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Yoruba personal naming system: Traditions, patterns and practices

Issue: Vol 13 No. 2-4 (2019) Special Issue: African anthroponyms: Sociolinguistic currents and anthropological reflections

Journal: Sociolinguistic Studies

Subject Areas: Gender Studies Linguistics

DOI: 10.1558/sols.37825


The Yoruba, like many other ethnic nationalities in Africa, have developed personal naming traditions, practices and patterns that represent the beliefs, expectations and circumstances surrounding new births. This article examines this aspect of the Yoruba culture, set as models and practiced by members of every Yoruba speech community. It discusses the typology of Yoruba personal names by focusing on their sociolinguistic features, and the impact of Western culture, Christianity and Islam on these names. The data collected for the study were drawn primarily from participant observations and oral interviews in addition to previous studies on Yoruba personal names. Textual data were sourced from the West African Examination Council (WAEC) and the National Examinations Council (NECO) lists of Yoruba candidates and admission lists of four universities. This article is based on indexicality theory which purports that the referent of a name is determined by the context. It is revealed that these names tell stories of families’ socio-economic backgrounds, represent customs and religions, reflect dreams, as well as predict the child’s future path. Yoruba personal names, therefore, mirror their cultural norms and social imaginaries.

Author: Gbenga Fakuade, Joseph Friday-Otun, Hezekiah Adeosun

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