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Naming, identity and the African renaisance [sic] in a South African context.

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Naming is a very important tool used among various African cultures to convey certain messages, either to an individual, family members or a community. Naming of various objects is linked with the socio-political factors of countries where anthroponyms and toponyms are found. It is for this reason that onomastics (the study of names) can never be isolated from studying the dynamics of various societies, the behaviour and the psychology of different individuals. While names can unite communities, they can also serve as a dividing tool in various communities. It is from names that one can learn the various cultures that have been present in a particular place, and have an understanding and the appreciation of the history of a place. Onomastics is multidisciplinary in nature. It can be approached from different perspectives. These include linguistic, historical, sociological, philosophical, economical and other perspectives. Chapter two focuses on the linguistic and semantic aspects of names. It explores onomastic definitions and the comparison between the meaning of Euro-western and African names. In Chapter two an argument is presented on the morphological structure of Zulu and/or Xhosa names for boys and girls. In this Chapter the orthography of place names is also discussed. The importance of standardising names for purposes of having one name for one entity and asserting the country's history and heritage cannot be overemphasised. As indicated above that onomastics can also be approached from a historic approach, Chapter 3 looks at the changing political scenario in South Africa that has had an impact on the culture of indigenous people, their identity and the existence of Euro-western names among them. The arrival of white people in South Africa contaminated the indigenous culture and the African belief systems. The traditional belief system of the indigenous people is discussed in Chapter three together with the advent of Christianity. Chapter four looks at the sociological approach in onomastics. Names of any nature exist in a society. These names reflect the social dynamics of the societies where they are found. The society plays a major role in influencing the choice of names given to individuals and entities. These names have different functions in societies. The different functions that names have in various communities are also discussed. In Chapter four the significance of anthroponyms and toponyms is discussed. Various types of names are also looked at. Political changes witnessed in the country play a major role in transforming the country whether economically, culturally or socially. The impact of political changes and the attitudes of South Africans towards name changes are discussed in Chapter five. President Thabo Mbeki's call for an African renaissance came at the time when South Africa attained its independence. The adoption of African names was on the increase during this period. Chapter six looks at the link between changing naming patterns and the African renaissance. As an African renaissance calls for the rebirth of African culture and ways of living, xenophobic attitudes among Africans are examined. It is argued that Africa's rebirth is dependant on various issues including the respect and value that Africans give each other. Onomastics, as mentioned above can be studied using different approaches, however the limitedness of this study prevents discussion on all approaches. Onomastics is a relatively new field in South Africa, however its multidisciplinary nature and the abundance of data, invites more studies to be conducted. Chapter seven makes recommendations on some of the onomastic studies that may be conducted in future.


Thesis (Ph.D.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 2004.


Onomasiology., Onomastics--South Africa., Identity--Social aspects--South Africa., Identity--Religious aspects--South Africa., African renaissance., Theses--Linguistics.