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ICOS 2008 Conference Abstract

Linguistic Social Encounter in Oral Microtoponymy

Author(s):
M A Thériault
Université de Montréal, Canada

Microtoponymy of a territory has often been analysed according to a diachronic perspective (etymology and meaning of ancient affixes), but it is also possible to consider microtoponymy as a synchronic social linguistic system used to orient oneself within a given territory – farm, agrarian land, etc. This is especially true in North America, where toponymy drawn from European languages is quite recent if we compare it to the traditional toponymy of aboriginal languages or to ancient European toponymies. The description of this specialized language of spatialization will be the focus of my paper: microtoponymy seen as a functional oral, punctual locative system, a system that plays a precise social interactive role for native speakers.
I will first discuss how the encounter between the linguist investigator and the native speaker enables us to comprehend this location system. Apart from the social encounter itself, the investigation methodology is a crucial part of the process and will be described at length. I will then explain the different aspects of the naming activity: the creation of categories for named entities and the processes used in naming, in accordance to a utilitarian perspective; the study of prepositions and locative language as well as the differentiation between locative language and pure locative language. In conclusion, I will touch on the notion of territorial dialectological identity by presenting my dialectographic glossary of agrarian microtoponymy in Québec.

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