surnames and identities

Oslo Studies in Language   unpublished
This paper 1 , based on a survey of 314 Oslo residents, investigates the relationship between surname and identity. The aim was to find out whether the modern individual experiences his or her surname as a part of his or her identity, and what bond exists between surname and locale. Late modern society typically reveals a fragmentation of individuals from family background and place of origin. A hypothesized outcome of this separation, envisages a further breach between the individual and the
more » ... ea their surname denotes. If one's surname is experienced as part of one's identity, what then is the main reason for this? Are there in fact different experiences of identity based on some typology of names borne by individuals? [1] i n t r o d u c t i o n In Norway, approximately 70% of the population bears a surname which is originally the name of a farming area. Thus, these surnames represent certain connections with specific places. As a result of this, it has been assumed that individuals with a farm name as surname may have an affective relation to the place the surname refers to. 2 Norwegian onomastics has its roots in the patriot movement formed in the latter half of the 19th century (Helleland 1999), and farm names have been viewed as carriers of the nation's distinctive character and history. In 1926, the Norwegian onomatologist, Magnus Olsen, asserted that the oldest farm names used as surnames were considered the most prestigious amongst Norwe-gian family names, and furthermore that these names were a reflection of the individual's place in society (Olsen 1976 [1926]). Since the eighties, the concepts of post-modernism and globalization have widely been interpolated as encapsulating contemporary society. In the phraseology of sociologist Anthony Giddens, modern social life is characterized by a separation of time and space; this condition of articulation of social relations across wide spans of time and space is seen in dis-embedding mechanisms which separate interaction from the peculiarities of locales, [1] The current paper is a re-edited version of my papers read at the two Names and Identities conferences at The University of Oslo (Wikstrøm 2007; Wikstrøm 2008) and further based on the main results of my Masters thesis (Wikstrøm 2009). [2] See, for example, the description of the project Names and Identities by Research Group for Ono-mastics at the University of Oslo, prosjekter/ [6th of July 2009].