2020, Volume 17, Issue 2

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Nikita S. Shishelov
Independent researcher
Moscow, Russia

Teknonymy in the Anthroponymic System of Northern Athabaskans

Voprosy onomastiki, 2020, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp. 36–58 (in Russian)
DOI: 10.15826/vopr_onom.2020.17.2.017

Received on 1 April 2019

Abstract: The paper explores the anthroponymic tradition of teknonymy (paedonymic), renaming a parent by the name of a child, that is common among the northern Na-Dene populations. The study focuses on northern Athabaskans, occasionally using the data on neighboring peoples. The analysis refutes the accuracy of the functional interpretation of teknonymy proposed by Edward B. Taylor at the end of the 19th century. In this paper, teknonymy is considered as an integral part of a holistic traditional anthroponymic system of Athabaskan people which enables the author to identify and analyze the social strategies and implicit meanings it invokes. Linked to the tradition of tabooing personal names and a complex of views on reincarnation, the teknonymic subsystem in the past occupied a dominant position in the anthroponymy of most northern Athabaskans. Currently, it is still alive among some groups in a somewhat reduced form. The collected data provides for determining the boundaries of the largest continuous distribution area of teknonymy in America, including at least two dozen ethnolinguistic groups. A particular attention is given to pseudo-teknonyms, the names using the same pattern but unsuggestive of the real kinship of the name bearer. Two morphemic patterns of the teknonym formation are described. The author hypothesizes that in the Athabaskan culture, the teknonym was primarily a declarative marker of marriage indicating a special parental status that was the only publicly expressed marriage tradition. Meanwhile, teknonymy is regarded contextually, in relation to the social and generational stratification, and comparatively, in view of the functional difference it shows in two cultural clusters within the North Asian ethnic group. At some points, close parallels between teknonymic traditions of the northern Athabaskans and some peoples of the Old World are noted, which the author considers as convergent similarities.

Keywords: anthroponymy, personal names, kinship systems, reincarnation, neoteronymy, geraiteronymy, teknonymy, pseudo-teknonymy, Athabaskans, Na-Dene.


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