Generic taxa in Hawaiian

A computer-assisted study was performed on all native Hawai`ian folk genera to see to what extent the Hawai`ian system accords with Berlin's theory of ethnobiological taxonomy. It was found that the system can indeed be described as some 600 genera grouped in a shallow hierarchy, with a small percentage of them, mostly taxa of some cultural significance, being subdivided further into taxa named by contrast sets built on the name of the genus. Particular attention was applied to the question of correspondence between the Hawai`ian system and the Linnaean. Berlin's prediction that smaller life forms tend to be named more inclusively (i.e., correspond to higher Linnaean ranks) held up well, in contrast to an alternate reading that holds evolutionary complexity to be the causal factor; however, economic importance, which may be linked to size, cannot be ruled out as the underlying cause. No support was found for the idea that a culture tends to name at either the level of Linnaean genus or species, but not both. It was further found that Hawai`ian genera with the shortest names are more likely to correspond to higher Linnaean ranks.

Webster: Brett Kessler
Last change 2002-11-06.