Naming Among the Xhosa of South Africa

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Edwin Mellen Press, 2005 - Foreign Language Study - 267 pages
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This book is the first comprehensive monograph on naming in the Xhosa speaking community in South Africa. This work brings together all available scholarly research on Xhosa naming as well as recent research by the author. Onomastics (the study of names, naming, and naming systems) is relatively young in Southern Africa. While the discipline of onomastics was already well established in northern Europe in the late nineteenth century, the study of names and naming only really started to take root in Southern Africa in the second half of the twentieth century. And if onomastics itself is relatively young in Southern Africa, the study of names and naming among the Bantu speaking societies and cultures is younger still. Prior to 1976 one might have found the odd reference to personal names in ethnographic literature, but one would have looked in vain for academic studies on naming patterns among the Zulu, Xhosa, Venda, Tswana, or any of the other 'indigenous' language groupings of Southern Africa. papers being read at the congresses of the Names Society of Southern Africa (NSA), articles being published in the NSA journal Nomina Africana, and students in Departments of African Languages around Southern Africa producing postgraduate research into naming systems of the Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho, Tswana, and the other indigenous language communities of Southern Africa. For monographs on the naming systems of the indigenous peoples, though, the serious names scholar had to wait until the twenty-first century. My own work, Zulu Names, appeared in 2002, published by the University of Natal Press in Pietermaritzburg, and Minna Saarelma-Maunumaa's Edhina Ekogidho - Names as Links, on the naming system of the Ambo people of Namibia and published by the Finnish Literature Society in Helsinki, was released in 2003. This work by Bertie Neethling on the names of the Xhosa speaking people of South Africa thus completes the trio. Bertie Neethling is well placed to write a book on Xhosa names and naming. Cape, where he has been teaching Xhosa for many years, he has been one of Southern Africa's major contributors to the study of onomastics among the indigenous groups. His interest in Xhosa onomastics and in literary onomastics in both Xhosa and Afrikaans, goes hand-in-hand with his interest in oral literary productions, and he is as well known for his scholarly articles on Xhosa iintsomi (folktales) and Xhosa oral poetry in journals such as The South African Journal of African Languages as he is for his articles on Xhosa onomastics in Nomina Africana. A regular at the biennial congresses of the Names Society of Southern Africa, his face is also well known at the triennial congresses of the International Council of Onomastic Sciences (ICOS). Naming patterns in all societies are subject to change, and in the turbulent and changing socio-political climate in South Africa since the early 1990s this has been particularly true for Xhosa society. established and traditional Xhosa naming system with developments of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. So for example we find the chapter on the Xhosa speaker's English name looking deeply into the question of whether the colonial name (as many scholars have described this type of name) is still a feature of Xhosa society, or whether it has become a discarded symbol of the old South Africa. The inclusion of chapters on the naming of informal settlements and of minibus taxis also gives this book the feel that it is tackling modern up-to-date onomastic issues, and not just repeating stale ethnographic descriptions of Xhosa naming patterns of yesteryear. The first section of the book and the most extensive one, deals with anthroponymy, and a wide range of different types of anthroponym is covered: the 'real' Xhosa name given at birth, the English name, the surname, nicknames, and names for married women. expecting to find the usual and traditional categories like the names of towns and villages, and other well known geographical names like those for rivers and mountains, may well be surprised. Neethling has decided to discuss place names mainly in an urbanised context and hence the section on toponyms in this book deals with the names of schools, businesses and informal settlements. The book ends with a chapter each on minibus taxi names, and the traditional names of the months of the year, where an intriguing comparison is made with the lunar nomenclature of the Sioux people of North America. I am sure that this book will very soon find a place on the bookshelf of every serious names scholar and student in South Africa and beyond, as well as proving fascinating to people generally interested in the customs and traditions of the Xhosa speaking people.

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The Xhosa speakers English name

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About the author (2005)

Bertie Neethling is Senior Professor in the Xhosa Department of the Arts Faculty at the University of the Western Cape in Bellville, South Africa.

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