Understanding The Penang Chinese Naming Practices In Multicultural Malaysia

Authors: Hui Zanne Seng, Chun Han Loh, Mei Yuit Chan (Faculty of Modern Languages and Communication, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Malaysia)
Speakers: Hui Zanne Seng, Chun Han Loh
Topic: Language, Dialect, Sociolect, Genre
CALA 2020 Poster Session


Names reveal information about identities, cultural affiliation, and sociolinguistic practices. By studying naming practices in a community, people can better construe the language of that community, as well as its culture, religion, philosophy and anthropological environment. Much research has been conducted on the naming practices of Chinese communities in Taiwan, and on the Chinese mainland. However, few studies have been developed on the Chinese in Malaysia.

This study focuses on naming practices among the Penang (Malaysian) Chinese of different linguistic groups, such as Hokkien, Cantonese, Hakka and Teochew. Malaysia represents a strongly multicultural country in which Chinese communities have settled for several generations. Data for the study was obtained from both primary and secondary sources. Primary data emerged from semi-structured interviews with selected members of the various linguistic groups whose families were residents of Penang. This included people in managing clan associations, and Penang residents of various ages spanning different generations. The secondary data were records of clan members’ names over different periods of time collected from the clan associations. Frameworks were adapted from Zhu Bin and Millward (1987) and Ge Gao (2011). These frameworks grounded the analysis of Chinese names, which informed the analysis of this particular study.
The findings of this study provide insight into changes in naming practices of the Penang Chinese.

Ge Gao. (2011). Shall I name her “Wisdom” or “Elegance”? Naming in China. Names, 59(3), 164-174.
Zhu Bin, & Millward, C. (1987). Personal names in Chinese. Names, 35(1), 8-21.

Keywords: Penang Chinese, Linguistic groups, Multicultural, Naming Practices