Question about city names that are being renamed

Dileep Damle dileep_damle at HOTMAIL.COM
Mon May 23 12:00:52 UTC 2011


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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 
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 (¡Ãا෾).  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/    

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