Question about city names that are being renamed

Anish Koshy elanish at GMAIL.COM
Mon Jun 6 06:35:23 UTC 2011


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The argument that some changes made to place names "must" be accepted, and
that you either are an "outsider" if you don't fall in line, or worse will
get beaten up for not using the re-christened city's new name, smacks of a
very arrogant and fundamentalist attitude. And then it becomes neither a
matter of history nor a matter of misplaced pronunciations, but rather a
matter of a chauvinistic politics. In Kerala, there are many place names
that have been gradually changed to their Malayalam pronunciations. Some
examples with the Malayalam names in brackets are:

Calicut (Kozhikode)
Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram)
Cochin (Kochi)
Alleppey (Alapuzha)
Quilon (Kollam)

The Malayalam names in brackets have always been used by Malayalee speakers
even when the rest of the sentence was in some other language. Even if some
speakers might have mixed up the usages, the mixing up would never happen
when speaking in Malayalam.  Funnily though, even after the name of the
state capital was changed to reflect the original Malayalam, it has only
been updated to the standard spelling, and not to the actual pronunciation
of the place. Most Malayalee speakers are likely to pronounce the name as
(Thiruvand̪oram), and never the reformed Thiruvananthapuram, though it is
the latter which has a meaning.

But a very crucial point that I feel must be made here is that no Malayalee
will ever mind if you called any of these cities by their old names, or
worse come to beat you up for that. And I think that is where we smell of
politics with the change of some city names in India which went beyond
anything to do with restoring older names.

Anish Koshy

2011/5/23 Dileep Damle <dileep_damle at hotmail.com>

> VYAKARAN: South Asian Languages and Linguistics Net Editors: Tej K. Bhatia,
> Syracuse University, New York John Peterson, University of Osnabrueck,
> Germany Details: Send email to listserv at listserv.syr.edu and say: INFO
> VYAKARAN Subscribe:Send email to listserv at listserv.syr.edu and say:
> SUBSCRIBE VYAKARAN FIRST_NAME LAST_NAME (Substitute your real name for
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>  The Bangkok anecdote is a case of naming the wrong place, not of a
> foreign name imposition.  And I guess the Germans like all Europeans are in
> the habit of having their own names for foreign places.  So, that may be the
> reason they accept English people calling their country Germany.  But, just
> what is the nature of the evidence that the Thai people and the Germans
> don’t mind?  Is it simply anecdotal? After all, Thailand was previously
> called Siam.  It also used to be the case that when you landed in Mumbai,
> they announced ‘Bombay’, but it has changed although there were those who
> dragged their heels.  Who can say whether the Thai people will not change
> names in the future?
>
> Ultimately it is a matter of when some people feel the need to and feel
> that they are able to assert their identity.  A matter of politics surely!
>
> Dileep Damle
>   *From:* Harold Schiffman <haroldfs at GMAIL.COM>
> *Sent:* Saturday, May 21, 2011 3:40 PM
> *To:* VYAKARAN at LISTSERV.SYR.EDU
> *Subject:* Re: Question about city names that are being renamed
>
> VYAKARAN: South Asian Languages and Linguistics Net Editors: Tej K. Bhatia,
> Syracuse University, New York John Peterson, University of Osnabrueck,
> Germany Details: Send email to listserv at listserv.syr.edu and say: INFO
> VYAKARAN Subscribe:Send email to listserv at listserv.syr.edu and say:
> SUBSCRIBE VYAKARAN FIRST_NAME LAST_NAME (Substitute your real name for
> first_name last_name) Archives: http://listserv.syr.edu Let me add my two
> cents again (since I opened this can of worms) to note a city in Thailand
> that we farengi call "Bangkok"
> is known there as Krung Thep (กรุงเทพ).  They don't insist that we call it
> that; Bangkok is the name of a grove of wild plums at a point in the river
> where Europeans found they could sail no further, so a port developed there;
> the original capital was on the other side of the  Chao Phraya river, but
> then it was moved to Bangkok and renamed.  But the renaming didn't catch on
> with us farengi.
> (see http://www.into-asia.com/bangkok/introduction/fullname.php)
>
> The Thais don't care that we call it Bangkok, and even use it in various
> semi-official ways, e.g. when you land in an airplane there,
> they announce it as 'Bangkok.'  So it's often a matter of who cares about
> what--the Germans don't care (I guess) that we don't
> call their country Deutschland, so they don't make a fuss about it.
>
> Hal Schiffman
>
> On Fri, May 20, 2011 at 6:45 PM, Thrasher, Allen <athr at loc.gov> wrote:
>
>> VYAKARAN: South Asian Languages and Linguistics Net Editors: Tej K.
>> Bhatia, Syracuse University, New York John Peterson, University of
>> Osnabrueck, Germany Details: Send email to listserv at listserv.syr.edu and
>> say: INFO VYAKARAN Subscribe:Send email to listserv at listserv.syr.edu and
>> say: SUBSCRIBE VYAKARAN FIRST_NAME LAST_NAME (Substitute your real name for
>> first_name last_name) Archives: http://listserv.syr.edu
>>
>> " But surely, it is for the people of a place to determine the name of
>> their city and if they want to throw off the place names imposed on them by
>> foreign invaders then who should deny it.  It is a European custom that a
>> city is given a different name by each foreign nation, vis London=Londres,
>> Munchen=Munich ,Firenze=Florence, Venezia=Venice.  It is certainly not a
>> world-wide phenomenon.  We are now in the post-clolonial period and perhaps
>> it is time to stop such arrogance."
>>
>>
>>
>> Actually, it is this attitude I personally find a bit arrogant.  Are
>> Anglophones really supposed to start talking not about Germany but about
>> Deutschland, and if so, should we preserve the German spelling or rather
>> make it phonetic in English, something like Doichlahnt?  And should France
>> be Frahns, or rather Lah Frahns?  And the same question for speakers of
>> other languages.  Should the French stop talking of Angleterre and the
>> Italians of the Tedeschi?  I suspect that different names for the same place
>> in different language is in fact NOT a world-wide phenomenon.  Someone
>> correct me if I'm wrong, but I presume the traditional Arabic names for
>> various Indian ports are not an attempt at transliteration to Arabic of the
>> current (21st c.) standard names in the local language whether Gujarati,
>> Marathi, Malayalam, Tamil, etc.  What the local government wants to do is
>> another thing, as is the policy of the U.S. Board of Geographic names or
>> similar government bureaus elsewhere, but is there really a sort of
>> universal moral obligation to follow it?  And of course, the Chinese
>> versions of foreign placenames are pretty unlikely to be anything
>> immediately recognizable to a native of the place in question;  many
>> languages have a lot of consonant clusters Chinese and some other languages
>> can't deal with.
>>
>>
>>
>> Also, of course, what is meant by "the people of a place?"  Speakers of
>> the majority or official language of the state currently controlling it,
>> whether or not they are regarded as legitimate or desirable by the locals?
>> The local people?  What if there are several ethnic groups locally who use
>> different names for the place.
>>
>>
>>
>> Allen Thrasher
>>
>>
>>
>> Allen W. Thrasher, Ph.D.
>>
>> Senior Reference Librarian and Team Coordinator
>>
>> South Asia Team
>>
>> Asian Division
>>
>> Library of Congress
>>
>> Washington, DC 20540-4810
>>
>> USA
>>
>> tel. 202-707-3732
>>
>> fax 202-707-1724
>>
>> The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Library of
>> Congress.
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>
>
>
> --
> =+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+
>
> Harold F. Schiffman
>
> Professor Emeritus of
> Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
> Dept. of South Asia Studies
> University of Pennsylvania
> Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305
>
> Phone:  (215) 898-7475
> Fax:  (215) 573-2138
>
> Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com
> http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~haroldfs/
>
> -------------------------------------------------
>



-- 
*Anish Koshy*
*Assistant Professor in Linguistics* | The English & Foreign Languages
University (CIEFL/EFL-U) | Hyderabad, INDIA
**
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