The Importance of Using Exonyms. On the use of exonyms in school atlases and other educational media

Room D
Monday, 31 August 2015
13.00 – 14.45
criteria, exonyms, place names

Names of geographical features, i.e. toponyms are politically and culturally sensitive, since they are symbolic markers of space-related identity. This is true for endonyms in the sense of place names used by a community for features on its own territory and even more so for exonyms in the sense of place names used by a community for features outside its territory, since the latter are often associated with territorial claims. The use of exonyms is therefore not only to be discussed in terms of its benefits for communication and as regards the acquisition of cultural techniques (e.g. of a geographical view of the Earth, of the ability for topographic orientation), but also under the aspects of political and cultural reasonability.

Exonyms are nevertheless important in geographical education, and school atlases as well as other educational media are even the field most suited to apply them. This is so for three main reasons: (1) Exonyms are morphologically and phonetically adapted to the receiver language. (2) Exonyms can easily be used according to the grammar of the receiver language. (3) Most exonyms have a long tradition in the receiver language. So they correspond to place names used in historical contexts, street names and names of features of the daily life like foodstuff or drinks. 

Peter Jordan
Austrian Academy of Sciences, Institute of Urban and Regional Research
peter.jordan [at]

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