World anthroponomastic trends

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. . . a commitment to fieldwork and a willingness to allow our understanding of [personal names] to arise from out of our interaction with those individuals and communities we ‘study’ these are the qualities which will carry us into the future (Holland 1990:267).


This Chapter predominantly discusses how research data were gathered. It starts by identifying its domain of operation before outlining how inputs were got from seven hundred and fifty respondents. The chapter points out that four co-researchers were engaged and the justification for that is given. It proceeds to examine the six data gathering methods the study uses at the same time noting their accompanying strengths and weaknesses of these sources. It ends by looking at research ethics before a chapter summary is given.

Qualitative research

This study is predominantly qualitative and interdisciplinary (Denzin and Lincoln 2003:11). This ethnographic study is committed to the naturalistic perspective as it focuses on understanding of research phenomena in-situ and interprets phenomena in terms of the meanings that people bring to them. This “. . . subjective, interpretive and constructive” (O’Leary 2004:99) approach is beneficial as it is concerned with discovering the meanings as perceived by those being researched. Put in other words, this entails understanding a people’s mental categories, interpretations, perceptions, feelings and motives. Furthermore, this qualitative research seeks answers to processes, meanings, questions that stress how social experience is created and given meaning. The qualitative approach is also handy as the ‘reading and rereading’ (…/#B1) of data during data collection heralds the onset of data analytical processes enabling the identification of themes and meaningful categorizations. In addition, qualitative research is forward looking as it develops theory from the gathered findings.


This study focused on a sample size of seven hundred and fifty people. Five hundred respondents were given questionnaires while the other two hundred and fifty were interviewed. The 2002 national census gives the Zimbabwean population as 11 631 657. This is made up of Shona 71%, Ndebele 16%, other African 11%, Asian 1% and European 1% (Dube et al., 2007). The census findings show that the Shona people are the dominant group in Zimbabwe hence their preference in this study so that the results could be as representative as possible of the Zimbabwean naming situation. The preferred respondents were those above fifteen years and were chosen simply because of their maturity, participation or near participation in the naming process.

Pilot testing

An original questionnaire for pilot testing with thirty-three questions was finalized on February 28 2006 (see appendices questionnaire one). This follows the advice by Bell (1999:128) that, “ . . .
however pressed for time you are, do your best to give the questionnaire a trial run as without a trial run, you have no way of knowing your questionnaire will succeed”. Therefore, fifty respondents in Harare colleges, schools, locations and the surrounding areas were self-administered the pilot questionnaires before August 2006 (see stamped documents in the appendices). This follows the granting of permission by the Ministries of Higher and Tertiary Education and Education, Sports and Culture (see approval letters in the appendices). Insights got from this exercise led the researcher to design a second questionnaire that had twelve questions (see appendices questionnaire two) that was administered to fifty respondents. However, after analysis of the pilot findings, consultation with fellow research experts, the twelve questions were unbundled into sixteen as efforts were being made to simplify them. The final questionnaire containing sixteen standardized questions (Robson 2002) was implemented (see appendices questionnaire three).
Literate respondents were given questionnaires to answer by filling while the non-literate was orally interviewed. The bulk of the questionnaires were answered while the researcher waited and this was beneficial as it ensured the minimization of response contamination. Furthermore, the researcher (s) offered anonymity and confidentiality, moves that ensured respondents cooperated freely.


After the final questionnaire was ready, the researcher recruited four co-researchers. They were chosen on the basis of their gender, education levels, research and language expertise and familiarity with the respective cultures. The researchers were two males and two females who are holders of Masters degrees in African languages. They were working in Mutare (Manicaland province), Chinhoyi (Mashonaland West province), Masvingo (Masvingo province) and Bindura area (Mashonaland Central province). The researcher brought his experiences from Wedza (Mashonaland East) where he was born and bred, Harare and Gweru (Harare and Midlands provinces respectively) where he worked. Questionnaires were emailed to the co-researchers at the same time a handful with official stamps were posted to them so that they could be recognized and be granted permission to operate in the various communities. This scenario afforded this study first hand corpus from seven predominantly Shona speaking provinces under study at reduced costs. This ethnographic approach meant that the views of the respondents who own the names could be prioritized.


The enlisting of co-researchers ensured that the research covered the seven provinces of Zimbabwe within a short time having used minimal qualified resources. This is against the background that Zimbabwe’s economy had crumbled making it extremely difficult for one to traverse the country due to limited resources. Also, due to the unstable political background then, it was almost impossible for an unknown individual to gain access in the various communities. And, the best way to overcome such hindrances was by appointing qualified people readily accepted by their communities. Consequently, the appointment of co-researchers ensured the steady progress of the study regardless of the economic and political conditions prevailing in the country. Furthermore, the enlisted researchers afforded the main researcher a chance to cross check data with them. In addition, these coresearchers submitted the answered questionnaires, recorded tapes as well as notes of interview responses. The researcher benefited from their expertise as they were allowed to comment on whatever was of interest to them thereby giving the main researcher more insights of the subject.


Initially the co-researchers took time to exactly appreciate the thrust of the study but upon in-depth induction and exemplifications, the challenges were overcome. The financial limitations were overcome by resorting to use of emails, posting facilities and cell phones.

Sources of data

The researcher was not able to get permission to gather personal names from the records of births and deaths kept by the Ministry of Home Affairs. These documents could have afforded the researcher a chance to get access to a comprehensive source of anthroponyms since 1890. As a result, a decision was made to gather personal names from six sources to achieve the already outlined objectives (see Section 1.4.1).

NADA (1931-1977)

Personal names were gathered from twenty seven NADA volumes (see reference list) published from 1931 to 1977 and Alford (1987) used a similar source.


This source contains names that were given as far back as 1897 up to 1977. The source covers the period the researcher failed to get an alternative voice and provide raw data which one has to treat cautiously for the researchers were not first language speakers and expert researchers. This source affords the study a chance to get almost at the naming scenarios prevalent before and just after the imposition of colonial rule in 1890. Secondly, this source comes from personalities living in various colonial administrative stations across the country, a development that allows the study to almost get a representative source of data.


This source was predominantly written by researchers who were not conversant with the uniqueness of the Shona language.

Shona novels, plays and short stories (1957-1998)

This source contains character names from one hundred and twenty five Shona novels, plays and short stories (see reference list) written mainly by Shona first language speakers from 1957 to 1998. Kahari (1990) did a similar exercise when he gathered character names from one hundred and twelve novels written from 1957 to 1984. The premise for their choice is that character names are a reflection of the concerned society’s day-to-day naming practices. Interview sessions were conducted to solicit the meanings of the gathered names. This source gave an alternative voice to the one that dominated in the NADA journals. A similar source has been used elsewhere by Yuasa (1994:59-83) in his study of the art of naming with special reference to fictional names as an element of style in Chaucer, Spenser and Shakespeare. Also, Squire (1996:79-97) in returning to paradise through naming made reference to the incarnation of names in Breyten Breytenbach’s Return to paradise. Like in European society name “. . . books, too, are also useful when a baby’s name has to be selected” (Roberts 1931:89).


This source have many first language contributors just like the namers are hence it provides a necessary broad base of raw data for a study of this magnitude. In addition, the writers, generally aged above twenty five, have undergone several life experiences just like namers in real life. The reason that most of these books have been used as school prescribed texts mean that their use allows the study to assess the extent to which the school system influenced Shona naming systems, among other issues. Furthermore, this source is readily available for consultation and provides an alternative voice to the NADA one.


This source was meant for a different audience although its contents apply to various disciplines hence this study capitalizes on that. The major constraint this source has is that it is a literary one and some critics might belabor the point that character naming contexts are different from real life naming situations, a view this study recognizes but argues otherwise.

Graduation booklets (1987-2006)

Thirty one graduation booklets from tertiary institutions, namely, colleges, polytechnics and universities covering 1987-2006 make the third source of first names (see graduation booklets cover pages in appendices). Dube et al., (2007), among others, have used a similar source in their study of naming practices and language planning in Zimbabwe. Three out of eight primary teachers’ colleges namely Morgan ZINTEC, Seke (Harare province) and Mkoba (Midlands province) and three secondary teachers’ colleges out of four namely Belvedere (Harare province), Chinhoyi (Mashonaland West province), Mutare (Manicaland province) were consulted. Furthermore, the Zimbabwe Cuba teacher education programme (1987-1997) that produced secondary school teachers soon after independence was consulted. Names were also gathered from three national universities out of the nine namely, the University of Zimbabwe (Harare province), Midlands State University (Midlands province) and National University of Science and Technology (Bulawayo province). Lastly, some names were drawn from Harare Polytechnic. These tertiary institutions were settled for because of their location, period of existence and enrolment, amongst other reasons. This category caters for whoever would have chosen to pursue tertiary education.

1.1 Preamble
1.2 The name ‘Shona’
1.3 Historical background
1.4 Aim of the study
1.5 Significance of research
1.6 Definition of terms
1.7 Scope of research
1.8 Conclusion
2.0 Introduction
2.1 World anthroponomastic trends
2.2 African anthroponomastic trends
2.3 Zimbabwean anthroponomastic trends
2.4 Zimbabwean anthroponomastic demarcations
2.5 Rationale for Shona personal names
2.6 Categories of Shona names
2.7 Conclusion
3.0 Introduction
3.1 Qualitative research
3.2 Sampling
3.3 Pilot testing
3.4 Co-researchers
3.5 Sources of data
3.7 Research ethics
3.8 Conclusion
4.0 Introduction
4.2 Pragmatics
4.3 Semiotics
4.4 Semantics
4.5 Anthroponym-pragma-semio-semantic decompositional theory
4.6 Conclusion
5.0 Introduction
5.1 Factors influencing choice of Shona personal names
5.2 Conclusion
6.0 Introduction
6.1 Marriage commentary names
6.2 Behavioural names
6.3 Fauna oriented names
6.4 Request names
6.5 Chronemics
6.6 Occupation driven names
6.7 Flora oriented names
6.8 Rhetorical names
6.9 Death suggestive names
6.10 Place oriented names
6.11 Christianity-oriented names
6.12 Derived names
6.13 African Traditional Religion oriented names
6.14 Imperative suggestive names
6.15 Rhythmic names
6.16 History oriented names
6.17 War oriented names
6.18 Witchcraft oriented names
6.19 Extraordinary names
6.20 Possessive suggestive names
6.21 Hunting names
6.22 Acceptive names
6.23 Derogative suggestive names
6.24 Totemic names
6.25 Conclusion
7.0 Introduction
7.1 Popular Shona male names
7.2 Popular Shona female names
7.3 Most interesting Shona names
7.4 Shona names with reservations
7.5 Name changing
7.6 Conclusion
8.1Prevailing name categories
8.2 Wished name category
8.3 Address forms
8.4 Conclusion
9.1 Introduction
9.2 Factors that influence use of Shona anthroponyms
9.3 Prevalent naming trends.
9.4 Implications for theory
9.5 Implications for further research
9.6 Implications for policy and practice

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