Kinship is the basis of society in the Hindu-Kush, and at the core of each society's kinship system is a set of basic kin terms. To understand any society in the region, one must first know the categories of persons designated by the kin terminology. Presented here are basic kin terms that I have recorded for the societies listed below. The systems are depicted diagrammatically, with Ego in the center of each diagram. There are separate diagrams for male and female Egos. In most instances, the Alters shown represent the archetypal kin relationship; most basic terms also encompass more distant kin in the society.
Only basic kin terms appear in the diagrams. (At this time only terms of reference are given; terms of address will appear later.) Compound or descriptive terms appear only when they are nontransparent. Among the ĀSkuNu-, Kāmkata-, and KalaSa-alā-speaking peoples, basic terms of reference require a Personal Suffix that indicates whether the hearer or a grammatical third person stands as Ego (e.g., Kāmviri tot '[my] father', t'ot-a 'your father', t'ot-as 'his/her father'). Terms that do not take such suffixes, such as the words for "agnate" (Kāmviri t'otbRo 'agnate' [lit., 'father-brother']), are not counted as basic kin terms and are not shown in the diagrams.
A comparison of these systems reveals that the systems of the Nuristāni languages cluster as one group, with a division of Northern (Kāmkata and Vāsi) vs. Southern (ĀSkuNu and KalaSa) paralleling the overall linguistic division of these languages. Close to these, but with their own characteristics, are the Kal'aSa-mun and Khów systems of Chitral. More distant and complex is the Aēharźtā' system, which shows affinities with systems to the southeast.
Underlying all the systems is the principle that a child inherits its social identity from its father. Such identities trace back through the patriline to an agnatic founder. A founder's patrilineal male descendant is his "Boy" (Kāmviri -dāra), his patrilineal female descendant is his "Boys' Daughter" (-dārea jü), and he is their "Grandfather" (voa). Any two males who are "Boys" of the same founder are Agnates (t'otbRo). Rarely, an agnatic founder may be a female, as with the Kom ārāa dāra 'Rich-Woman's Boys'. Traditionally, Nuristānis would not marry their agnates' daughters, so that a person's mother would always be the daughter of another agnatic group. It follows that their kin terms distinguish one's mother's agnates from one's own and one's affines from other kin.
Thus, in one's parents' generation, male kin are either Fathers (Kāmviri tot, etc.) or Mother's Brothers (mām). Female kin are all Mothers (nua). Collateral Fathers and Mothers ("uncles" and "aunts" in Western terminology) are typically distinguished with a adjectival prefix indicating their seniority relative to one's parents (e.g., j'eStot 'eldest-father', māj'am tot 'middle father', and kāń'atot 'youngest-father'). These prefixes reflect differences in inheritance and authority. In a few systems collateral females are distinguished by special terms (e.g., Niei-alā pipi 'father's sister' vs. iei 'mother'). Upon marriage, one's spouse's parents become distinguished from other kin with new terms (Kāta-viri saē'üR 'father-in-law' and CuC 'mother-in-law', etc.), emphasizing the strong bond of mutual support that ideally exists between children and parents-in-law.
In one's own generation, all male kin start out as Brothers (Kāmviri bRo). Later, some become distinguished as Brothers-in-Law (Zāmi, etc.) when they become one's affines. A similar distinction is made in some systems (KalaSa-alā and Sańu-vīri [female Ego]) for female kin, who are either Sisters (Niei-alā sos) or Sisters-in-Law (vRök). Otherwise, all female kin are Sisters. Seniority, reflecting authority, is typically distinguished for Brothers and Sisters in kin terms of address, and some systems also distinguish seniority with terms of reference. Unique terms occur for spouses (Kāmviri tri 'wife' and moc 'husband'). Because polygyny is allowed, special terms exist for co-wives (iār'i). The Southern Nuristāni group of languages distinguishes seniority among a female Ego's husband's brothers.
In one's children's generation, the children of a Sister (SāpS'i), who belong with her husband's agnates, are distinguished from others, who are either Sons or Daughters (pütr 'son' or jü 'daughter', etc.). Affines are distinguished when they marry one's children (vu 'daughter-in-law' and zāmo 'son-in-law).
In other generations there are only distinctions of gender: e.g., Kāmviri voa 'grandfather' vs. vā·'i 'grandmother' and nāv'o 'grandson' vs. nut 'granddaughter'. The indigenous systems of Chitral (Khowar and KalaSa-mun) do not distinguish gender among grandchildren. Aēharźtā' alone distinguishes mother's parents and daughter's children from others in their generations. If exactitude is required, kin in generations above one's grandparents may be further distinguished with a prefix, e.g., Kāmviri pār- 'great-', as in pārp'arvoa 'great-great-grandfather'.