Call for papers: Sixth International Symposium on Place Names 2021


Call for papers

Sixth International Symposium on Place Names 2021

Standardisation and the wealth of place names – aspects of a delicate relationship

29 September – 1 October 2021

Virtual/Bloemfontein, South Africa

The Department of South African Sign Language and Deaf Studies at the University of the Free State (RSA), in partnership with the Joint IGU/ICA Commission on Toponymy, is pleased to announce the next biennial international symposium on place names, directly preceded by a related virtual workshop.

Topographic features, both natural and made by humans, are often known by multiple names simultaneously, including official, conventionalised, informal as well as other alternative names. With the theme for this symposium we wish to explore the issues regarding multiple place names vis-à-vis processes of standardisation from the perspective of critical toponomy. Of course, there are practical implications for place names as points of reference. Beyond that, place naming is a process of claiming spaces and proclaiming or imposing identity. Viewing place names as linguistic and cultural heritage artefacts, we need to consider what it means to document and use these alternative names. Not only are we interested in how these names come into being, but also the roles they perform in social dynamics.

Potential subtopics
Only a limited number of papers can be accommodated, as all sessions will be plenary. Abstracts (250 words) can be submitted online at in the following (but not limited to) categories of research by 5 March 2021:

  • Forms of multiples names – alternative, conventionalised, official, informal, replaced and restored names, as well as signed place names (i.e. place names in signed languages) and exonyms.
  • Processes that produce multiple names – official processes, grass-level practices, processes of conventionalisation, language contact, socio-political dynamics and the dialectic between linguistic communities and different social groups (for example, between established, incoming, transient and external communities).
  • Multilingualism and multiple names – translations, transliterations and adaptations; different orthographies, registers and dialects; as well as signed languages and spoken languages without written systems.
  • Collecting, recording, recognising, and using multiple, informal or alternative place names, including names in indigenous or minority languages (such as signed languages) and microtoponyms (names of fields, houses, neighbourhoods and small towns).
  • Standardisation processes and multiple names.
  • The implications of multiple names on cartography, geography, online mapping and the digitisation of place names.
  • Other dimensions of multiple place names: administrative, commercial and/or economic, cultural and historical/commemorative, physical, political, and linguistic.

Keynote speakers

  • Mr Pierre Jaillard (Chair: UNGEGN)
  • Dr Tendai Mangena (Great Zimbabwe University)

Virtual workshop (29 September morning session)
Collecting and documenting informal and alternative place names” Presenter: Dr Gerhard Rampl (Chair: Austrian Board of Geographical Names)

Organising Committee

  • Host: Prof Theodorus du Plessis (University of the Free State, RSA)
  • Coordinator: Dr Chrismi Loth (University of the Free State, RSA)
  • Resident member: Dr Lucie A Möller (University of the Free State, RSA)
  • Joint IGU/ICA Commission on Toponymy:

       IGU Chair: Prof Cosimo Palagiano (Sapienza University of Rome, Italy)

ICA Chair: Prof Peter Jordan (Austrian Academy of Sciences, Austria / University of the Free State, RSA)

Common Vice-Chair: Prof Paulo Márcio Leal de Menezes (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)

  Member of the Steering Board: Prof Peter E Raper (University of the Free State, RSA)

Scientific Panel
• The members of the Organising Committee
• Dr Petrus Angula Mbenzi (University of Namibia, Namibia)
• Dr Boga Manatsha (University of Botswana, Botswana)
• Dr Lehlohonolo Phafoli (National University of Lesotho, Lesotho)
• Dr Sambulo Ndlovu (Great Zimbabwe University, Zimbabwe)

Important dates
Abstract submissions                             open 30 November 2020
• Abstracts deadline                                  5 March 2021
• Feedback from Scientific Panel           24 March 2021
Registrations                                           open 30 January 2021
• Registrations                                           close 6 August 2021
• Proof of payment deadline                   25 August 2021

Registration fees
All fees in South African Rand (ZAR)
Registrations close 6 August 2021
Symposium only                              R 3 000
Symposium & Workshop combo  R 4 000
Virtual Symposium only                R 2 500
Virtual Workshop only                   R 1 500
Virtual Symposium & Workshop combo    R 3 500
Cultural Tour (2 October 2021)    R 1 000

Language of the symposium and workshop
English, with professional South African Sign Language interpreting available.

Depending on the number and quality of papers an accredited publication in our regular conference proceedings series with Sun Bonani will be considered.

About the venue
If circumstances allow a hybrid virtual/in-person event, the symposium will be hosted on the Bloemfontein campus of the University of the Free State (RSA). However, if that is not possible, we will revert to hosting a virtual event.

The workshop will be hosted virtually. Delegates who attend the symposium in-person will be able to attend the workshop in the conference venue.

Queries can be directed to Dr Chrismi Loth at

ISPN 2021 will be preceded by the Names Society of Southern Africa (NSSA) International Congress, hosted 21-23 September 2021 at the Durban University of Technology (RSA). Interested parties can contact Prof Nhlanhla Mathonsi at

Nov 30, 2020 | Posted by in News and Events | 0 comments
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