Cultural and Religious Determinism Associated with Naming Among the Vatsonga People

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Chauke OR, Mpapa Memory, Motlhaka HA


The art and science of naming (also known as onomastics) is a broad area that cannot be confined within a locus of single definition. It transcends naming specifics to ordinary and daily naming trends. Traditionally, naming among the Vatsonga is jealously guarded and passed on from one generation to another. The paper firstly outlines different perspectives in naming among the Vatsonga people; that is cultural and religious determinism. Secondly; it reveals that name(s) plays a great role in determining the life of the bearer. It also observes that cultural and religious beliefs operate antagonistically; applying one reverses the efforts of the other. In other words the recently used belief supersedes the former. This means that there is raging warfare between these beliefs. Religious beliefs encompass Christianity and Indigenous religion (worshipping of ancestral spirits) while cultural beliefs harbour the natural values, morals and taboos revolving naming. Interestingly, there is no dual application of these beliefs when it comes to naming among Vatsonga as the paper puts clear.  The argument rests on the notion that name(s) shapes one’s behaviour, personality, job career, profession and even the social status as promulgated by cultural and religious beliefs.

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