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If you were called by a melody, how would it sound? Communities in Ethiopia and PNG name people with unique individual tunes

By Hannah Sarvasy, Research Fellow in Linguistics, Western Sydney University
Azeb Amha, Researcher, language and culture in southwest Ethiopia, Leiden University
James Slotta, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University of Texas at Austin
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36-year-old Binoora Bhultse lives in Garda village in the Oyda district of southwest Ethiopia.

While he could share the name Binoora with other local men, Binoora also has a name that is special to him. It may never have existed before him, and may never name anyone else after he dies.

This name isn’t a word. It is a two-second wordless melody, given to Binoora in early childhood and recognised throughout his community to refer to him alone.

Binoora’s moyzé, or “name tune,” is most often whistled, using one hand at the mouth and the other opening…

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