with someone." These cases concern people who were in a
marriage union but who left the union for another person. That is, they had
an extra-marital affair or an adulterous relation in the Lasho sense.

C. Teris for separations and divorce relations. In Annie's designations
and term allocations, she sometimes used two or more terms to describe a union
in which a couple was previously married and currently are separated. From this
information, several terms for separations and divorces can be distinguished.
The term gumay?a? is the most frequent term given and this means 'separated' or
'divorced,' and implies that a couple were once man and wife. The term gumbesit
was given less frequently and the attributes of this term is that the couple does
not live together and are separated. The final term which Annie Jones gives is
gumbi:geli which denotes that the couple leaves each other and re-unites at a
later time. Annie says this term can also be applied to the person separated

Emma, on the other hand, rarely used "divorce" terms. She described the
union when it was on-going and not in retrospect. There is one exception. The
term gumay?a? means separated, being separated or being divorced as stated a-
bove. Only in legal marriage is there need for legal divorce, as an unrecorded
custom marriage would not legally require a legal divorce. In the Washo view,
separations or divorces are simple and demand no future commitments and hence
no formal divorce. Even for present *asho having legal marriages, there is no
legal divorce obtained since legal divorces are complicated, costly, and not
valued by the Washo. In situations in which a legal marriage is terminated
without a legal divorce, and no action is taken by either party, subsequent
marriages by either ex-partner will be by custom marriage. Emma gives the term
gumay?asemu for the one legal divorce in Dresslerville and this she translates
as legally divorced." At another interview she said that the term meant "real
divorce and.never see again," whereas the gumay?a? term, i.e., without the semu,
implies "divorce, but could get together again.". Also, the 4aga suffix-could be
used and this meant "never reallyiget.divorced, separated 2-3 months" or "go
apart and then get together." "But after several years don't get together again."
She also said that a phrase meaning, makee up again, just once. If it didn't
work, stay apart," could be used.

It would be interesting and informative to compare each conjugal situation
for the over 100 situations obtained and to see where the similarities and dif-
ferences arise and to relate these to the couple's behavior. But this is beyond
the interest of this present paper. However, it is informative to show the
breakdown in the informant's classification'.of herself compared with the classi-
fication by the other informant (Fig. 4).

Emma Shaw did not discuss her first marriage. In describing her second mar-
riage, she used the term guinla:?ya?enmu and translated it as "together 26 years,
really my good husband." She used the gumla:?ya?semu term for her third-marriage
and translated it as "2-3 years together and plan to stay together for a lifetime."
Annie Jones explained Emma's marriages as follows: She gave no Washo term for
Emma's first union but said in English, not very long, weren't living together.
He died of TB." Annie used two terms for Emma's second union: gumla:?ya? or being
married, and gumay?a?, or being divorced and said, 'separated, she left him.'




Emma Shaw's Unions

Ego's classification




(no term)


(no .term)

gmll:? ?ya?semu Together. 26 years.
S.eally my good


Annie Jones' clas-

(no term)



ba?lew dimla:ya?

2-3 years :to-
gether and plan
to stay together a

Not very long.
Just long enough
to have one boy
by him.

Separated; she
left him.

Paiute's wife.
Call Emma this.

Annie Jones' Unions

Ego's classification

- Ema Shaw's classi-



gumla: ?yaaemu

gumla: ?ya?

Man and wife.

(no term).

Long time; he
passed away.

C:uite a while

Annie gave the term ba?lew dimlan:ya? meaning Paiute's wife for Emma's third

What is happening here is that Emma's classification of her own marriages
are different from Annie's. Emma puts herself into the semu or genuine category,
whereas Annie does not consider her genuinely married.

It is interesting that in all the classifications which Emma made, she did
not differentiate between a Washo and non-Uasho spouse, since she herself has a
Paiute husband. Annie Jones made this distinction.

In contrast, Annie Jones' classification of her marriages and Emma's classi-
fication of them are identical. They both use the semu form for her first union
and the unmodified gumla:?ya? form for her second union. Hence, the writer con-
cludes that Annie and others view her first union as "more genuine or real" than
her second union.


As each informant classifies a relationship, she is evaluating it to.ascer-
tain if certain criteria are fulfilled. It-is assumed that there are forms of
unions that are preferred over others by the evaluation and classification of
conjugal behavior of friends and relatives of these informants and of themselves.
The writer submits that a ranking or assessment of the types of unions is possible
based upon the evidence presented by informants and from a consideration of the
frequency of occurrence of each type.9

If the frequency of each type of marriage or other relationship category is
considered, it is not surprising'that the culturally sanctioned custom marriage
occurs most frequently and that non-marriage type unions are less frequent. Each
informant's high esteem of a stable custom.marriage (and in the case of one in-
formant of legal unions) and their low revere of pretend unions, living together
relationships, and extra-marital. affairs is in line with the assumption that a
type of marriage is prescribed by the .society and that other types of behavior are
allowed but also follow some cultural patterns. A further assumption is that all
persons may not be able to choose the most preferred type of marriage, ie., a
long, stable marriage, and will therefore, have some other type within culturally
recognized categories.

Hence, it is suggested that certain.criteria of conjugal unions have higher
valuesl0 placed on them in terms of conceptions of the desirable than others and

9 The high frequency of some categories do influence its ranking. For example,
the high frequency of custom unions versus the low frequency of non-marriage
type relationship leads to designation of the former as the preferred type.
But, some attributes are considered more important than others by informants,
e.g., long stable marriages hold highest esteem, but occur infrequently since
it is rare for a couple to have long lives and remain together as well.
10 'A value is a conception, explicit or implicit, distinctive of an individual or
characteristic of a group, of the desirable which influences the selection
from the available modes, means, and ends of action. (Kluckhohn and Murray:

in fact, a ranking from high to low can be given. If the informant's classi-
fying statements are translated into statements of preference, then Emma values
marriage unions, especially long term ones and legal marriages. On the other
hand, she does not value pretend or unstable relationships; and she does not
condone situations in which the woman is thought of as a pretend wife or used
for sexual privileges.

Annie values a long term custom marriage. She places highest-.value on
continuous cohabitation and peaceful domestic relations. She once said, "Don't
say Indian marriage, or married by law or common law. They just say living
together as man and wife." Annie also values having a Washo as opposed to a
Paiute or white e spouse which she disfavors immensely. She does not condone
pretend unions or unfaithful acts which are contrary to public sanction. She
does not seem to value legal marriages since that is "whiteman's law."

Both informants conceive of separations and divorces as natural and ex-
plainable if the couple is not getting along. Emma seems "impressed" with
legal divorce.

In ranking these situations the highest evaluated unions-are long time,/
pub-lically sanctioned unions (tribal custom) where there is evidence-of con-
.tinuous cohabitation, faithfulness, and peaceful domestic relations. Unions
in which the couple is simply living together and not considered married are
recognized, but not ranked as highly as a genuine Washo custom marriage. Short
time unions are not highly valued. Abandoning a union and extra-marital af-
fair or elopement are ranked very low. And pretend and unstable unions are
also ranked low. Washo find it difficult to conceive of a union as any kind
of a marriage if the couple is not living together. And it seems unnatural
to them for persons to be considered as married if they are living apart.

S Among more traditional Washo, a Washo spouse is preferred over a'~on-
Washo. Legal unions are devalued since they are considered to be "whiteman's
law or way." However, among more acculturated Washo, legal unions' are highly
valued as a more genuine union. And younger and more acculturated Washo find
marriage to a non-Washo desirable.

Separations and divorces seem natural and-explainable to the Washo, es-
pecially if the couple is not getting along well or if one party has been
unfaithful. However, condoning or condemning divorces often depends on the
individuals values and viewsof the situation. Legal divorces seem to be
generally devalued especially if legal requisites of alimony or support are

In summation, terms have many criterial attributes that are dependent
upon a range of behaviors and these are ranked from high to low. People im-
plicitly recognize the range and some ranking order as evidenced by their way
of utilizing terminology.

This analysis purports to explain the manner in which the Washo view con-
jugal relations and the method of deriving these views. The analysis suggests
that marriage and divorce behavior patterns have a heretofore unsuspected


flexibility in terminological usage. The assumption is that terms.have im-
plicit ranked values which" are reflected in an informant's usage in classi-
fying behavior. By asking informants to evaluate on-going behavioral situ-
ations, judgments of valued and devalued aspects of social life were obtained.
Hence, the technique evaluated the state of a "union" of an individual or
couple. The results show that the Washo recognize a multiple of existing

For example, the highest ranked kind of union is a "long time one" with-
out separations. But there is some flexibility in this ranking as seen by
Emma's equation of "long time" unions with legal ones. Older people are still
unclear or have not accepted or equated these two forms. However, Emma shows
a way of coping with or accommodating to white marriage forms. Since the high-
est value.in her system is the -semu form, she has superimposed the legal and
"long time" union. By contrast, in Annie Jones' value system, legal unions have
to be validated by following the Washo custom of living together for a long

The analysis has-lointed out that informants within the same culture may
have different perceptions and cognitions about the same behavioral situations.
These are colored by their value judgments, their position in the social system,
and by their exposure to external systems. "The most important determinant of
criterial analysis is undoubtedly: the particular purpose behind the symboliza-
tion of a situation The learning criteria for such categories are probably
different for each individual (Colby:1966:10)." Marriage and divorce rela-
tions encompass valued ranked terms-- yet there is adequate overlap between
informants such that the domain and its segregates can be determined.

The segregates- their mandatory and optional features and the. importance
of the attributes of each category can be explicitly delineated by this tech-
nique. No reduction nor minimum rules have been sought. In terms of predic-
tion, criteria have been presented, but individual variability and the changing
society must be recognized as influencing behavior and terminology. The fact
that two informants differ to some extent in their classificational systems may
present dismay to the reader, and it may be argued.that the domain still re-
mains unbounded. However, the analysis has sought to consider terminological
usage in its cultural context. Purposefully, the ipa-er.has attem ted to be
concerned with the behavioral and value systems whereas, most semantic anaJ-yses
do not address themselves to this-. roblem.

51 .


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