ANS Member Research: “The Concept of ‘UL’ (son, child) in Kazakh Anthroponomy” by Zhazira Agabekova

Recently presented at the 2024 Annual Meeting of the American Name Society, Zhazira Agabekova’s work explores the concept of “UL” (son, child), in Kazakh anthropology. You can watch the presentation here:

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In the Kazakh language, there are many names with the root “ul” (meaning “son”, “child”), such as Ulbosyn (let it be a son), Ulzhalgas (next will be a son), Ultusyn (wishing to give birth to a son). These names are given if a family had only daughters, and with the intention that after several girls born in a family, the next child will be a boy (names that indicated the family’s expectation of having boys). This is because historically, the boy was treated as the main breadwinner of the family and the protector of the people, the continuation of the generation, and the birth of a son in the family was important. This shows that the concept of patriarchy still prevails in Kazakh culture. Beyond that lies gender inequality. Although the number of names in the “ul” (son) context has decreased somewhat, the process has not stopped. This article hypothesizes that the use of names in the context of “ul” indicates that the role of men in the Kazakh society is higher than that of women. In order to prove it, linguistic lexemes and proverbs in the culture of the people are considered as the main linguistic facts. The number of these names changes in the different regions of Kazakhstan. These differences (frequency) are based not only on the population density, but also depends on the fact of observing Kazakhs traditions. The findings of this research will help better understand the concept of “ul”, and the analysis shows the importance of studying Kazakh names with root “ul”, which refers to existing gender inequality and gender norms in Kazakh society.


Zhazira Agabekova is Assistant Professor of Nazarbayev University, Candidate of Philological Sciences. Her scientific area is Turkic Studies, Linguistics, Onomastics, Gender studies. Currently, Zhazira is focused on gender issues in onomastics. She is a member of the Onomastic Commission under the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan.


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