A SYNCHRONIC SOCIOLINGUISTIC ANALYSIS OF PERSONAL NAMES AMONG EWES

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ABSTRACT

The study is a synchronic sociolinguistic analysis of personal names among Ewe people in Ghana. It treats as its background Egblewogbe’s (1977) thesis in which he describes vividly the various types of Ewe names, their linguistic structure and their semantics. In this study a variationist sociolinguistic  analysis is made to determine age, gender and regional and variations in personal names being given among the Ewe people. Four types of data were collected: registers from three Senior High schools, questionnaires, interviews, and personal observation. The study shows that the Ewe naming system has undergone some transformations due to language and religious contacts. It is shown among other things that there is a shift from traditional Ewe names to Ewe Christian religious names among Ewe people and the factors responsible for this shift are highlighted. The analysis also shows that Ewe personal names are marked morphologically and conventionally for gender. For the geographical variation, it is shown that some Ewe personal names vary depending on the location of the name bearer. The age-based variations also show that the older folks bear more Ewe names than the younger folks. On the dynamics of the use of names, the study shows that Ewes are addressed differently in different social domains depending on the participants involved in the interaction and the number of names they bear. Finally, the study shows that there is a discrepancy between the respondents’ preference for their personal names and their attitudes towards the use of their Ewe names.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Content                                                                                                     Page

DECLARATION…………………………………………………………………………………. I

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT………………………………………………………………….. II

DEDICATION………………………………………………………………………………….. III

ABSTRACT………………………………………………………………………………………. IV

CHAPTER ONE………………………………………………………………………………….. 1

INTRODUCTION……………………………………………………………………………….. 1

  1. INTRODUCTION…………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 1
    1. STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM……………………………………………………………………………… 2
    1. THE EWE PEOPLE, THEIR LANGUAGE AND THEIR NAMING SYSTEMS………….. 3
      1. The Ewe people……………………………………………………………………….. 3
      1. The Ewe language……………………………………………………………………. 5

1.3.3. Ewe naming system…………………………………………………………………. 6

1.3.4 Ewe naming ceremony……………………………………………………………… 6

CHAPTER TWO: LITERATURE REVIEW, THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK AND METHODOLOGY…………………………………………………………………………….. 12

  1. INTRODUCTION………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 12
    1. LITERATURE REVIEW…………………………………………………………………………………………… 12
      1. The typology and etymology of personal names………………………….. 12
      1. Functions of personal names……………………………………………………. 27
    1. THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK………………………………………………………………………………. 32
      1. Strength of the theoretical framework……………………………………….. 35
      1. Weakness of the framework……………………………………………………… 36
    1. METHODOLOGY……………………………………………………………………………………………………… 36
      1. School registers……………………………………………………………………… 36
      1. Interviews……………………………………………………………………………… 38
      1. Personal observations…………………………………………………………….. 39
      1. Questionnaire data…………………………………………………………………. 40
      1. The use of secondary data……………………………………………………….. 40
      1. Data analysis and interpretation………………………………………………. 41
      1. Problems of data collection……………………………………………………… 41
      1. Limitations of the methodology………………………………………………… 41

CHAPTER THREE: TYPES OF PERSONAL NAMES…………………….. 43

  1. INTRODUCTION………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 43
    1. SPECIFIC TYPES OF EWE PERSONAL NAMES FOUND IN THE DATA……………… 44
      1. Birthday names……………………………………………………………………… 45
      1. Order of birth names………………………………………………………………. 46
      1. Clan names…………………………………………………………………………… 47
      1. Twin names…………………………………………………………………………… 48
      1. Ewe Religious names……………………………………………………………… 48
        1. Ewe traditional religious names……………………………………………….. 50
        1. Ewe Christian religious names…………………………………………………. 51
      1. Predestination names……………………………………………………………… 53
      1. Traditional names………………………………………………………………….. 54
      1. Slave names…………………………………………………………………………… 56
      1. Special names………………………………………………………………………… 57
      1. Allusive names……………………………………………………………………… 57
      1. Discussion of the distribution of the Ewe personal names…………… 58
    1. TYPES OF NON-EWE NAMES…………………………………………………………………………………. 60
      1. English Names………………………………………………………………………. 61
      1. French names………………………………………………………………………… 62
      1. Arabic names………………………………………………………………………… 63
      1. Akan names…………………………………………………………………………… 64
      1. Ga names and Dagbani names………………………………………………… 65
      1. Yoruba names and Hausa names……………………………………………… 65
    1. NICKNAMES……………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 65
    1. THE USE OF MULTIPLE PERSONAL NAMES AMONG EWES…………………………….. 68
    1. THE DISTRIBUTIONAL PATTERN OF PERSONAL NAMES IN THE DATA……….. 71
      1. Gender variations in personal names………………………………………… 72
      1. Regional variations in personal names among Ewes…………………… 76
      1. The distribution of personal names across age groups………………… 83
    1. GENDER SPECIFIC VERSUS GENDER NEUTRAL NAMES…………………………………. 85
      1. Gender specific names……………………………………………………………. 85
      1. Gender neutral names…………………………………………………………….. 87
    1. GEOGRAPHICAL VARIATIONS IN THE PERSONAL NAMES…………………………….. 87
    1. MODERNIZATIONS IN EWE PERSONAL NAMES……………………………………………….. 90
      1. Orthographic change in names………………………………………………… 90
      1. Direct translation into English…………………………………………………. 92
    1. REDUCTION OF FULL FORMS OF PERSONAL NAMES…………………………………….. 94
    1. CONCLUSION………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 96

CHAPTER FOUR: DYNAMICS OF THE USE OF PERSONAL NAMES AMONG THE EWES………………………………………………………………………………………………… 98

  1. INTRODUCTION………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 98
    1. DOMAINS OF NAME USE…………………………………………………………………………………….. 100
      1. Name use within the family domain………………………………………… 101
      1. Discussions on the use of personal names within the family domain

………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 106

………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 114

4.4.1 Factors that influence the choice of a given personal name………… 124

  1. ATTITUDES TOWARDS THE USE OF EWE PERSONAL NAMES……………………… 130
    1. CHAPTER CONCLUSION……………………………………………………………………………………… 137

CHAPTER FIVE: CONCLUSION…………………………………………………… 138

  1. INTRODUCTION……………………………………………………………………………………………………. 138
    1. FINDINGS……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 138
      1. Types of names and their frequencies………………………………………. 138
      1. Variations in personal names…………………………………………………. 140
      1. Dynamics of name use………………………………………………………….. 141

5.2.4. Attitudes and preferences……………………………………………………… 143

5.4 RECOMMENDATIONS………………………………………………………………………………………….. 144

APPENDICES…………………………………………………………………………………. 145

APPENDIX A: QUESTIONNAIRE…………………………………………………. 145

APPENDIX B………………………………………………………………………………… 148

INTERVIEW QUESTIONS (NAME-BEARERS)……………………………… 148

APPENDIX C………………………………………………………………………………… 149

INTERVIEW QUESTIONS (NAME-GIVERS)………………………………… 149

BIBLIOGRAPHY…………………………………………………………………………….. 150

LIST OF TABLES

Table 3.1: Percentage of names collected from the three schools………………… 44

Table 3.2: Frequency of use of Ewe names from the school registers………….. 58

Table 3.3a: Gender variation in first names in school registers……………………. 72

Table 3.3b: Gender variation in first names in Questionnaire……………………… 73

Table 3.4a: Gender variation in second names in the school registers…………… 74

Table 3.4b: Gender variation in second names in Questionnaire…………………. 75

Table 3.5a: Regional variation in first personal names in school registers…….. 77

Table 3.5b: Regional variation in first names in questionnaire…………………….. 77

Table 3.6a: Regional variation in second personal names in school registers 80

Table 3.6b: Regional variation in second personal names in Questionnaire…… 80

Table 3.7: Age-based variation in first names…………………………………………… 84

Table 3.8: Age-based variation in second names………………………………………. 84

Table 3.9: Morphologically marked gender specific names………………………… 86

Table 3.10: Conventionally marked gender distinct names………………………… 87

Table 3.11: Variants of twin names in Peki……………………………………………… 89

Table 4.1: The use of Ewe names within the family domain…………………….. 101

Table 4.2: The use of English names within the family domain………………… 102

Table 4.3a: Parents report on the use of Ewe names to address their   children…         105

Table 4.3b: Parents report on the use of English names to address their  children         105

Table 4.3c: Parents report on the use of Ewe/English names to address their children  105

Table 4.4: The use of Ewe names within the friendship domain……………….. 113

Table 4.5: The use of English names in the friendship domain…………………. 113

Table 4.6: The use of Ewe/English names in the friendship domain………….. 113

Table 4.7: The use of personal names in the school domain……………………… 115

Table 4.8: The use of personal names in the church/mosque domain………116 Table 4:9: The use of personal names in the domain of work…………………………………………………… 117

Table 4.10: Gender difference in preferred name use……………………………… 121

Table 4.11: Religious background of name givers………………………………….. 126

Table 4.12: Educational background of name givers……………………………….. 128

Table 4.13: Regional variations in attitudes towards the use of Ewe names 136

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

            Introduction

Names are words that a person or an entity in the world is known by. Personal names are names which identify an individual in the society in which he lives and they reflect the values of the people and the society as a whole. Names given to children signal the general perception of the people and their worldview. Personal names serve as means of communication because different naming systems and forms of address select different things about the self for communication and for emphasis (Goodenough 1965:275, cited in Aceto 2002:578).

Addressing people by their names reminds them and the people around them of events surrounding the construction of the name and the social hierarchies and characteristics of these names. Some people are able to enact their embodied understanding through personal names. According to Firth (1964:60), “everyman carries his culture and much of his social reality about with him wherever he goes”. These realities are sometimes identified through the person’s personal name and his language. Personal names are usually constructed historically, maintained socially and they are based on the shared assumptions and expectations of members of the society (Akinnaso 1980).

This study is a synchronic sociolinguistic analysis of personal names among Ewe people in Ghana. It treats as its background Egblewogbe’s 1977 thesis in which he describes vividly the various types of Ewe names, their linguistic

structures, their semantics and their functions. The study focuses on the sociolinguistic aspect of personal names among Ewes and aims at determining the factors which influence people to give particular personal names to their children.

In this chapter, I present an introduction and the statement of the problem. I also present the sociolinguistic profile of the Ewe people and the scope of the study. The aims and objectives of the study and the research questions that will be addressed in order to achieve these aims are also discussed in addition to the significance and the structure of the thesis.

            Statement of the problem

Much work has been done on personal names in Ewe (see Egblewogbe 1977 and Agozie 2000). Those studies focus on the systems of naming, the structure, the semantics/morphology and the etymology of the names. The works did not give an account of how the Ewe people live their names. Those works rather concentrated on the socio-cultural significance of Ewe names. Studies on names in other cultures show that etymology “does not improve the name’s ability to function or increase its usefulness” (Nicolaison 1998 cited in Anderson 2007:86). With time, knowledge on the etymology of names fades and it is remembered only by a few relatives. With this in mind, it is necessary to research into how Ewe personal names are faring in the face of current globalization. This current study therefore represents a synchronic sociolinguistic analysis of personal names among the Ewes within their

indigenous social context bringing out the variations that exit among their personal names.

            The Ewe people, their language and their naming systems

This section discusses the history of the Ewe people and where they

migrated from before settling in their present settlements in Ghana. It also talks

about the language of the people and their systems of naming and the naming ceremony.

  •             The Ewe people

Ewe refers to both the language and its speakers. The Ewes are the second largest ethnic group in Ghana and they occupy the south-eastern part of the country. They are believed to have migrated from Adzatome (Sumeria) to the Delta of the River Nile (presently known as Egypt) where they adopted naming and circumcision of the male child on the eighth day from the Jews (cf. Anlo Hogbetsotsoza 2012:23-24). From Egypt, they moved through Ketu, (somewhere in Sudan) to Ile-Ife in Nigeria. Whilst in Ile-Ife, they learned the art of divination (Afa) from the Yorubas. When they left Ile-Ife, they split into three groups; the first group settled near the banks of the Mono River which is known as Tado, the second group settled between the Mono and the Haho Rivers also known as Notsie in the Republic of Togo and the third group settled in Adele country and established the Dogbonyigbo kingdom which is Dahomey, presently known as the republic of Benin. After some time in Dogbonyigbo, the Ewe people moved to join their brothers in Notsie.