Keynote speakers

28th International Congress of Onomastic Sciences
Helen Kelly-Holmes

Helen Kelly-Holmes is Professor of Applied Languages at Ollscoil Luimnigh/University of Limerick and an active member of the Centre for Applied Language Studies (CALS), having previously served as Director of CALS.  Helen’s research in sociolinguistics focuses on the interrelationship between media, markets, technologies and languages and the management of these relationships. Helen is particularly well known for her work on multilingual advertising and linguistic fetish in branding and marketing. Recent books include: Language, Global Mobilities, Blue-Collar Workers and Blue-collar Workplaces (Edited with K. Gonçalves, Routledge Critical Studies in Multilingualism, 2020); Sociolinguistics from the Periphery: Small Languages in New Circumstances (with S. Pietikäinen, A. Jaffe & N. Coupland - Cambridge University Press, 2016). Helen holds a Docentship in Discourse Studies at University of Jyväskylä, where she has collaborated with long-time associate Prof. Sari Pietikäinen on two Finnish-Academy funded projects (Northern Multilingualism and Peripheral Multilingualism). She is emeritus Editor-in-Chief of Language Policy and co-edits Palgrave’s long-running Language and Globalization series. Helen is a member of the Advisory Committee of the European Centre for Minority Issues, and in 2023 was elected to membership of the Royal Irish Academy in recognition of her academic and scientific contributions.

Keynote presentation:

‘Spread the Word’: Small languages, brand naming, and sustainability

Small languages refer generally (but not only) to indigenous, minoritized languages, such as for example, Irish and Sámi (Pietikäinen et al 2016). Their smallness, in terms of speaker numbers relative to ‘big’ national and global languages, affords them certain attributes (Pietikäinen et al 2016), which position them favourably for branding sustainability. The paper reports on a study of a number of brands which use Irish to name, mark and market their sustainability, using virtual ethnographic and discourse analytic methods and applying the theoretical framework of Appadurai’s concept of ‘enclaved commodities’. The products concerned generally involve a high degree of reflexivity and identity work on the part of consumers as part of their purchase - before, during and after consumption. All of this activity can reinforce the brand name and name’s association with sustainability. While the perceived authenticity of a small language name enables it to index place and locality / localness, which is a key attribute in contemporary sustainability marketing, this also invites scrutiny about the origin and accuracy of the name and of the localness. 



Appadurai, Arjun 1988. The social life of things: Commodities in cultural perspective. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Pietikäinen, Sari, Kelly-Holmes, Helen, Jaffe, Alexandra M., & Coupland, Nikolas 2016. Sociolinguistics from the periphery: Small languages in new circumstances. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Jane Pilcher

Jane Pilcher is Visiting Research Fellow at the University of West of England, Bristol, UK. Jane studies people’s names and what they can tell us about identities and inequalities, including in relation to bodies and to gender and ethnicity. Her writing includes ‘Names, Bodies and Identities’, published in the journal Sociology in 2016 (Shortlisted for the SAGE Prize for Innovation and Excellence), and ‘Names and “Doing Gender”: how forenames and surnames contribute to gender identities, difference and inequalities’ published in the journal Sex Roles in 2017. Jane has also published an analysis of names in adoption law and policy in England and Wales in terms of its representations of ‘family’, rights and identities (published in Family, Relationships and Societies in 2022). Her recent research projects include (with Dr Hannah Deakin-Smith) the pronunciation of students' names in higher education in contexts of equality, diversity and inclusivity policies (funded by The British Academy) and (with Dr Jan Flaherty, Dr Hannah Deakin-Smith, Professor Amanda Coffey and Eve Makis) experiences of names and naming in adoption (funded by The Leverhulme Trust). Jane is the founder and director of the international and cross-disciplinary People’s Names Research Network, bringing together scholars from 14 countries.

Keynote presentation:

People’s names and sustainability: (in)equalities and human rights

In this talk, I understand sustainability as the quality of practices being able to continue over time. My concern is with the social and cultural sustainability of some practices related to people’s names in relation to issues of equality, diversity, and inclusion and therein, to lives being lived in ways commensurate with human dignity – in other words, human rights. I explore these issues using three different topics. First, I consider names in adoption. Using new evidence from England and Wales, I explore identity rights in terms of first name changing for children who are adopted and surname alignment within adoptive families so that their belonging together is displayed. Second, I focus on the pronunciation of names in contexts of the internationalization of higher education and the increased cultural diversity of student populations. Using new evidence from England I examine the experiences of students whose names can be mispronounced. I ask, what can institutions of higher education do to help ensure that the (re)naming of students is commensurate with their human dignity? Third, I address methodological debates on the sustainability of practices of anonymization through pseudonymization in qualitative research. I argue that insights from the sociology of people’s names can enrich methodological discussions about the rights and wrongs of researchers’ practices of (re)naming participants and the identities thereby conveyed. Through these three topics, I show how people’s names are ‘power-full’, (re)producing identities, relationships, and inequalities through the ideas they contain and convey. Names - and their study - are core to equity, justice, and human dignity and so to the achievement of more socially and culturally sustainable societies.

Väinö Syrjälä

Väinö Syrjälä is Senior lecturer in Swedish language at Södertörn University in Stockholm, Sweden. His research has mainly dealt with questions within the field of linguistic landscape studies. Syrjälä received his PhD in Scandinavian languages from the University of Helsinki in 2018 on a thesis about the linguistic landscapes of bilingual Finland, focusing on both perceptions of and names on public signs. His later research has, among other, looked into different aspects of the relation between the LL, the notions of space and place and the people connected with these places. Within onomastics Syrjälä has an interest for urban names, especially socio-onomastic perspectives on the use of place names and commercial names in the public space.

Keynote presentation:

Names as a guide through natural and linguistic landscapes

Different types of proper names are important items in most linguistic landscapes, i.e. in the visible language use in public places, and thus one of the key issues discussed in linguistic landscape studies (cf. Gorter & Cenoz 2023: 357–368). Names are not only numerous on signs, and especially salient in landscapes with fewer signs overall, their informative and symbolic nature makes them interesting in connection to several wider sociolinguistic questions. For example, names can have a central role in discussion on language policies or visibility of minority languages, names are utilized for commercial purposes, or to showcase (or hide) identities of peoples, places etc. Names can also be used on signs as part of a more regulatory discourse, in order to e.g. guide people to choose to take a certain way through spaces. All in all, the use of names in the linguistic landscape thus becomes very much a question of sustainable name use.

In this lecture, I will first give a short summary of the shared interests of linguistic landscape studies and onomastics. Thereafter, my focus will be on a specific case study: the role of names in the linguistic landscapes of national parks in Sweden and Finland. Names are here part of a somewhat contradictory landscape: the aim of national parks is at the same time to preserve valuable natural areas, and to allow people to experience nature. What kind of names does a visitor encounter, and how are these names utilized to manage the aims of the national parks, i.e. to guide the visitors in a sustainable way, will be exemplified through a sample of signs from the linguistic landscape of a number of different national parks in the two countries. 



Gorter, Durk & Cenoz, Jasone 2023. A Panorama of Linguistic Landscape Studies. Multilingual Matters, Bristol.