Onomastics between linguistics and ethnology

Op dinsdag 9 juni 2009 organiseert het Meertens Instituut een naamkundige bijeenkomst op het snijvlak van de taalkunde en de etnologie. Drie lezingen staan op het programma: Elwys De Stefani uit Bern zal spreken over eigennamen en de constructie van sociale identiteiten, het thema van de lezing van Sheila Embleton is het taalcontact tussen het Zweeds en het Fins, zoals dat naar voren komt in de toponiemen van Finland en Barbara Czopek-Kopciuch bekijkt de invloed van Nederlandse immigranten op het Poolse lexicon.

Date: June 9th 2009
Place: Meertens Instituut, Symposiumzaal

13.45 -- 14.00   Welcome (coffee and tea)

  • 14.00 -- 14.45 Elwys De Stefani (University of Bern) -- ‘Proper names and the construction of social identities. A conversation analytic account of the use of place names and personal names in naturally occurring interaction’
  • 14.45 -- 15.30 Sheila Embleton (York University) -- ‘Finnish-Swedish language contact as reflected in the place names of Finland’
  • 15.30 -- 16.15 Barbara Czopek-Kopciuch (Institute of Polish Language, Krakow) -- ‘Holendry and holender; the influence of Dutch immigrants on the Polish lexicon’

16.15 -- 17.00   Drinks


Elwys De Stefani is an Assistant Professor at the Institute of Italian Language and Literature of the University of Berne, Switzerland. He received his Ph.D. in 2001 from the University of Basel, Switzerland with a thesis in diachronic Italian linguistics on the history and etymology of Friulian family names (Northern Italy). His current research interests include conversation analysis, interactional linguistics, multimodality and the use of language in mobile environments. In his work he has focused particularly on syntactic marked structures in French conversation and on decision-making sequences in customer-to-customer interaction at the point of sale. He is currently directing a research project financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation, studying the use of place names and spatial descriptions in various settings of social interaction.

Address: Institute of Italian Language and Literature, University of Berne, Länggassstr. 49, 3012 Bern 9, Switzerland.


Sheila Embleton is a Full Professor in the Department of Languages, Literatures and Linguistics. Her academic background is in mathematics and linguistics and her current research focuses on dialectometry. Her areas of scholarly interest are historical linguistics, sociolinguistics, dialectology, mathematical/statistical methods in linguistics, onomastica, Peircean semiotics, and women and language. She has published in all of these areas. Her areas of language specialization include English, German, Germanic, French, Romance, Slavic, and Finno-Ugric. Her current research is mostly on dialectometry (statistical methods applied to dialect study), with particular application to British, Finnish and Romanian dialects. She has served as Vice-President Academic at York University since July 2000, having previously been Associate Dean of the Faculty of Arts. She is currently President of the International Council of Onomastic Sciences. She has served as Chair of the Ontario Council of Academic Vice-Presidents and of the National Vice-Presidents’Academic Council, and currently chairs OCAV’s standing committee on international issues. She is a member of the Board of the Canadian Bureau for International Education.



Barbara Czopek-Kopciuch graduated in Polish philology at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow. Since 1976 she works at the Institute of Polish Language of the Polish Academy of Sciences. She is head of the toponymic department and adjunct director of the Institute of Polish Language. Since January 2008 she is professor of humanities. Her main field of research is toponymy. She also studies antroponymy and language contact in the light of onomastics.



Elwys De Stefani -- Proper names and the construction of social identities. A conversation analytic account of the use of place names and personal names in naturally occurring interaction

Traditionally, proper names are studied within the field of onomastics. In this research tradition, proper names are most often analyzed from a diachronic perspective, allowing precise description of their original motivations and their various linguistic developments. The historical approach has thus stimulated our understanding of the way proper names were used in the societies in which they were created. However, the field of onomastics has often been accused of a lack of innovation: according to Levinson (2003: 69) “the study of place-names or onomastics is one of the older branches of linguistic enquiry […]. But despite the long tradition of study, little of theoretical interest has emerged”. In addition, the study of the present day uses of proper names has not interested many onomasticians. As for the pragmatic functions of proper names, they have mainly been discussed by scholars working in the field of language philosophy (cf. Searle 1958, Kripke 1972, Van Langendonck 2007): their considerations draw almost exclusively from introspective reflections and often fail to take into account the way speakers actually use proper names in their daily activities. One possibility of conducting comprehensive research into the way proper names are employed in human interaction is through the analysis of empirical data collected through audio and/or video recordings of social encounters. This approach -- which has recently been proposed under the heading interactional onomastics (De Stefani 2006, in press) -- implies a shift of perspective which contributes to an emerging area of interdisciplinary research: the study of proper names in spoken language. Increasingly, proper names have also become a research subject within conversation analysis, where studies on the referential uses of personal names have been carried out until very recently (Sacks & Schegloff 1979, Auer 1983, Downing 1996, Schegloff 1996, 2007, Enfield & Stivers 2007, Lerner & Kitzinger 2007, Oh 2007, Halonen 2008). My basic assumption, which is corroborated by the aforementioned studies and other work (as Watson 1981, Goodwin 2003), is that proper names are not only employed as simple reference devices but that they are used to accomplish a variety of socially and interactionally relevant tasks. This is true for personal names as well as for place names, which have been studied to a lesser extent in the conversation analytic field (cf. Schegloff 1972, Auer 1979, Mondada 2000, Myers 2006). Researchers have been able to show that the use of place names is sensitive to situational, contextual and interactional contingencies. For instance, the location of the speakers has proven to be relevant to place name selection, which is also contingent on the mutual categorization of the participants. From this perspective, both personal names and place names play an important role in the construction of socially relevant identities.

Sheila Embleton -- Finnish-Swedish language contact as reflected in the place names of Finland

Finland is constitutionally a bilingual country, with a Finnish-speaking majority and a Swedish-speaking minority (about 5% of the population). There has been prolonged contact between the speakers of these languages, and this has resulted in various linguistic contact effects. This paper will be restricted to the reflection of that contact in the toponymy (place names) of Finland. The paper will present a classification and exemplification of different types of loan-name found in areas of Finnish-Swedish contact, and shows how place names can provide information on both age of settlements and ethnicity of various layers of settlement, using etymology and linguistic methods in conjunction with other tools (e.g. from geology). The linguistic evidence is often fairly clear as to which linguistic group was original in a given area, but those answers are not always readily accepted by the current inhabitants, for political reasons, leading to much debate amongst scholars and laypersons alike. Details of the sociolinguistic debate, from both the historical and current points of view, are presented, along with an overview and bibliography of recent scholarly research on the topic.

Barbara Czopek-Kopciuch -- Holendry and holender; the influence of Dutch immigrants on the Polish lexicon.

In this paper I will show the connection of the place name Holendry (which means something like ‘Dutch village’ in Polish) with the arrival of Dutch immigrants in Poland in the XVIth century and a new type of agriculture that was introduced as a consequence. This type of agriculture included the cultivation of grass land after drainage and cattle-breeding. After the introduction of this type of agriculture new villages in which inhabitants applied the same techniques have been named Holendry [Olędry] in practically every region of Poland, not only in regions where Dutch immigrants have settled. So the name of the nationality of the citizens of Holland, Holendry, was transferred from the settlers to the villages and the type of agriculture. I will also explain the etymology and the meaning of the word holender in the Polish language and in its dialects.

Gepubliceerd: 12-05-2009


Nederlandse Familienamenbank

Het Meertens Instituut heeft begin december 2009 de Nederlandse Familienamenbank gelanceerd. Alle 314.000 familienamen die in 2007 in de Gemeentelijke Basisadministratie zijn opgenomen staan erin, met het aantal naamdragers en een verspreidingskaart als een naam vijf of meer keer voorkomt. Daarnaast is ter vergelijking ook het namencorpus van de volkstelling van 1947 opgenomen, die als […]
[+] Lees verder

Zeeuwse Familienamen

Historisch taalkundige Frans Debrabandere heeft het Meertens Instituut zijn ongepubliceerde Woordenboek van de Familienamen in Zeeland aangeboden. Het manuscript is – met dank aan de auteur – via de website van het Netwerk Naamkunde als pdf-bestand te raadplegen. De filoloog Frans Debrabandere is een erkend specialist op het gebied van de Zeeuwse en Vlaamse dialecten. […]
[+] Lees verder

Namen op de kaart

Hoe zijn de dorpen, steden, rivieren in de Lage Landen aan hun naam gekomen? En de bossen en veengebieden? Riemer Reinsma laat in zijn nieuwe boek Namen op de kaart zien hoe het mogelijk is dat Zoeterwoude, nu midden in een boomloze vlakte, naar een heus oerwoud genoemd is – en hoe we ons dat […]
[+] Lees verder

Bekijk het Nieuwsarchief