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

Naming and social identity: A case study of male praise names in Awgbu Igbo

Patience Solomon-Etefia, Amaka Ideh
Issued Date: 20 Feb 2020


Among the Awgbu Igbo people in Anambra State, South-east Nigeria, praise names are bestowed on community members as traditional identifying resources to reflect their personalities, aspirations and social being. These names are required for all adults to establish bonding, extend social relationships and strengthen feelings of solidarity within their local and translocal spaces. This study undertakes a sociolinguistic investigation of male praise names among members of the Awgbu Igbo community taking into account how the names are socially constructed to negotiate identity and authenticity. The discourse of praise names in Awgbu is analysed using social identity theory (Tajfel and Turner, 1979), which maintains that at the level of the self, a person may have multiple social identities, which widen circles of group membership, enact friendship and foster individual identity and collective belonging. We have classified praise names based on relevant social categories that reflect Awgbu life experiences. This study concludes that praise names can create a platform for group members to bond socially by offering an alternate naming enterprise which provides bearers with interactional strategies for the discursive and ideological construction of power and dominance.

Download Media

PDF Subscribers Only

DOI: 10.1558/sols.37852



Abdul, R. E. (2014) A synchronic sociolinguistic analysis of personal names among Ewes. Thesis submitted to the University of Ghana, Legon in Partial Fulfilment of the Requirement for the Award of M.Phil Linguistics Degree. Retrieved on 30th July 2017 from:

Adjah, A. O. (2011) What’s in a name? Ghanaian personal names as information sources. African Research and Documentation 11: 3–17.

Afful, J. B. A. (2006) Address terms among university students in Ghana: A case study. Language and Intercultural Communication 6(1): 76–91. Doi:

Agyekum, K. (2006) The sociolinguistic of Akan personal names. Nordic Journal of African Studies 15(2): 206–235.

Algeo, J. (1992) ‘Onomastics’. In T. McArthur (ed.) The Oxford companion to the English language 727–729. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Anyachonkeya, N. (2014) Naming in Igbo Land: A linguistic and cultural study. Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences 5(17): 113–122.

Bucholtz, M. and Hall, K. (2005) Identity and interaction: A sociocultural linguistic approach. Discourse Studies 7(4–5): 585–614. Doi:

Burr, V. (1995) An introduction to social constructionism. London: Routledge. Doi:

de Fina, A. (2011) Discourse and identity. In T. A. van Dijk (ed.) Discourse studies: A multidisciplinary introduction 263–282. London: Sage. Doi:

Deschamps, J. and Devos, T. (1998) Regarding the relationship between social identity and personal identity. In S. Worchel (ed.) Social identity: International perspectives 1–12. London: Sage.

Herbert, B. and Bogatsu, S. (2001) Changes in Northern Sotho and Tswana personal naming patterns. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Mahome, P. M. (1972) Naming in Sesotho: Its socio-cultural and linguistic basis. New York: University Press. Doi:

Mensah, E. (2015) Frog, where are you? The ethnopragmatics of Ibibio death prevention names. Journal of African Cultural Studies 27(2): 115–132. Doi:

Mensah, E. (2016) Female nicknames in Nigeria: The case of Calabar metropolis. Language Matters 47(2): 184–202. Doi:

Mensah, E. and Offong, I. (2013) The structure of Ibibio death prevention names. Anthropological Notebooks 19(3): 41–59.

Meyerhoff, M. (1996) Dealing with gender identity as a sociolinguistic Variable. In V. L. Bergvall, J. M. Bing and A. F. Freed (eds) Rethinking language and gender research: Theory and practice 202–227. London: Longman.

Meyerhoff, M. and Niedzielski, N. (1994) Resistance to creolization: An interpersonal and intergroup account. Language and Communication 14(4): 313-330. Doi:

Miller, J. (1999) Becoming audible: Social identity and second language use. Intercultural Studies. 20(2): 149–165. Doi:

Neethling, S. J. (2003) Perceptions around the English name of Xhosa speakers. Nomina Africana 17(2): 47–66.

Ngubane, S. and Thabethe, N. (2013) Shifts and continuities in Zulu personal naming practices. Literator 34(1): 1–7. Doi:

Obeng, S. G. (1998) Akan death prevention names: A pragmatic and structural analysis. Names 46(3): 163–187. Doi:

Ogunwale, J. A. and Oluwafemi, O. E. (2014) Linguistic alienation and culture subversion as sociolinguistic factors for name dropping and change among the so-called Yoruba elites. IOSR Journal of Humanities and Social Science 19(11): 42–53. Doi:

Oha, O. (2009) Praise names and power deconstructions in contemporary Igbo chiefship cultural studies. Culture, Language and Representation 7: 101–116.

Olenyo, M. (2011). What’s in a name? An analysis of the semantics of Lulogooli personal names. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science 1(20): 211–218.

Onumajuru, V. C. (2016) A semantic and pragmatic analysis of Igbo names. African Research Review: An International Multidisciplinary Journal 10(2): 307–324. Doi:

Tajfel, H. and Turner, J. (1979) An integrative theory of intergroup conflict. In W. G. Austin and S. Worchel (eds) The social psychology of intergroup relations 33–47. Monterrey, CA: Brooks & Cole.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Equinox Publishing Ltd - 415 The Workstation 15 Paternoster Row, Sheffield, S1 2BX United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 (0)114 221-0285 - Email:

Privacy Policy