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How Indian Names are Evolving in South Africa


on 2018/8/24 12:51:22 ( 940 reads )

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CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA, August 21, 2018 (IOL, by Yogin Devan): The first names of Indians are fast losing their Indian identity to modernization. This is so especially to a large extent within the Tamil community and to a lesser extent among those of Hindi background. The bestowal of non-traditional names is not an act of cultural betrayal. Creativity, modernization and mediation between the old and the new have led to the onset of a new collection of Indian names. These are the findings of a seminal study by linguistics guru Professor Rajend Mesthrie whose many decades of work in language and linguistics has focused on the significance of sociolinguistics in understanding heritage, culture and social change in a multilingual society.

The professor of linguistics and research chair in the School of African and Gender Studies, Anthropology and Linguistics at the University of Cape Town recently presented a paper based on his study of changes in personal names among Indian South Africans at the International Congress of Historical Linguistics in San Antonio, Texas. Professor Mesthrie's study has found that first name choices within the Indian community are influenced by social variables like tradition versus modernity, gender, and class. The naming patterns reflect the intricacies of heritage, change, and identity. The research shows that since the 1970s, the effects of education and urbanisation have led to linguistic assimilation as the new generation gradually, imperceptibly and involuntarily shifted to English as the dominant language.

One of the most striking characteristics that emerged from the data base is the use of neo-Indian names. Parents from the 1980s onwards created new names (wittingly or unwittingly) by processes of rhyme and analogy. An established name that was felt to be "modern" was used as a prototype to generate new names. Once a new name proved attractive, it spawned a set of analogical rhyming and other variants. These suggest a kind of linguistic competition and dialogue between names, or at least among those bestowing them on children. Some examples of such new North Indian names are Rivania, Ruvanya and Ravanya; Livania, Luvanya and Lavanya; and Sivanya, Suvanya and Savanya. Innovative names, mainly in South African Tamil and Telugu communities, include Terisha, Terusha and Tirosha; Lerisha, Lerusha and Lerosha; and Verisha, Verusha and Verosha.

More of Professor Mesthrie's findings at "source" above.

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