Saturday, March 4, 2023

The Semantics and Politics of Placenames in the Western Regions of Côte-d’Ivoire

ANS 2023, January 20, 2023 "The Semantics and Politics of Placenames in the Western Regions of Côte-d’Ivoire" by Michel Nguessan (Governors State University, IL, USA) The paper discusses 1) placenames and ethnic diversity, 2) the semantics and morphosyntax of placenames, 3) the sociology and politics of place names in Côte-d’Ivoire, a West African country. This paper focuses on the western regions, initially inhabited by Kru and Southern Mande peoples including subgroups such as Bété, Dida, Wê, Bakwé, Krumen, Gouro and Gagou. In addition to local ethnic groups, during colonial and post-colonial times, other populations moved into these western regions from other parts of Cote d’Ivoire and from neighboring countries and created their own villages with distinctive placenames. This study is based on several years of field work using semistructured interviews in these western regions. The study also utilized data from local government and administrative sources in the regions. The findings of the study show 1) multiculturalism and ethnic diversity in placenames; 2) the meaning and the syntax of placenames; 3) preferences in the use of placenames from different ethnic groups by communities, government entities. The study also shows that while most ethnic groups interact with one another and leave in relative harmony, each group tends to self-segregate into their own villages. For instance, a village with a Baoulé name is predominantly inhabited by Bété people. Each ethnic group expresses the desire to have placenames in their own language in order to maintain their cultural identity. However, for purposes of administrative organization, government entities favor placenames that are native to the regions. MICHEL NGUESSAN is an Associate Professor of Library and Information Science at Governors State University, in Illinois. He has academic background and research interest in languages and linguistics/onomastics, software engineering and computer science, and library and information science. He graduated from universities in Côted’Ivoire, the USA and Canada.

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