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ICOS 2008 Conference Abstract

Urban Name Environments in a Multicultural Perspective

S Nyström
Scandinavian Onomastics, Sweden

What is a multicultural name environment? What names in a town or city are multicultural, and what reasons for and perspectives on name-giving are multicultural? How can an official name giver best contribute to the positive development of our multicultural society? These questions are interesting, but turn out to be more difficult to address than we might initially imagine, a point which this paper attempts to develop. Officially adopted urban names in Sweden today are strikingly Swedish in character. But alongside these official names there exists an unofficial group of names that is now gradually changing, showing great innovativeness, and flexibly adapting to our multicultural society, i.e., names of shops, hairdressing salons, places of entertainment, restaurants, etc. At the same time, there is a cultural influence that is growing increasingly strong in such unofficial names and in the language of Sweden’s towns, namely that of the Anglo-American world. So far, official urban names have escaped this Anglicization. But English is pushing at the door, and only time will tell what its impacts will be.
Do we want a multicultural name stock in our cities? The answer is not as straightforward as it might appear. At all events, we need to define what we mean by a multicultural name stock before we make up our minds, and we need to arrive at a clearer idea of what we want to achieve and how, in tangible terms, we should go about achieving it.

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