Sesotho ideophones as personal names: A systemic functional linguistics approach

Research Article

Sesotho ideophones as personal names: A systemic functional linguistics approach

DOI: 10.2989/16073614.2022.2136726
Author(s): Masechaba Mahloli L Mokhathi-Mbhele National University of Lesotho, Lesotho


This article explores Sesotho ideophones as personal names. These ideophones are described with a systemic functional linguistics (SFL) theory framework as they were awarded as enacted messages that explicate social functions. The study is a further alleviation of the problem of complacency of taking personal names for granted, a problem facing Sesotho speakers, unaware that these names arise from their daily discourse and have social functions. It is a qualitative study and data was collected from academic institutions – their enrolment, pass and graduation lists – and from radio and TV broadcasts, telephone directories, neighbours and many other sources. The aim is to establish that Sesotho ideophones deployed as onomastics reflect as the context of reference, the semiotic view that Basotho functionally capture their socio-cultural context to portray their experiences and views. The names employ various linguistic qualities to display the interpersonal ‘social fabric’ among speakers. Their application displays the name givers skill to realise an ideophone as a permanent onomastic inscription that reveals the name givers’ modality or evaluation of a birth context. It is concluded that these ideophones significantly illuminate the aspired form-meaning description of functional Sesotho normally overlooked by Sesotho grammarians. The study finds that a ideophone-onomastic feature supersedes the verb quality of ideophones and makes the verbal group and the nominal group interrelate. Further, it magnifies SFL in the description of Sesotho grammar and strengthens that Sesotho names are context-based texts. Further research could establish the real contexts that describe these ideophone choices as personal names. This study has implications for linguistics, language education, media and advertising and applied linguistics.

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