Tagungsband: Trends in Exonym Use

Trends in Exonym Use

Proceedings of the 10th UNGEGN Working Group on Exonyms Meeting, Tainach, 28-30 April 2010

- in englischer Sprache -

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Name & Place – Contributions to Toponymic Literature and Research, volume 1

Hamburg , 336 pages

ISBN 978-3-8300-5656-0 (print) |ISBN 978-3-339-05656-6 (eBook)

About this book englishenglish

There are two issues in toponymy which can evoke the most passionate of discussions. These issues concern toponyms in multilingual areas and exonyms. This is due to the fact that both of these issues represent an apparent contradiction to the general objective of the United Nations, which is to standardize, i.e. to attribute only one name to each individual object. While bilingual or multilingual naming in multilingual areas for the sake of minority protection and the preservation of cultural diversity is today widely accepted and fully in line with political correctness, this is not the case with exonyms. Although they are regarded as useful in domestic communication and an important part of cultural heritage, they are sometimes interpreted as expressions of linguistic imperialism and associated with political claims. It is therefore not surprising that the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names (UNGEGN), from its very beginning, aimed at the reduction of exonym use. Several resolutions of the United Nations Conferences on the Standardization of Geographical Names (UNCSGN) point in this direction. Yet it became clear enough that this had little effect in practice. School atlases and other national cartographic publications continued to use exonyms widely. More recently, after the fall of Communism, languages in the eastern part of Europe resumed the use of exonyms. It became obvious that the exonym question could not be resolved by insisting or relying on former resolutions and that exonyms are a phenomenon that has to be tackled in greater detail and with greater subtlety.

This was in short the impetus for the 8th UNCSGN (Berlin, 2002) to establish an UNGEGN Working Group on Exonyms (WGE). In Resolution VIII/4, the Conference defined as its major tasks the categorisation of exonym use; the publication of pronunciation guides for endonyms; and the formulation of guidelines ensuring a politically sensitive use of exonyms – without, however, relinquishing the general goal of limiting the scope of exonyms and reducing their number.

The WGE has so far held ten meetings or workshops. Discussions in the earlier meetings centred mainly on the relative definitions of exonym and endonym. They were finally accepted by the 9th UNCSGN in New York (2007). Nevertheless, perhaps even due to the wide scope the new definitions permit, in 2008, in the context of the naming of transboundary features, two basically divergent positions with reference to the endonym/exonym divide evolved. One of these positions confines the endonym status of a name to portions of a transboundary feature, where the name corresponds to the local language. The other position grants this status to all portions of such a feature. These two positions and their consequences were discussed intensively in all later meetings and also in the 10th WGE Meeting in Tainach (Austria) in April 2010, the proceedings of which appear in this book. Part 1 (“The endonym/exonym divide”) contains papers relevant to this very topic. They show that new arguments are frequently brought forward in favour of the two diverging positions and that reconciliation between them is not really in sight. They also show that the endonym/exonym divide would require clarification on some other points as well.

Besides this recently enflamed discussion, the formulation of guidelines ensuring a politically sensitive use of exonyms as defined by Resolution VIII/4 was always on the agenda. It gained momentum at the 6th WGE Meeting in Prague [Praha] in 2007, but also developed in a rather controversial way. There is the position of adherents to the traditional UNGEGN policy to reduce exonym use as much as possible as opposed to the position of experts advocating adaptation to reality, an aggiornamento, and appreciating exonyms as a part of cultural heritage. This controversy reflects itself on the one hand in a position wishing to offer not much more than a collection of principal statements expressed already by the various UN resolutions versus a position advocating rather detailed guidelines on the other. This discussion was continued at the Tainach Meeting, supplemented by papers reporting on practice, policies and trends of exonym use in various countries and regions (Part 2 of this book).

Part 3 of this book comprises contributions with a focus on exonym use in a specific field such as name servers, country names, in a certain language for a certain country, for sea bodies and in dictionaries. Part 4 is a kind of appendix highlighting place names in their cultural environment without special regard to exonyms.

The book may therefore – besides its general value as a cross-section through the state of the art in exonym research – be considered as an update on the discussions conducted in the UNGEGN Working Group on Exonyms as well as another tangible (and hopefully also useful) product of this WG.

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