Personal names in language contact situations: A case of Cross River State, South-eastern Nigeria

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 6
  • Abstract:

    In Cross River State, South-eastern Nigeria, languages incorporate a number of loanwords as personal names as a result of increasing contact with other languages and cultures. Such words are, therefore, borrowed wholesale or adapted phonologically into the onomasticon of the recipient languages, thus gaining wideranging acceptance, currency and usage. This paper examines the phenomenon of language contact and naming in three linguistic communities along the Cross River Basin – Agwagune, Ejagham and Lokaa – in relation to Efik, a dominant language and culture, which itself is in constant contact with English. The paper seeks to show the intricate interrelationship and direction of influence between personal names in the donor and recipient languages, taking into account ethnic hierarchies, and social formations that are found in the context where personal names are given and used. The study relied on Thomason and Kauffman’s (1988) integrated theory of language contact as its theoretical plank, which maintains that there is a strong tendency for speakers of less powerful languages to borrow from the economically and politically powerful languages to enhance their internal resourcefulness. Since names are lexical items in a language, they are not immune to this contact influence. Audio-video data and text materials were elicited from sampled respondents who were contact names bearers and their community members through an ethnographic qualitative approach. The paper concludes with the claim that the interplay of forces like trade, religion and other socio-cultural factors are the main vectors of name borrowing, which are social praxis for negotiating cultural boundaries and relationships as well as indexing the notion of power, personhood and sociocentrism, given the effect of contact. The paper, therefore, sheds some light on ethnic mechanisms of shared social behaviour signalled by shared personal names, as it attempts to understand local settings in greater depth.