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Articles | Volume 1
15 Jul 2019
 | 15 Jul 2019

Cartographers and geographers as toponym users, creators, and promoters. A linguistic perspective on cartographic and textual dissemination of geographical names

Wojciech Włoskowicz

Keywords: Toponymy, Name Dissemination, Toponym Use, Geographer, Cartographer

Abstract. Cartographers and geographers constitute a special and in some way privileged group of toponym users and toponym creators. The principles of establishing and using geographical names by the mentioned scientists and professionals are determined by various superior scientific, legal, political or administrative regulations that are, generally speaking, not known and not observed by the general public in their general language use. However, the use of geographical names by general public is directly or indirectly influenced by name choices and name creations made by cartographers and geographers.

Nevertheless, neither cartographers nor geographers are independent “toponymic decision-makers”. Being privileged toponym users and creators, they are still only one “collective” player in a much broader and much more complex constellation of actors and factors such as: local communicative communities, already existing texts and previous maps, linguistic norm of a given language in which toponyms are meant to be used (or in which a map is to be prepared), toponymic codification of various types (official/linguistic/scientific codification), and superior (mainly legal) guidelines of language and toponymic policy of a given country. In other words: in their toponymic choices cartographers and geographers are both the influencing and the influenced ones.

The privileges which cartographers and geographers enjoy as toponym users and creators result mainly form the fact that the texts they create (and these comprise maps as well) are often automatically perceived by the general public as somehow prestigious, correct or even normative. On the other hand, the way geographers design toponyms as labels for geographical concepts differs from the “natural” and “spontaneous” way most toponyms were created or rather “came into being” in the past. The geographically and cartographically named objects are “defined” on the basis of scientific (e.g. physiographical or geological) criteria, which is obviously not the case with the geographical features “intuitively” perceived by laypeople both now and in the past.

The aim of the proposed paper is to provide an outline of a general (top)onomastic model of textual-normative dissemination of geographical names and to use this model in description and explanation of the special role cartographers and geographers play in fixing, establishing, propagating, and creating geographical names. Taking a different perspective, one could put the aim of the paper the following way as well: the goal is to describe cartographers and geographers as language users within the very specific and narrow scope of toponym use.

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