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date: 17 December 2018

Abstract and Keywords

All societies assign at least one personal name to all of its members. Two distinct personal naming systems have existed historically, however: one in foraging societies in which all individuals have single, unique names, and one in more complex societies in which multiple names are assigned. In the latter, each name serves a different role. One name, the ‘given’ name, individuates its bearers, to distinguish them from other members of society and to serve as their primary identity. The family, or surname, is inherited and serves to categorize individuals into kinship units. Middle names are chosen on a variety of bases, in some instances linking individuals to their mother’s family and in other cases making the sequence of names more euphonious. Personal naming systems exhibit extensive cultural variation, but they all have as their fundamental property the equation of the name or names with the persona of the name-bearer.

Keywords: personal names, foraging societies, identity names, kinship-unit names, individuation

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