Why are they named after death? Name giving, name changing and death prevention names in Gújjolaay Eegimaa (Banjal)

Sagna, Serge
Bassène, Emmanuel
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University of Hawai'i Press
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This paper advocates the integration of ethnographic information such as anthroponymy in language documentation, by discussing the results of the documentation of personal names among speakers of Gújjolaay Eegimaa. Our study shows that Eegimaa proper names include names that may be termed ‘meaningless names’, because their meanings are virtually impossible to identify, and meaningful names, i.e. names whose meanings are semantically transparent. Two main types of meaningful proper names are identified: those that describe aspects of an individual’s physic or character, and ritual names which are termed death prevention names. Death prevention names include names given to women who undergo the Gaññalen ‘birth ritual’ to help them with pregnancy and birthgiving, and those given to children to fight infant mortality. We provide an analysis of the morphological structures and the meanings of proper names and investigate name changing practices among Eegimaa speakers. Our study shows that, in addition to revealing aspects of individuals’ lives, proper names also reveal important aspects of speakers’ social organisation. As a result, anthroponymy is an area of possible collaborative research with other disciplines including anthropology and philosophy.
Serge Sagna and Emmanuel Bassène. 2016. 'Why are they named after death? Name giving, name changing and death prevention names in Gújjolaay Eegimaa (Banjal)'. In African language documentation: new data, methods and approaches, Special Publication No.10 of Language Documentation & Conservation, edited by Mandana Seyfeddinipur, pp. 40–70. http://hdl.handle.net/10125/24652
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