Vol. 48 No. 3 (2000)
Research Article

Should All Unofficial Placenames Be Eliminated?

Published 2000-12-01



Placenames can only really fulfill their roles when they unambiguously identify the location of the places they designate. The development of new information technology makes this objective almost essential. For this reason, the United Nations Conferences on the Standardization of Geographical Names have recommended a program to reduce exonyms. Is this to say that all traditional forms should be eliminated? The answer is both yes and no. If one refers to official documents, such as maps, transportation schedules, and road signs, then the reduction of exonyms must be considered a necessity. However, much of the geographic, historical and psychosocial materials favor the retention of large numbers of traditional names created for the places with which people are acquainted. The standardization of placenames must facilitate modern living; but in doing so it must not erase toponymic heritage.


  1. Kadmon, Naftali (ed.) 1998. Glossary of Toponymie Terminology— Version 4. Seventh United Nations Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names, New York, 13–22 January. Document E/CONF.91/L.13.