The Choice of First Names as a Social Resource and Act of Identity among Multilingual Families in Contemporary Sweden
All choices we make, linguistic choices as well as others, are to some extent choices of identity. This includes parents’ choices of first names for their children. Through such choices they create an identity for the child, which will show the child, as well as others, who he or she is and how he or she is related to different groups. In the case of multilingual families the choice of first names often becomes a quite obvious choice between different ethnic identities. These families might choose a first name from the onomasticon of the surrounding majority, or from the onomasticon of their own language(s), or they might try to combine these in some way – and each choice will mean a choice of a different ethnic identity for the child. But the choice is not only a matter of identity. A name can also be a valuable resource that helps to achieve certain social goals. So the name choice can also be affected by more practical issues such as these. In this paper I explore how the choice of first names is influenced by language background in 126 multilingual families in the city of Gothenburg in western Sweden.