Archive for the ‘Anthropology’ Category

A word for it: teknonymy

November 13, 2018

On the Linguistic Typology mailing list recently, David Gil (Linguistic and Cultural Evolution, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena, Germany) relayed a query from a friend:

Teknonymy is the phenomenon in which a parent is referred to by the name of his or her children.  For example, my father was addressed and referred to by his Arabic-speaking friends as “Abu Daud”, or ‘father of David’. Teknonymy is attested in many different cultures around the world.

In at least some Arab societies, teknonymy interacts with gender in the following way. Whereas men, once assigned a teknonym, may still be addressed or referred to by their original name, women who are assigned a teknonym [like Umm Malik ‘mother of Malik’] may no longer be addressed or referred to by their original name — their original name is simply lost.

My question: Is anybody familiar with similar cases of gender asymmetry in teknonyms in other languages/societies?

I was familiar with the phenomenon, but didn’t have a name for it. Now I have several.

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