Change of Practices of Naming Children in Turkey in the Context of Cultural Alienation and the Popular Culture Figures

Bilgin U. O.

MILLI FOLKLOR, no.125, pp.177-187, 2020 (AHCI) identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Publication Date: 2020
  • Journal Name: MILLI FOLKLOR
  • Journal Indexes: Arts and Humanities Citation Index (AHCI), Scopus, Academic Search Premier, International Bibliography of Social Sciences, Linguistics & Language Behavior Abstracts, MLA - Modern Language Association Database, Sociological abstracts, TR DİZİN (ULAKBİM)
  • Page Numbers: pp.177-187
  • Keywords: The sociology of names, naming, cultural alienation, self-colonialism, Naming culture in Turkey
  • Ankara Haci Bayram Veli University Affiliated: Yes


Nations are social formations that rose upon the cultural ground by having shared social memory, systems of meanings and values, and also common symbols. The identities of the individuals base on collective memory and consciousness as well as the identities of nations. This system of meanings and values could change concerning the experiences in history and as a result of the interactions with other cultures. Thus, culture is a dynamic social process. The change of names given to the new-born is one of the most significant indicators to observe the change in culture, because the process of naming is also a cultural process. As it is in every society, in Turkish society as well, the practices of naming children depend on authentic cultural dynamics. The given names correspond to a world of meanings and symbols and also coincides with a certain value system. The analysis of the change of given names can present remarkable clues to understand the change of societies. The practices of naming in Turkey have changed throughout the history and modernization accelerated this change. In the ancient tradition, Turks did not prefer naming children just after they were born, instead, they would have waited for an achievement or a certain talent to be shown by the child and give the name in terms of this achievement or talent, and in later centuries after converting to Islam, Islamic names became dominant. Moreover, with the nationalist movements, the names influenced by Turkism have been observed by facing the important personalities of the Turkish history in pre-Islamic period. Turkey's modernization process including the dynamics of change in economic development, urbanization, individualization led to the politicization of the names first. With the 1990s, new and authentic names that are assumed as 'modern' raised. The common feature of these authentic names is that they represent a rupture from the Turkish naming tradition. The majority of these names do not possess a meaning, they were given just because they sound Western and different from the usual names people have given to their children. This might be regarded as the inferiority complex of self-realization and adaptation of non-urbanized, semi-rural societies. Moreover, the sensitivity of giving a name having phonetically Western sound and preventing Turkish names with Turkish letters in the alphabet could be argued as a kind of cultural alienation and self-colonialism issue. The figures of popular culture could have an impact on the rest of the society for the change of names because these popular culture figures give names that have no relation with the Turkish naming tradition and these Western-sound names increase every year. It can be claimed that there is a need for a time of few generations for the formation of urban culture, urban attitudes, high aesthetic pleasures, and good manners and in this kind of period of transitions, parents can choose to solidify the idealized world that they never had. The distance of the idealized culture with a person's own culture, tradition might be held as an example of cultural alienation. At this point, the names that the celebrities give to their children could affect the practices of naming today and in the future as well as the popular culture elements like tv series, movies and sports affect. In this frame, it matters to analyze the names given by celebrity parents. After building the historical and conceptual frame, the popular culture figures of Turkey in 2000s will be located in the center of the analysis.