Departmental Bulletin Paper Personal Name as Mnemonic Device or Conversational Resource : An Ethnographic Study on the Naming Practice among the GÇ ui and GÇ ana San (Natural History of Communication among the Central Kalahari San)

SUGAWARA, Kazuyoshi

52pp.77 - 104 , 2016-03 , The Research Committee for African Area Studies, Kyoto University
This article investigates the naming practice of the GÇ ui and GÇ ana Khôespeaking people, inhabiting the central Kalahari, Botswana. In GÇ ui/GÇ ana society, newborn babies are usually named by their fathers after some conspicuous incident which occurred during pregnancy or infancy. For the analysis, the following three aspects are distinguished: (I) the signifying function of a name, (II) the denotation of a name, and (III) the connotation of a name. (I) The anecdotes after which 167 persons had been named were classified into the following types: (1) circumstances of marriage; (2) the physical or mental condition of the mother during the prenatal or neonatal periods; (3) conflict; (4) the name of land; (5) economic transaction; (6) sociability; (7) relationship with the Bakgalagadi agro-pastoralists, Ç eÌ beÌ ; (8) hunting and gathering; (9) the appearance or condition of the infant; and (10) others. More than 40 percent of the total cases were categorized into the type (3). This point suggests that the primary signifying function of the GÇ ui/GÇ ana names is to encode negative insinuations targeting oneâ s conjugal partner, kinsmen, or co-residents. (II) As the most personal names of the GÇ ui/GÇ ana are composed of common nouns and verbs, the literal meaning of each name cannot help being evoked at each usage for reference. Therefore the encoded content of a name is open to the possibility of re-interpretation which may not necessarily coincide with the original context of naming. (III) The peculiar feature of the GÇ ui/GÇ ana naming practice is that the kinds of name are quite divergent, resulting in a low proportion of â the same name.â This divergence reflects the most essential characteristics of the everyday field of oral discourse, where naming is contiguous with ordinary speech. This feature stands in sharp contrast to the â homonymous methodâ among the JuÇ â hoan inhabiting the north-eastern area of Namibia.

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