GfN-Conference "Names in motion: Adaptation processes of person and place names in areal, diachronic, and social fields of tension"

Names in motion: Adaptation processes of person and place names in areal, diachronic, and social fields of tension

GfN-Conference, University of Münster, September 11-13, 2019

As proper names refer directly to individual objects, they crucially depend on stable, fixed relationships between form and referent. However, such fixed references open up fields of tension when contexts change for people who bear and use the names. Changing contexts may prompt names to be formally adapted, meaning that – at least temporarily – names may lead a double life. The aim of this conference is to identify factors that motivate, condition, and constrain adaptation processes of person and place names to changing or varying circumstances.
In German or other naming systems (e.g. Germanic languages or contact languages of German), the structural and social factors that govern adaptation can be investigated through relevant
diachronic or synchronic case studies. In such case studies, of particular interest is not just the phonological or graphemic adaptation of a name's substance, but also the processes that drive the abandoning of old names in favour of new names, e.g. in social transgressions.

(Read the full text of the call for communications in attachment English/German)

Following the overarching question of what factors condition the processes of adaptation or the double lives of person and place names, more detailed questions arise:
• Psychological and social aspects:
- How (un)consciously and (un)controllably do adaptation processes unfold?
- Under what conditions are double lives of names maintained and time stable?
- Who decides about and has power over implementing adaptations – name bearers or name users? Do name bearers capitulate against their own wishes and historical situations in view of uses established by others?
- What kind of impact do adaptation processes have on name bearers and users? (Identification? Experience of gain/loss?)

• Factors constraining or facilitating adaptations: Apart from structural and social conditions, legal and other aspects might also be addressed here.

• Use and range of variants: Who knows which variants of a person or place name, and who doesn't? Under what conditions do speakers prefer one over the other variant?

• Structural aspects: What are the possibilities and constraints of formal manipulation, e.g. in adapting names to the German naming system or in transforming them to Latin? What role does the respective appellative system have as a reference point? For example, in contrasting Flemish and Dutch family names, the timing of orthographic standardization is a decisive factor (Marynissen/Nübling 2010).

As most of the proposed topics and questions are best addressed from a multidisciplinary perspective, contributions and approaches from social scientists, culture geographers and other disciplines are also welcome, in addition to linguistic-onomastic approaches.

Talks (20 minutes + 10-minute discussion) or posters can be presented in German or English. Please submit an anonymous abstract (pdf-file, 500 words, not counting references) including your preference (talk or poster) no later than 30 April 2019 to

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Organisers: Antje Dammel in collaboration with Kirstin Casemir and Friedel Roolfs