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ICOS 2008 Conference Abstract

Toponymy and Identity in a Language Shift Situation

A Pedersen
University of Tromsø, Norway

In a language shift situation, the people involved will be in a situation where their personal and social identity must be rediscussed as their language and cultural expressions are being liquidated. This is the situation for many minority groups. By virtue of being mono-referential expressions, place names from the minority language may nevertheless be incorporated into a new linguistic context, viz. the majority language. Because minority groups and their languages often have been stigmatized by the majority, eventual still existing toponyms could function as a reminder of the earlier minority linguistic situation and the former stigma. Do toponyms which have been passed over from a minority language into a majority language serve specific functions for a group which is going through language shift or which has gone through such shift? What kind of strategies could be seen concerning transition of toponyms, and could these strategies be linked to identity acts in the minority group? The questions are highlighted by the onomastic situation in the Sami–Kven–Norwegian language contact area in Norway.

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