Naming Among the Xhosa of South Africa

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This is the first comprehensive monograph on naming in the Xhosa speaking community in South Africa. Although onomastic studies in South Africa have a fairly long history, the emphasis has been mainly on toponyms, and then not on data from the indigenous African communities. With the coming into being of the Names Society of Southern Africa in 1980, as well as its official mouthpiece, the journal Nomina Africana, the discipline received a very necessary stimulus. Various contributions on Xhosa naming did appear regularly in the journal, but episodically. This work brings together all available scholarly research on Xhosa naming as well as recent research by the author. It not only covers the well-known categories such as anthroponyms and toponyms, but also lesser-known topics such as the names of minibus taxis and month names. The work also incorporates other recent and relevant onomastic studies in particularly Southern African communities. This book should be of great value to names scholars working in Southern Africa, as well as further afield. Naming in Africa often takes on other dimensions than in western society, and this work illustrates this well regarding Xhosa society. The socio-onomastic approach should also interest anthropologists, ethnographers, sociologists, cultural studies experts, and even the general public who wish to learn more about Xhosa society as reflected through naming.


“The author is well placed to write a book on Xhosa names and naming. Still in the chair of the Xhosa Department at the University of the Western 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 ... 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.” – (from the Commendatory Preface) Professor Adrian Koopman, Vice-President, Names Society of Southern Africa, Editor of Nomina Africana and Director of the Onomastics Studies Unit, University of KwaZulu-Natal (PMB)

“This is a very good and original book in theoretical and applied sociolinguistics and onomastics as well as in the study of Bantu languages, more in particular the widespread Xhosa language in South Africa. It deals with the most important categories of names such as personal and place names, and very originally, with names of minibus taxis and of months. Moreover, this study intends to contribute to the stimulation of South African onomastics in general, and especially with respect to Xhosa and other Bantu languages. Finally, there is no such publication of this size and quality in South Africa yet.” – Professor Willy van Langendonck, Professor in General Linguistics and Onomastics, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven

“This book will add substantially and importantly to the growing literature in onomastics, and will be highly relevant to a number of related fields such as linguistics, cultural geography, cultural studies and anthropology. The work's main strength is its unique overview of Xhosa names and naming practices. It is enriched by imaginative research and details, such as the material on minibus taxi names. This will be a most welcome and timely addition to the all too scarce publications in an important and far-reaching, interdisciplinary field. It will especially enrich the on-going dialogue on ethnicities and identities, which cuts across several academic disciplines.” – Dr Valerie Alia, Professor of Ethics and Identity, School of Applied Global Ethics, Leeds Metropolitan University (UK)

Table of Contents

Part 1: Anthroponymy
1 First names
2 The Xhosa speaker’s English name
3 Additional first names
4 Surnames
Part 2: Toponymy
5 School names
6 Business names
7 Informal settlement names
Part 3: Minibus taxis
8 Minibus taxi names
Part 4: Months
9 Month names

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