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Noms personnels et termes d'adresse au Cambodge : L'individu et ses sphères d'appartenance

Abstract : "Personal Names and Words of Address in Cambodia. The Individual and his/her social Worlds".

This article aims at examining the Khmer naming system of individuals. It shows how this naming system is instrumental in placing individuals in their different social groups, and how the conceptions of destiny and of the supernatural world shape the naming system.
Cambodian people (non-religious commoners) have several personal names which they use in the different social contexts in which they live. These different social contexts are organized in concentric spheres. Giving a personal name to young children contributes to progressively integrating them into the social world and into their family's history. This personal name is the one which identifies individuals in mainstream Cambodian society and it is used by the civil services. It is the reason why I have named it an “official personal name”. The form of this name gives information about the social status of its bearer, following ancient rules (as far as the 6th century AD) which are now used again by emerging social elites. These rules involved the use of pali words and the use of long names as a mark of higher status. Semantic and euphonic sophistication is also appreciated. Cambodian people also have a “family name” which was introduced by the French protectorate into a traditional naming system where the conception of a name inherited from one generation to another is unknown. Nowadays, the “family names” of Cambodian children are made of their father's “family name”, alternatively his “official personal name” or even their mother's “family name”. Colleagues, school mates and neighbours usually use a short name created upon the official personal name (for example Sotheara / Theara or Ra). Finally, nick names are often used within the small circle of family members and close friends.
In each of the social groups to whom they belong, Cambodian individuals will choose appropriate personal names, behaviours, language registers and words of address. This is instrumental to the partitioning of these social groups. Most of the words of address, of reference and self-designation are taken from the kinship vocabulary. This paper also describes them all and shows that they reveal the dynamic of Cambodian social relationships.
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Contributor : Anne Yvonne Guillou Connect in order to contact the contributor
Submitted on : Wednesday, September 17, 2008 - 2:38:11 PM
Last modification on : Wednesday, October 27, 2021 - 3:30:45 PM
Long-term archiving on: : Thursday, June 3, 2010 - 9:41:30 PM


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  • HAL Id : halshs-00322359, version 1



Anne Yvonne Guillou. Noms personnels et termes d'adresse au Cambodge : L'individu et ses sphères d'appartenance. Josiane MASSARD-VINCENT et Simone PAUWELS. D'un nom à l'autre en Asie du Sud-Est. Approches ethnologiques, Karthala, pp.245-274, 1999, Hommes et sociétés. ⟨halshs-00322359⟩



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