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ICOS 2008 Conference Abstract

A Study of the Semantics of Baoulé Toponymy

M Nguessan
B Kouadio
Governors State University, Illinois, USA, United States

The purpose of this study is to explain the meanings of place names among the Baoulé. The land of the Baoulé is located in Côte-d’Ivoire. Among the Baoulé, place names can refer to a person, a cultural element or a natural element. Consider these cases: Kouassiblékro, Pokoukro, and Nda-Akissikro. In these names, the ending “kro” means “village, city”. Therefore, each of these villages is the “village” of the person mentioned in the name. The following names: Assandre, Ayaou-Sopka carry names of sub-groups among Baoulé people. Many place names refer to elements in the natural environment. Such is the case in Aoungnansou, Kongonou, and Zekrezessou. These names refer respectively to a village “on a sandy soil”, “in the valley” and on “a site where there are shrimp”.

This study of Baoulé toponyms allows us to discover the meanings and the logic behind toponyms and their relation to cultural, historical, or natural elements. The study is based on data collected through fieldwork and from written and oral sources and the authors’ knowledge of the natural environment, the language and the culture in Baoulé country. The first part of the paper presents a typology of Baoulé toponymy based on their meanings. The second part of the paper presents Baoulé place naming logic and patterns. The third part of the paper makes recommendations for a national place naming policy that takes into account local cultural realities.

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