Monday, April 24, 2017

Call for papers for 2017 International Symposium on Place Names

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Call for papers 
2017 International Symposium on Place Names

Critical toponymy: Place names in political, historical and commercial landscapes 

Jointly organised by the Joint IGU/ICA Commission on Toponymy, the UFS and UNAM University of Namibia, Windhoek, Namibia, 18–20 September 2017 

The Joint IGU/ICA Commission on Toponymy, the Unit for Language Facilitation and Empowerment at the University of the Free State (UFS), and the Department of Language and Literature Studies at the University of Namibia (UNAM) cordially invite proposals for the next bi-annual international symposium on place names.

The advent of critical theory in humanities and social sciences is reflected in the rise of critical toponymy. This approach explores the social, cultural, economic, political, and etymological origins of place names, and also considers how their meaning(s) change over time. As such, the landscape emerging from old and new place names can be constructed through physical, historical, or commercial evidence.

Such a method is possible because place names serve as historical records. They reflect the (changeable) geographical characteristics of a specific place, which includes the vegetation and animal life. Significant events and people are remembered via place naming. Even structures of social organisation, including political regimes and commercial enterprises, motivate the choice of names. As such, place names are also forms of (shared) cultural and linguistic heritage.

Place names are therefore important symbolic markers in reserving or changing cultural identities, and in marking or facilitating socio-political changes and relations. This role cannot be understood without thoroughly exploring the origin and meanings of place names.

Potential subtopics 

Abstracts (300-500 words) are submitted on-line on the conference page in the following (but not limited to) categories of research:

  •  Administrative dimensions of place names 
  •  Commercial and/or economic dimensions of place names 
  •  Cultural dimensions of place names 
  •  Historical and/or commemorative dimensions of place names 
  •  Linguistic dimensions of place names 
  •  Physical dimensions of place names 
  •  Political dimensions of place names 
  •  Etymology of place names 
  •  Place name changes

Keynote speakers 

  1. Peter E. Raper (RSA): Member of the Steering Board, Joint IGU/ICA Commission on Toponymy; Research Fellow and Professor Extraordinaire in Linguistics, Unit for Language Facilitation and Empowerment, UFS 
  2. Mathhias Brenzinger (RSA): Mellon Research Chair (African Language Diversity in the Linguistic section of the School of African & Gender Studies, Anthropology and Linguistics at the University of Cape Town), Director of CALDi (Centre for African Language Diversity), Curator of TALA (The African Language Archive). 

Important dates 


 Abstract submissions (online) open: November 2016
 Deadlines for abstract submissions: 17 April 2017
 Feedback from scientific panel: 8 May 2017


 Registrations (online): open: February 2017
 Early Bird deadline: 14 July 2017
 Registration deadline: 4 August 2017
 Proof of payment deadline: 14 August 2017

Language of the symposium: English (special requests may be considered, subject to financial constraints)


Depending on the number and quality of papers, an accredited publication will be considered, subject to page fees.

Queries can be directed to the organising committee at

The conference will be directly followed by the short learning programme ‘Geographical Names: Management and Practice’.