In this book, which was originally published in 1974, lexical
reconstruction is used to provide links between cultural and social
anthropology and linguistics. The Athapaskan language family has members in
Alaska, western Canada, the west coast and southwest of the United States,
and Oklahoma. The authors use the kinship terminology of existing
Athapaskan languages and dialects to provide a lexical reconstruction of
the kinship terminology of the mother-language, Proto-Athapaskan, which
existed perhaps 1,500 or more years ago. A central contribution of the work
is the explicit delineation of the method used in lexical reconstruction to
arrive at the likeliest inferences about the meanings of proto-lexemes.
Other methodological contributions include a method for inferring features
of social organization from kinship terminology and for reconstructing
other features of social organization from the distribution of these
features among existing groups.