Question about city names that are being renamed

Dileep Damle dileep_damle at HOTMAIL.COM
Sat May 21 10:00:00 UTC 2011


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This is obviously a can of worms.  Yes, there is no reason why Anglophones should not use Deutschland, after all, they seemed to have given up Rhodesia and Salisbury and started using Zimbabwe and Harare without too much difficulty.

As to making it phonetic in current English spelling, that is surely a joke.  A village near my home in England has a name spelt ‘Cogenhoe’ , but is to be pronounced ‘Kugnoo’.  There are so many examples of this.  English is hardly phonetic and carries so many words from its ancestry sometimes with and sometimes without changes to spellings or pronunciation.  Its hardly worth bothering. Whether English should become phonetic is another question.  My answer would be yes, but GBS and many others have failed to reform English spelling.  So, I see little possibility of that.  Perhaps, one would wish for an International Spelling restricted to proper names using a phoneticised and enhanced roman script (only because so much of the world is familiar with some form of it) that could more nearly represent the sounds of those words in their original form.  The English script as used by many native speaking communities fails to represent the sounds in the same way across these communities.

As I said, this is mainly a European habit to call someone  else’s place by a completely different name.  If others do it, they do it because they hear the sounds differently or their scripts don’t accommodate the sound.  And so the French should use the word England.  And they don’t need to say the’England, l’England wii do as the article is a function word of the French language.

As to the local people issue,  that takes us into politics.  But, this was never an argument between local communities.  But about people who are not local in any sense to the place feeling aggrieved about such changes.  Would you accept the Dutch continuing to use  ‘New Amsterdam’ for ‘New York’?  Placenames and Maps have always been instruments of international politics.  Google maps show different boundaries and placenames in China to those shown by them in India.  This will always remain.  And of course it is a political issue whether the local people (and who they are) have the right to name their own places.  Colonial and Imperial political frameworks say ‘No’, Democratic ones should say ‘Yes’.  If the region has democratic institutions, then the process of determining who is local might be democratic also.

Dileep Damle
From: Thrasher, Allen 
Sent: Friday, May 20, 2011 11:45 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 
" 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.

 

 

 
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