Press release: Sixth International Symposium on Place Names 2021 – second call for papers

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Sixth International Symposium on Place Names 2021
Standardisation and the wealth of place names – aspects of a delicate relationship
29 September – 1 October 2021, Virtual/Bloemfontein, South Africa

The Department of South African Sign Language and Deaf Studies at the University of the Free State (RSA), in partnership with the Joint IGU/ICA Commission on Toponymy, is pleased to announce the next biennial international symposium on place names, directly preceded by a related virtual workshop. 

Topographic features, both natural and made by humans, are often known by multiple names simultaneously, including official, conventionalised, informal as well as other alternative names. With the theme for this symposium we wish to explore the issues regarding multiple place names vis-à-vis processes of standardisation from the perspective of critical toponomy. Of course, there are practical implications for place names as points of reference. Beyond that, place naming is a process of claiming spaces and proclaiming or imposing identity. Viewing place names as linguistic and cultural heritage artefacts, we need to consider what it means to document and use these alternative names. Not only are we interested in how these names come into being, but also the roles they perform in social dynamics. 

Potential subtopics 

Only a limited number of papers can be accommodated, as all sessions will be plenary. Abstracts (250 words) can be submitted online at in the following (but not limited to) categories of research by 5 March 2021: 

  • Forms of multiples names – alternative, conventionalised, official, informal, replaced and restored names, as well as signed place names (ie place names in signed languages) and exonyms. 
  • Processes that produce multiple names – official processes, grass-level practices, processes of conventionalisation, language contact, socio-political dynamics and the dialectic between linguistic communities and different social groups (for example, between established, incoming, transient and external communities). 
  • Multilingualism and multiple names – translations, transliterations and adaptations; different orthographies, registers and dialects; as well as signed languages and spoken languages without written systems. 
  • Collecting, recording, recognising, and using multiple, informal or alternative place names, including names in indigenous or minority languages (such as signed languages) and microtoponyms (names of fields, houses, neighbourhoods and small towns). 
  • Standardisation processes and multiple names. 
  • The implications of multiple names on cartography, geography, online mapping and the digitisation of place names. 
  • Other dimensions of multiple place names: administrative, commercial and/or economic, cultural and historical/commemorative, physical, political, and linguistic.

Keynote speakers 

  • Mr Pierre Jaillard (Chair: UNGEGN) 
  • Dr Tendai Mangena (Great Zimbabwe University) 

Virtual workshop (29 September morning session) 

“Collecting and documenting informal and alternative place names”
Presenter: Dr Gerhard Rampl (Chair: Austrian Board of Geographical Names) 

Organising Committee 

  • Host: Prof Theodorus du Plessis (University of the Free State, RSA) 
  • Coordinator: Dr Chrismi Loth (University of the Free State, RSA) 
  • Resident member: Dr Lucie A Möller (University of the Free State, RSA) 
  • Joint IGU/ICA Commission on Toponymy:
    • IGU Chair: Prof Cosimo Palagiano (Sapienza University of Rome, Italy) 
    • ICA Chair: Prof Peter Jordan (Austrian Academy of Sciences, Austria / University of the Free State, RSA) 
    • Common Vice-Chair: Prof Paulo Márcio Leal de Menezes (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) 
    • Member of the Steering Board: Prof Peter E Raper (University of the Free State, RSA) 

Scientific Panel 

  • The members of the Organising Committee 
  • Dr Petrus Angula Mbenzi (University of Namibia, Namibia) 
  • Dr Boga Manatsha (University of Botswana, Botswana) 
  • Dr Thabo Martins (National University of Lesotho, Lesotho) 
  • Dr Sambulo Ndlovu (Great Zimbabwe University, Zimbabwe)

Important dates 

  • Abstract submissions open: 30 November 2020 
  • Abstracts deadline: 5 March 2021 
  • Feedback from Scientific Panel: 24 March 2021 
  • Registrations open: 30 January 2021 
  • Registrations close: 6 August 2021 
  • Proof of payment deadline: 25 August 2021

Registration fees

All fees in South African Rand (ZAR)
Registrations close 6 August 2021

Symposium only

R3 000 

Symposium & Workshop combo

R4 000 

Virtual Symposium only

R2 500 

Virtual Workshop only

R1 500 

Virtual Symposium & Workshop combo

R3 500 

Cultural Tour (2 October 2021)

R1 000 


Language of the symposium and workshop 

English, with professional South African Sign Language interpreting available. 


Depending on the number and quality of papers an accredited publication in our regular conference proceedings series with Sun Bonani will be considered. 

About the venue 

If circumstances allow a hybrid virtual/in-person event, the symposium will be hosted on the Bloemfontein campus of the University of the Free State (RSA). However, if that is not possible, we will revert to hosting a virtual event. 

The workshop will be hosted virtually. Delegates who attend the symposium in-person will be able to attend the (virtual) workshop in the conference venue. 

Queries can be directed to Dr Chrismi Loth at [email protected]

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