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ICOS 2008 Conference Abstract

Once Again about the Theoretical Aspects of the Difference between Exonyms and Endonyms

O Bušs
Latvian Language Institute, Latvia

Exonyms can be interpreted very widely; even the articulation-exonyms have been mentioned as a subcategory of exonyms (s. Back 1983; Harvalík 2004). There are a lot of definitions of exonyms. Nevertheless, because of the broad and different interpretations of the item, we can hardly find a perfect one; still we have an excellent possibility to define exonyms using the opposite notion: "Exonyms are all the place names which aren’t endonyms." That means we need at least one correct definition – for endonyms. We have one accepted by UNGEGN: an endonym is a "name of a geographical feature in one of the languages occurring in that area, where the feature is situated" (GTSGN). It is adequate for the place names used in cartography, but what about the foreign place names used in a longer connected text, and with the translated place names [sic! – in the sense that the Latvian Oslo "capital of Norway" is a translation of the Norwegian Oslo]? Are they all really exonyms? It seems we need an addition to the definition: "...or a translation [!] of a foreign place name, if the spelling of that translation is fully identical with the spelling of translated place name in one of the languages occurring in the area, where the named geographical feature is situated." It seems also to make sense to use the terms exonym and endonym only in connection with the written forms of foreign place names – without considering the pronunciation of those names.

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