The Causal Theory of Names: Between Theory and Practice

Author: Sa'ida Walid Al-Sayyed

Keywords: causal theory, first names, naming, onomastics, personal names


This study explores to what extent a personal name has a causal relationship with its usage. Data were collected by means of a survey in which demographic data were elicited from the participants. Furthermore, the participants, whose ages were above 18 years, were asked to write their first names and reasons behind being given such names. The sample comprised 400 subjects who participated in the online survey distributed through social media network groups. The results revealed that names and naming practices are not haphazard ones. By and large, there is a relationship between the name and its usage, as stated by the causal theory of names. Whenever people choose a name, they are under the influence of; naming after people who are admired for their virtues, the aesthetic taste of the name, parents’ and relatives’ religious beliefs, maintaining rhyming names, circumstantial names, and respecting social and cultural traditions. Another striking finding is that nature and the environment are no longer rich resources for choosing names. Moreover, the analysis found evidence for the complete absence of names related to occupational and achievement names, death prevention and survival names, horrific names, and proverbial names. It is envisaged that the findings might be beneficial for sociolinguists, onomasticians, learners of Arabic as a foreign language, i.e. non-native speakers of Arabic. It might also help people working on language and culture and how culture affects naming traditions in the Arabic context.