Shades Of Meaning Associated With Personal Names And Naming In Igala

Project and Seminar Material for English Language

Shades Of Meaning Associated With Personal Names And Naming In Igala


Abstract


The purpose of the research is to examine the shades of meaning that are associated with names and naming in Igala. The study examined the various circumstances attached to the meaning of names in Igala, and the peculiar features that differentiate the practice from those of other Nigerian languages. The study looked at the practice of naming among the Igala to find out the peculiar features that differentiate the practice from those of other Nigerian languages as well as the meanings that personal names have by reason of the society that confers these meanings and that gives them the status as names. Data were gathered from the native speakers of the language who were asked to list six Igala names that they know .Native speakers were interviewed using the interview questions. Therefore personal names which are regarded as Igala names were collected.

Semiology, Roland Barthes‟ approach to language analysis was used to analyse the data. The study analysedIgala names as elements of the language grammar and as any other lexical item in the language. It was found that the circumstances surrounding the birth of a child play a major role in the name they are given. It was also found that Igala people generally believe that both the bearer of a name and the society that endorses his actions help to bring to reality the proclamation in the name. Some Igala names only possess descriptive meanings that are associated with the physical features of the child for example, Oboni – six fingers or toes, Enefu – white –skined. It was also found that Igala names connote certain things in the language which Igala people hold as the meaning of a name.

These are, the personality of other people bearing the names, for example, „Obaje‟ of Ali Obaje, the immediate past and late traditional ruler of Igala land. It was also found that names are not given for the purpose of identity alone but also as a proclamation of the future of the bearer. Therefore, Igala personal names have shades of meaning that are tied to some socio-cultural variables.


Chapter One


General Introduction

1.0 Background to the Study

In spite of the cross cultural variations that characterize human societies, one phenomenon that is constant is the identity carved out for individuals through the names they bear. Names are a valuable source of information which indicates gender, birthplace, nationality, ethnicity, religion and position within a family and the lager society. Names are said to be the most meaningful lexicon in the vocabulary of any language and they are considered as an integral part of the language inventory, Mphande (2006). Thus, names are regarded as social emblems crafted for and attached to every human no matter their creed, sex, ethnic affiliation or nationality. Names and naming are considered a universal phenomenon as every culture has its own naming practices and the implication of such practices helps for the construction of identity for the individual.

Naming practices vary considerably across the human race. As such names do not seem to make any meaning to the outsider in terms of their underlying cultural essence. For instance, a Nigerian, from the Igala speaking group, would wonder why an English man would bear such names as Stone, Grass, Fox and the likes. This is because among the Igala, names are given to reflect circumstantial factors relating to the birth of a child apart from having bearings with the lineage, religion, culture, vocation and values of the people. For instance, some names such as „Agaba‟ are based on panegyric (praise) attributes, while some have to do with congenital circumstances such as„Ejima‟(twins, male or female); and some names touch on the people‟s belief in reincarnation, as children born after the demise of a grandfather or a grandmother could be named „Ayegba‟ or„Igoanya.‟

There is, therefore, an intrinsic connection between naming and identity construction. In many African languages, personal names have strong historical, socio-cultural and ethno-pragmatic bearings that go beyond mere identity or referentiality. Hence, all cultures have their parameters for naming as African names have a strikingly semantic and semiotic load (they have communicative functions), Bariki(2009). In the same vein, personal names in Nigerian languages are multifunctional despite their mono-referential status (they refer to one person only). This means that names are given for different purposes even when the names refer to the same person.

The act of naming is perhaps one of those activities that distinguish humanity from other forms of life. Several accounts exist in the world which in one way or another point to the fact that the act of naming goes beyond the traditional ritual of proclaiming an identity on an individual. Thus “names do not only represent nomenclatures and identity items, they are also linguistic and communicative acts that express some functional, aesthetic and assertive meanings and features,” Nwagbara (2010:10). As such, names are a means of perceiving reality and relating with the facts of life and social existence. Hence, names and naming patterns in different cultures across the world give a lot of information on the bearers.

In many Nigerian societies and cultures, the practice of naming expresses intense social significance that generates far-reaching implications than merely giving an individual a nomenclature, Nwagbara (2010). Thus, through names individuals relate and interact with the world around them since names provide elemental evidence of a person‟s being. For instance, the mention of the name „Ogacheko‟ will immediately ring a bell or echo something meaningful in the ears of an Igala person(especially one from the Ibaji region) who is outside the country(Nigeria), say, in Ghana where it is quite uncommon to here such a name. The individual would want to learn more about the bearer of the name.

Traditional Igala people accept that naming ceremony is an authentic way of ritual expression of a person‟s identity; without it, a child remains a nonentity since his name defines his personality in the community. This also cuts across every African society. Ubahakwe (1982) believes that African names are aspects of African cultural heritage and have a lot of impact on an individual‟s personality. Igala names being an aspect of African names possess this cultural heritage as well as having a major impact on the individual‟s personality. According to Iwundu (1994:80), “The child gets the idea of himself which he finds expressed by those around him,” through his name. In Igala cosmology, an individual represents the reality which his name articulates, so to say.

MacMurray(1978) holds that names are able to import some controlling effect since one‟s name is the rail on which one rolls through life. One becomes one‟s name when one understands the society‟s customs and traditions embedded in one‟s name and lives up to it. For example, the name „Achema‟(meaning prophesy come true) creates in the bearer consciously or unconsciously the necessity to amount to someone very tangible in the society.
It is against this background that this study intends to analyze Igala personal names, to bring to the fore the peculiarity associated with personal names and naming in Igala.


1.1 Statement of the Research Problem

Most people see nothing special about names other than the ordinary forms in which they appear or appeal to the senses. This is because we consciously accept that names are already very straightforward especially when we are used to calling the particular person the name. For instance, in Shakespeare‟s play Romeo and Juliet, Romeo said “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” This statement validates the assertion that names are taken as mere labels. The issue of names and naming has more often than not been considered as an issue of convention, but more to it lies the fact that naming in some cultures goes beyond the question of convention because different cultures use different parameters to give names and construct identities for individuals.


1.2 Research Questions

In the light of the above, this study intends to provide answers to the following questions:

  1. What are the shades of meaning in Igala personal names? .
  2. How are names acquired in Igala?
  3. What are the socio-cultural issues surrounding the practice of naming?
  4. How does name determine or contribute to the personality of the bearer?

1.3 Aim and Objectives

The aim of this research is to analyse the shades of meaning associated with names and naming in Igala. Therefore, the objectives are:

  1. To find out the shades of meaning in Igala names,
  2. To find out how names are given in Igala,
  3. To find out the socio-cultural issues surrounding the practice of naming in Igala, to find out how names determine or contribute to the personality of the bearer.

1.4 Scope and Delimitation

This study is primarily interested in the shades of meaning associated with personal names in Igala. The research covers specifically personal names but does not include other naming systems such as kinship terms, colour terms, culinary terms, etc. Igala people constitute a speech community which share common ways of using language, common reactions and attitudes towards language, and most significantly, common social bonds. This is also considerably reflected in the names they give their children. As such the study collects personal names as data for the analysis.

The Igala people constitute a cultural group who interact with one another and are linked by some form of social relationship. In a bid to achieve the above mentioned task, data collection shall cover samples from the Igala dialect to cover the various dialect areas.


1.5 Justification for the Study

Any language that is able to serve the purposes of communication and promote the culture of a people is worth studying. This is not leaving out the Igala language in the north-central region of Nigeria. The language serves a good deal of purposes, revealing the rich culture of the Igala people. It has also been used in writing as well as a medium of instruction where necessary.

The study of Igala language will open up more avenues for further research into the immeasurably rich culture of the people. As such, names which are an aspect of the culture encode various important socio-cultural and even historical values which in turn make the study of an imperative significance. Not so much has been done so far in a bid to study names in Igala. This study therefore will further bring to the fore the cultural value that people attach to names when they bestow an identity on individuals as obtainable in Igala.


Chapter Five


Summary, Conclusion and Recommendations

5.1 Summary

One of the findings in the study is that Igala names have various shades of meanings; meanings that vary from one informant to the other. Some respondents gave descriptions and the personal characteristics of the bearers of the names as the meanings of these names rather than the connotative meanings. They described their physical features for example,(Abudo – protruding navel, Enefu – fair skin, Oboni – six fingers or toes etc).

It was found that Igala names connote certain things in the language which Igala people hold as the „meaning‟ of a name. Thus Igala names have connotative meanings especially names that refer to some other persons like traditional rulers, religious leaders, parents, doctors, or even Godly virtues.

Igala names get their meanings by virtue of the societal conventions that give them the status of words. For example, names like Oko (farm) and Oya (wife) are derived from common words in the language but they acquire a different meaning when they occur as personal names.

In addition, the circumstances surrounding the birth of a child play a major role in the names they acquire. This also gives the names sense or meaning. For example, names like Iko, Ejura, Aye, Enemakwu, Ilemona are borne out of the circumstances that surrounded the birth of a child. An incident, either negative or positive comes to play before, during or after the birth of the child which eventually generates a name for the child.

When parents choose names for their children in the Igala society, they bare certain things in mind. One of such beliefs is that the child will certainly become that name someday. As the parents proclaim the identity of the child, they vehemently believe that he or she will live that name. Based on the responses of the respondents in this research, Igala people majorly share in the view that a name is not just a name or an identity, but also a proclamation of the future of the bearer. This view accounts for the reason why some Igala people show some bias or dislike towards certain names.

From the data gathered, it can be affirmed that Igala people generally believe that both the bearer of a name and the society that endorses his actions share in the reality of the name whether consciously or unconsciously. As such, Some Igala people believe that a name is not just name, but a proclamation of the future of the bearers.

It was also found that names contribute to the future of the bearer. This explains why many Igala people consider meaning as central to naming.


5.2 Conclusion

In Igala society, personal names are tied to their meanings and the context in which they are given. The goal of this study was to conduct a research among the Igala speaking group to research on the peculiarity in the shades of meaning of Igala names and the reasons why certain personal names in Igala are context-bound. Another area of interest is the fact that Igala names have peculiar meanings that are tied to some socio-cultural variables.

This study, therefore, is in part a reaction to the views of some western scholars who hold that names are mere labels and do not have any meanings. One of such scholars is Mill (1970); this claim can be refuted because it is not applicable to the African society, let alone the indigenous language societies of Nigeria.

The right to name and be named is held in high esteem in the Nigerian society, of which the Igala society is a part. Thus, as a common practice among the Igala, parents of the child, grandparents and even some very close relatives are involved in the naming of the child as they are given the honour of choosing a name for the child after its birth.

The study analysed Igala names as elements of the Igala language just like any other lexical item in the language and by this, it has been proved that names could be analyzed semiologically which by implication, affirms that names possess meanings which are conferred by the society.

The study also looked at the phenomenon of naming especially in the similarities that tie between naming in Igala, in Nigeria and in other parts of Africa. Therefore, the choice of semiology as the theoretical framework for the study is based on the idea that Igala names are signs in the Igala language. This is because the theory of semiology sees signs as elements of a language which consist of a signifier and a signified with relationship of a signification linking them.

The study took a step further to analyse Igala names as elements of the Igala language just like any other lexical item in the language and by this, the study has proved that names could be analysed semiologically. Similarly, the study has shown that names behave like other indexical items in the language. This is so because they help to indicate gender. Some names are only peculiar to the female folk while some are exclusive to the male both in form and in meaning. Again names help to establish concord in the construction of sentences just like any other lexical items in the language.

Furthermore, the concepts of denotation and connotation form part of the relationship between the signifier and the signified where the signifier can be seen as the denotation and the signified as the connotation. The same was discovered from the data gathered that Igala names have both denotative and connotative meanings.

As a result of all these, the research conducted interviews to elicit information from native speakers and the interviews covered the relevant aspects of all that names and naming in Igala entail.

The study of Igala names will open up more avenues into the rich culture of the Igala as personal names themselves are in part an expression of the culture of the people especially in the orthography of Igala names.


Chapter Five


Summary, Conclusion and Recommendations

5.1 Summary

One of the findings in the study is that Igala names have various shades of meanings; meanings that vary from one informant to the other. Some respondents gave descriptions and the personal characteristics of the bearers of the names as the meanings of these names rather than the connotative meanings. They described their physical features for example,(Abudo – protruding navel, Enefu – fair skin, Oboni – six fingers or toes etc).

It was found that Igala names connote certain things in the language which Igala people hold as the „meaning‟ of a name. Thus Igala names have connotative meanings especially names that refer to some other persons like traditional rulers, religious leaders, parents, doctors, or even Godly virtues.

Igala names get their meanings by virtue of the societal conventions that give them the status of words. For example, names like Oko (farm) and Oya (wife) are derived from common words in the language but they acquire a different meaning when they occur as personal names.

In addition, the circumstances surrounding the birth of a child play a major role in the names they acquire. This also gives the names sense or meaning. For example, names like Iko, Ejura, Aye, Enemakwu, Ilemona are borne out of the circumstances that surrounded the birth of a child. An incident, either negative or positive comes to play before, during or after the birth of the child which eventually generates a name for the child.

When parents choose names for their children in the Igala society, they bare certain things in mind. One of such beliefs is that the child will certainly become that name someday. As the parents proclaim the identity of the child, they vehemently believe that he or she will live that name. Based on the responses of the respondents in this research, Igala people majorly share in the view that a name is not just a name or an identity, but also a proclamation of the future of the bearer. This view accounts for the reason why some Igala people show some bias or dislike towards certain names.

From the data gathered, it can be affirmed that Igala people generally believe that both the bearer of a name and the society that endorses his actions share in the reality of the name whether consciously or unconsciously. As such, Some Igala people believe that a name is not just name, but a proclamation of the future of the bearers.
It was also found that names contribute to the future of the bearer. This explains why many Igala people consider meaning as central to naming.


5.2 Conclusion

In Igala society, personal names are tied to their meanings and the context in which they are given. The goal of this study was to conduct a research among the Igala speaking group to research on the peculiarity in the shades of meaning of Igala names and the reasons why certain personal names in Igala are context-bound. Another area of interest is the fact that Igala names have peculiar meanings that are tied to some socio-cultural variables.

This study, therefore, is in part a reaction to the views of some western scholars who hold that names are mere labels and do not have any meanings. One of such scholars is Mill (1970); this claim can be refuted because it is not applicable to the African society, let alone the indigenous language societies of Nigeria.

The right to name and be named is held in high esteem in the Nigerian society, of which the Igala society is a part. Thus, as a common practice among the Igala, parents of the child, grandparents and even some very close relatives are involved in the naming of the child as they are given the honour of choosing a name for the child after its birth.

The study analysed Igala names as elements of the Igala language just like any other lexical item in the language and by this, it has been proved that names could be analyzed semiologically which by implication, affirms that names possess meanings which are conferred by the society.

The study also looked at the phenomenon of naming especially in the similarities that tie between naming in Igala, in Nigeria and in other parts of Africa. Therefore, the choice of semiology as the theoretical framework for the study is based on the idea that Igala names are signs in the Igala language. This is because the theory of semiology sees signs as elements of a language which consist of a signifier and a signified with relationship of a signification linking them.

The study took a step further to analyse Igala names as elements of the Igala language just like any other lexical item in the language and by this, the study has proved that names could be analysed semiologically. Similarly, the study has shown that names behave like other indexical items in the language. This is so because they help to indicate gender. Some names are only peculiar to the female folk while some are exclusive to the male both in form and in meaning. Again names help to establish concord in the construction of sentences just like any other lexical items in the language.

Furthermore, the concepts of denotation and connotation form part of the relationship between the signifier and the signified where the signifier can be seen as the denotation and the signified as the connotation. The same was discovered from the data gathered that Igala names have both denotative and connotative meanings.

As a result of all these, the research conducted interviews to elicit information from native speakers and the interviews covered the relevant aspects of all that names and naming in Igala entail.

The study of Igala names will open up more avenues into the rich culture of the Igala as personal names themselves are in part an expression of the culture of the people especially in the orthography of Igala names.


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