The purpose of the research is to examine the shades of meaning that are associated with names and naming in Igala. The study examinened the various circumstances attached to the meaning of names in Igala, and the peculiar features that differentiate the practice from those of other Nigerian languages. The study looked at the practice of naming among the Igala to find out the peculiar features that differentiate the practice from those of other Nigerian languages as well as the meanings that personal names have by reason of the society that confers these meanings and that gives them the status as names. Data were gathered from the native speakers of the language who were asked to list six Igala names that they know .Native speakers were interviewed using the interview questions. Therefore personal names which are regarded as Igala names were collected.
Semiology, Roland Barthes‟ approach to language analysis was used to analyse the data. The study analysedIgala names as elements of the language grammar and as any other lexical item in the language. It was found that the circumstances surrounding the birth of a child play a major role in the name they are given. It was also found that Igala people generally believe that both the bearer of a name and the society that endorses his actions help to bring to reality the proclamation in the name. Some Igala names only possess descriptive meanings that are associated with the physical features of the child for example, Oboni – six fingers or toes, Enefu – white –skined. It was also found that Igala names connote certain things in the language which Igala people hold as the meaning of a name. These are, the personality of other people bearing the names, for example, „Obaje‟ of Ali
Obaje, the immediate past and late traditional ruler of Igala land. It was also found that names are not given for the purpose of identity alone but also as a proclamation of the future of the bearer. Therefore, Igala personal names have shades of meaning that are tied to some socio-cultural variables.
1.0 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
In spite of the cross cultural variations that characterize human societies, one phenomenon that is constant is the identity carved out for individuals through the names they bear. Names are a valuable source of information which indicates gender, birthplace, nationality, ethnicity, religion and position within a family and the lager society. Names are said to be the most meaningful lexicon in the vocabulary of any language and they are considered as an integral part of the language inventory, Mphande (2006). Thus, names are regarded as social emblems crafted for and attached to every human no matter their creed, sex, ethnic affiliation or nationality. Names and naming are considered a universal phenomenon as every culture has its own naming practices and the implication of such practices helps for the construction of identity for the individual.
Naming practices vary considerably across the human race. As such names do not seem to make any meaning to the outsider in terms of their underlying cultural essence. For instance, a Nigerian, from the Igala speaking group, would wonder why an English man would bear such names as Stone, Grass, Fox and the likes. This is because among the Igala, names are given to reflect circumstantial factors relating to the birth of a child apart from having bearings with the lineage, religion, culture, vocation and values of the people. For instance, some names such as „Agaba‟ are based on panegyric (praise) attributes, while some have to do with congenital circumstances such as
„Ejima‟(twins, male or female); and some names touch on thepeople‟sbelief in reincarnation, aschildren born after the demise of a grandfather or a grandmother could be named „Ayegba‟.