Session on Toponymy
Place names as indicators of human perception of space
From the perspective of geography, place names are not only explaining map symbols and cannot only serve as tools of orientation in the real world. They also tell us, how humans in various historical periods, of various cultures and in different parts of the world have perceived their environment, geographical space around them. By naming, to specify the point, they highlighted what looked important for them on the background of their culture and interests. Farmers, e.g., had a view on their environment different from herdsmen or seafarers, people in the mountains a view different from lowland dwellers, inhabitants of the temperate zones different from people in tropical regions. But even within a given society attitudes towards space and places reflecting themselves in the use of place names may vary by age groups, educational strata, gender and other aspects and thus shed a light on how people perceive their environment. Children, e.g., like to apply special names to features at places where they play. The spatial pattern of street names stored in the memory of persons can tell something about their range of activities and even about their political orientation, if they, e.g., maintain the already abandoned name commemorating a politician or a political event and refrain from using the new, now official name. Country names and names of regions and landscapes can tell something about how the name-givers as the (once) dominant group conceived themselves and this section of space. The use of exonyms reveals the network of external relations of a community and can indicate the process of globalization. Place names can thus be regarded as condensed narratives about name givers and name users. It is the intention of this session to explore this field in the historical (diachronic) as well as topical (synchronic) dimension, also under the aspect of globalization and localization.