The 6th International Symposium on Place Names 2021

Standardisation and the wealth of place names – aspects of a delicate relationship

Virtual/Bloemfontein, South Africa
29 September – 1 October 2021

The Department of South African Sign Language and Deaf Studies at the University of the Free State (RSA), in partnership with the Joint IGU/ICA Commission on Toponymy, is pleased to announce the next biennial international symposium on place names, directly preceded by a related virtual workshop (Collecting and documenting informal and alternative place names).

Keynote speakers
– Mr Pierre Jaillard (Chair: UNGEGN)
– Dr Tendai Mangena (Great Zimbabwe University)

Call for Papers:

Topographic features, both natural and made by humans, are often known by multiple names simultaneously, including official, conventionalised, informal as well as other alternative names. With the theme for this symposium we wish to explore the issues regarding multiple place names vis-à-vis processes of standardisation from the perspective of critical toponomy. Of course, there are practical implications for place names as points of reference. Beyond that, place naming is a process of claiming spaces and proclaiming or imposing identity. Viewing place names as linguistic and cultural heritage artefacts, we need to consider what it means to document and use these alternative names. Not only are we interested in how these names come into being, but also the roles they perform in social dynamics.

Potential subtopics:
Only a limited number of papers can be accommodated, as all sessions will be plenary. Abstracts (250 words) can be submitted online at in the following (but not limited to) categories of research by 5 March 2021:

– Forms of multiples names – alternative, conventionalised, official, informal, replaced and restored names, as well as signed place names (i.e. place names in signed languages) and exonyms.
– Processes that produce multiple names – official processes, grass-level practices, processes of conventionalisation, language contact, socio-political dynamics and the dialectic between linguistic communities and different social groups (for example, between established, incoming, transient and external communities).
– Multilingualism and multiple names – translations, transliterations and adaptations; different orthographies, registers and dialects; as well as signed languages and spoken languages without written systems.
– Collecting, recording, recognising, and using multiple, informal or alternative place names, including names in indigenous or minority languages (such as signed languages) and microtoponyms (names of fields, houses, neighbourhoods and small towns).
– Standardisation processes and multiple names.
– The implications of multiple names on cartography, geography, online mapping and the digitisation of place names.
– Other dimensions of multiple place names: administrative, commercial and/or economic, cultural and historical/commemorative, physical, political, and linguistic.

Virtual workshop (29 September morning session)
Collecting and documenting informal and alternative place names” Presenter: Dr Gerhard Rampl (Chair: Austrian Board of Geographical Names)

Organising Committee

  • Host: Prof Theodorus du Plessis (University of the Free State, RSA)
  • Coordinator: Dr Chrismi Loth (University of the Free State, RSA)
  • Resident member: Dr Lucie A Möller (University of the Free State, RSA)
  • Joint IGU/ICA Commission on Toponymy:

IGU Chair: Prof Cosimo Palagiano (Sapienza University of Rome, Italy)

ICA Chair: Prof Peter Jordan (Austrian Academy of Sciences, Austria / University of the Free State, RSA)

Common Vice-Chair: Prof Paulo Márcio Leal de Menezes (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)

Member of the Steering Board: Prof Peter E Raper (University of the Free State, RSA)