Armin Mirsanaye

Ethics of Names and Naming

This paper investigates the ethics and politics of renaming in the context of decolonization and multiculturalism. The treatment of ‘strange’ and ‘unfamiliar’ names reveals a neglected dimension of social meaning. Solving controversies over the normative implications of names calls for careful considerations about their use in social and performative contexts. Here, negotiating linguistic norms and practices through public justification is defended. In the case of writing names, the appropriateness of pronunciation and orthographic rendition are considered to motivate a regulative approach that is context sensitive. The ecological context of language and speech-community inform this strategy to show that effective prescription and criticism needs to fit the context. In the case of uttering names, the expectation is placed upon the importance of learning and performance. To help clarify the role of utterances, J. L. Austin’s speech-act theory is employed to show that at least three conditions are to be met for situational appropriateness.