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6 november 2008

Lezing Bertie Neethling: ‘Exploring the link between name and identity : A UWC profile’
Plaats: Keizerszaal, Meertens Instituut
Tijd: 16.00 uur

Bertie Neethling, Xhosa Department, University of the Western Cape


This contribution presents preliminary findings of a project called Exploring the link between name and identity : A UWC profile that was conducted among students of the University of the Western Cape (UWC). Data was collected by means of an extensive questionnaire circulated on campus in 2006. The focus was on testing the perceptions of students around notions of ethnic identity, naming conventions (notably first names and nicknames), and the perceived link between name and identity.

A total of 824 questionnaires were returned. Preliminary results indicate that the semantic typology of meaningful (i.e. semantically transparent) first names for the Xhosa community (Neethling 2005) is confirmed for other Bantu speaking groups on campus. The data from the Coloured community suggests a strong preference for ‘invented ’names (i.e. ‘made up’ with no discernable meaning or traceable etymology), very similar to those currently found among Afro-Americans. Muslim students from this community carry Arabic names that are also meaningful, i.e. with transparent meaning and intimately linked to Islam and generally considered to form an important part of one ’s identity.

The majority of respondents suggested a very strong link between name and identity, particularly in the case of names with discernable meaning. Many also indicated that their nicknames represented other forms of identities not suggested by their first names.
A small minority did not acknowledge the link between name and identity.

* Neethling, Bertie : Naming among the Xhosa of South Africa (Mellen Press 2005)