Amani J. Chipalo


This study takes an onoma-pragmatic approach to investigating Cigogo personal names, in order to identify the determinants of the choices and the implications involved in naming. Personal names are considered here to be utterances like any other, whose understanding depends heavily upon their situational interpretation, based on both general and specific information shared by speakers and surrounding the utterance. Therefore the data in this study were analysed with general background information to retrieve the relevant etymologies, and with specific information to identify their possible implicatures. The findings have shown that Gogo personal names derive etymologically from lineage, seasons, socio-economic activities, calamities, surroundings, birth circumstances and celebrities. All these collectively carry two implicatures: either recording and recalling, or wishes and prayers. The sources of personal names reveal not only how this community reckoned time before the introduction of literacy, but also how they have worshiped. Of further interest is the recording of birthdays, family history and clan legacy by Cigogo speakers through personal names. Some of the names – particularly the ancestral ones – were used as good will prayers and wishes bestowed upon the younger generation. These observations may inspire further study of personal naming, a subject area of pragmatics which so far has not received sufficient systematic attention. Further, the pragmatics of African personal names illuminates one dimension in the complex transmission of cultural and historical information in oral knowledge traditions.

Keywords: Cigogo, onomastics, onoma-pragmatic, personal names, naming systems, Tanzania

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