Tagungsband: Confirmation of the Definitions

Confirmation of the Definitions

Proceedings of the 16th UNGEGN Working Group on Exonyms Meeting, Hermagor, 5–7 June 2014

– in englischer Sprache –

Name & Place – Contributions to Toponymic Literature and Research, Band 4

Hamburg , 252 Seiten

ISBN 978-3-8300-8422-8 (Print)
ISBN 978-3-339-08422-4 (eBook)

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The term exonym was first used by the British toponymist Marcel AUROUSSEAU (1957) and – interestingly enough – the term endonym was coined only later (1975), by the Austrian Slavist Otto KRONSTEINER, even though endonym is the basic and primary concept, and endonyms prevail by far in number.

The United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names (UNGEGN), whose main task is the international standardization of geographical names, had already defined these two terms in the first (1984) edition of its Glossary of Terms for the Standardization of Geographical Names. Later and after the establishment of the UNGEGN Working Group on Exonyms in 2002, these definitions were modified three times; most recently in 2007, following intensive discussions in the Working Group. Soon after their implementation, the 2007 definitions were called into question; on the one hand because of problems with their practical application in standardization, and on the other hand because of a perceived lack of comprehensiveness (i.e. that they perhaps do not include all possible eventualities).

So discussions on the definitions continued, latterly conducted for the most part within the annual meetings of the Working Group. The discussions centred mainly on these questions:

  • Who is the local community defining and “possessing? the endonym?
  • How far does the “territory? of the local community extend?
  • Can the endonym/exonym divide exist within a given language, and is language a necessary criterion for the endonym/exonym divide?
  • Is an official name ipso facto an endonym?
  • With regard to a new migrant community, at what point does its name for a place qualify for endonym status – how large does the community need to be and for how long do they have to have lived in that place?
  • In addition, a predominantly linguistic concept of the endonym/exonym divide was also suggested, deviating from the traditional UNGEGN understanding of this divide in regarding endonyms as names conforming to a certain language irrespective of where the features assigned by them are located in geographical space (and defining exonyms as the opposite). By 2014 it had become clear that a complete reconciliation of the diverging opinions within the Working Group was most unlikely. All the major arguments had been exchanged and the discussion could not be perpetuated indefinitely at the expense of other relevant agenda items. So the Working Group declared that its 16th meeting in Hermagor in 2014 would mark the final opportunity to arrive at an agreement on new definitions of endonym and exonym. The 18 papers presented on this subject at the Hermagor meeting and included in this book therefore highlight the final stage of the discussions on the definitions, and perhaps display all the arguments and positions in their most comprehensive form. They clearly show the dichotomy between advocators of all-comprehensive umbrella terms and those preferring terms which meet the practical needs of standardization, as well as the dichotomy between linguistic and cultural-geographical (space-related) approaches.

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