The 28th International Congress of Onomastic Sciences

Peter Jordan

Austrian Academy of Sciences


Length: 180 minutes


Related to the representation of minority place names in public space (on town signs, road signs etc.) and on maps exist various regulations in Europe. They differ by:

  • definition of the minority,
  • feature categories included (populated places, natural features etc.),
  • the administrative level where the decision is taken (national, province, district, commune level), 
  • the share of minority population necessary for taking advantage of the regulation,
  • additional procedures necessary to effectuate the right on the name,
  • the choice between standard language and dialect name versions,
  • the kind of visual representation of the minority name,
  • comprehensiveness of the fields where the minority name has (in addition to the majority name) to be used (only on town signs, also on maps, in all kinds of communication),
  • the level of officiality of the minority name (as official as the majority name, supplementary official, just for information etc.)
  • and by several others.

The session is to highlight these regulations based on a research project of the Joint ICA/IGU Commission on Toponymy in cooperation with the IGU Commission on the Geography of Governance to be completed in 2024 attempting to compare such regulations in the countries of Europe with autochthonous linguistic minorities on the background of ethnic and linguistic structures, historical and political developments, the political landscape, governance structures, and external relations. Major questions of this project are: Is minority place-name standardization part of the general standardization process or are there specific regulations? Is it a bottom-up or a top-down process and which administrative levels are involved? To which extent do these regulations satisfy linguistic minorities and help to facilitate the relations between majority and minority.  Researchers cooperating in this project (35 individual researchers and research teams for almost all European countries) will be invited to this session to report on the situation in their countries as reflected in their contributions to the project. The session will, however, also be open for all other contributions with relevance for the topic.


Leila Mattfolk, Lena Wenner and Sonja Entzenberg

Institute for language and folklore, Sweden


Length: 180 minutes


The multicultural societies of today are reflected not least in naming practices. Our onomasticons are constantly enriched with names from different languages and naming cultures, and this has been the case throughout history. We have imported personal names from one language into another, adopted them when necessary and then simply started to use them and make them part of our own onomasticon. Additionally, we have acquired new and different kinds of personal names from immigrants from countries with naming customs that are different from the traditional ones in a community. Name inventories are rapidly expanding, changing, and getting renewed. 

The purpose of the workshop “Personal names in a multicultural context” is to explore how immigrants’ personal names are handled in different countries and what it is that guides the variation in how these names are treated. We want to discuss the name policies applied and what is possible to implement in different countries. In countries with specific name laws, the legal requirements are explicit. In countries without such name laws, there may still be conventions that govern naming practices. Additionally, different languages have their own naming systems and naming cultures, which also influence how names are handled.  Relevant questions for the workshop will include: How are the names of immigrants managed in countries with and without name laws? How are the names linguistically and/or structurally adapted (if they are adapted)? How are names given according to one naming structure handled, when a person moves to a country with a different naming structure? For example, what happens when a person without a proper surname (in the fashion in the target country) moves into a system with first names and surnames? What happens when names are transferred from one writing system to another? What are the limitations imposed by naming traditions, and what deviations from one's own naming system are tolerated by the name bearer? What opportunities does an individual from a different naming culture have to access their own naming culture in the new country?  The official treatment and handling by the authorities of personal names can be seen as a form of name planning, i.e., a way to regulate naming practices in (the receiving) society. It becomes a form of name policy, primarily at the state level, where name planning is more or less consciously guided by different language ideologies. Sometimes it can be difficult to discern the underlying language ideologies that govern the strategies used, but since they can play a crucial role in how personal names are handled in a country, it is important to clarify these ideological starting points.  We invite scholars from all over the world – with varying experiences and language backgrounds – to take part in the workshop.