Accepted Paper:

Names between invention and convention: naming practices among mixed families in Iceland  


Ana Svetel (University of Ljubljana)

Paper short abstract:

From planets to pets – and everything in between, is bestowed with a name. Which factors influence the choice of the given name and the surname or patronym/matronym among mixed families in Iceland? As names are positioned within the realm of language, I discuss the interrelatedness of language and identity.

Paper long abstract:

I bring forth the question of personal names and patronyms/matronyms in Iceland. I place personal names in the wider context of language practices, politics and ideologies. Icelandic narratives of the past have greatly influenced the perception of the culture and the language within it. Icelandic language, names and the system of patronyms have been playing an important role in the 'nationalization of culture'. The discourses of purity and the need to preserve and protect, concern both: the sphere of culture - especially formal and informal regulations about the language and names - and the sphere of nature and environment. Icelandic language is imagined as a direct, unbroken link to the glorious past. Language protectionism, mostly on the realm of legislation on personal names, triggers numerous public polemics in Iceland - I present some of those cases. I continue with the naming practices among mixed families in Iceland. As less rigid name regulations apply for them, they represent an interesting liminal group - the national identities of each parent influence the decision for the name. Being bestowed with a name never happens in vacuum - I focus on various factors that influence the naming processes. Ethnographic work, collected during my fieldwork in Iceland shows the parents' awareness of the double nature of a name - it individuates and collectivises the person at the same time. This double role of a name reflects also in the naming practices, as parents balance between inventiveness and recognition of the social conventions.

Panel RM-LL03
Metaphor: transfer and the motion of language [LingAnthLing panel]