Naming practices in colonial and post-colonial Malawi

  • T Moyo
Keywords: Naming practices, Malawi, anomastics, ethno-linguistics


In African societies naming practices invariably reflected an important rite of passage as a cultural practice, which was always in sync with each society’s ordinary citizens’ socio-cultural and historical conditions. These were ideological conceptions inherent in each society, reflected as a powerful force in naming practices, either of individuals or places. However, naming practices have been in contact with colonialism in Malawi and the rest of Southern Africa, with the result that this has affected the socio-cultural ideologies which were traditionally embedded with naming practices. They have had to change with the times. The result is that such names bestowed on individuals or places changed with the historical times. At times they remained indigenous, were Westernised or fused indigenous and other African names. This changing pattern has thus had to change with socio-cultural, economic, education and political influences prevailing at each time.
The discussion indicates that social issues, which traditionally indicated physical and social environment, beliefs of a given sub-culture, were essentially a barometer of meanings and moral codes of a society. However, this tended to change with the attitude and prevailing conditions at specific historical epochs, of how such names were conceived and assigned. Malawi is given as an example, but this could be applied to the entire Southern African region which has been affected by the advent of colonialism and post-colonialism.

Keywords: Naming practices, Malawi, anomastics, ethno-linguistics


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2077-8317
print ISSN: 2077-2815