Sociolinguistic Studies, Vol 13, No 2-4 (2019)

Personal names as communicative tools in Tshivenḓa: Cultural-historical perspectives

Itani Peter Mandende, Mzwamadoda Phillip Cekiso, Christopher Rwodzi
Issued Date: 20 Feb 2020


Africans maintain close connections with their traditions and places of origin. They express those connections in many ways, including through naming practices. Among the Vhavenḓa of South Africa, personal names go beyond identity construction as they communicate beliefs, historical antecedents, values, intentions, experiences and other cultural practices. The purpose of this article is to explore how the naming system is used as a communicative tool that mirrors a wide range of human experiences within the Vhavenḓa socio-cultural context. A sampled population of twenty-five Vhavenḓa participants, including name-givers and bearers, were interviewed to elicit information about the meaning of their names. The data were collected over a period of five months. The names were analysed according to their semantic and pragmatic content. The findings reveal various derivational categories of Vhavenḓa personal names, such as death, social conditions, illness and reincarnation, acquired names, Christian beliefs and thanksgiving personal names. It is also clear that the study of the Vhavenḓa naming practice is equally the study of their social and historical phenomena, since their naming custom is so intertwined with their cultural and historical contexts.

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DOI: 10.1558/sols.37867


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