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On Balinese Name  

by on Tuesday, 27 March 2007No Comment | 3,351 views

A child bears his father or mother name is a common practice in most parts of the world. However, in Bali, the parents, grandparents, or even great grandparents bear their offspring’s name.


In Balinese culture someone personal name is treated as though it is a classified information – At birth, each Balinese is given a sex indicator, caste title, birth order name and a personal/ real name. It is forbidden for younger people to call their older with his personal or real name. For children and young adolescent birth order names is used to call each other. And kinship relation terms invoked at best sporadically, and then only for purposes of secondary specification. In this kind of situation, a question arises, how do most Balinese address and refer to one another? The answer is: by teknonyms.


As soon as a couple’s first child is named, people begin to address and refer to them as Pan so-and so “Father-of so-and-so” and Men so-and-so “Mother-of so-and-so” employing whatever their child’s name happens to be. They will continue to be so called (and to call themselves) until their first grandchild is born, at which time they will begin to be addressed and referred to as Kak so-and-so “Grandfather of so-and-so” and Men so-and so “Grandmother-of so-and-so” employing whatever their grandchild’s name happens to be; and a similar transition occurs if they live to see their first great-grandchild. Thus, over the “natural” four-generation or (kumpi-to-kumpi) life span, the term by which an individual is known will change three times, as first he, then at least one of his children, and finally at least one of his grandchildren produce offspring.


The results of this teknonymy are husband and wife now have a same name, and their offspring will likely have a small chance to know the name of parents, grandparents, or great grandparents. It is considered extremely discourteous to use a person personal name after he has a child, for to do so will imply that he is still immature.


It is not important, whether the child after whom all these adult are named is male or female. Since adoption of teknonimy occur not overnight via ceremony but gradually through the building up of a habit, the name is not firmly acquired until after the child has survived the Balinese infancy. If the eponymous child dies after his parents have become firmly identified with his or her name, the teknonym is usually retained. For grandparental and great-grandparental teknonyms, however, always follow the teknonyms of a son or grandson.

Most of the materials for this writing are taken from Hildred and Clifford Geertz’s Kinship in Bali.

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