Vol. 67 No. 1 (2019)

Multilingual Place Names in Southern Africa

Published 2019-01-02


Numerous place names in southern Africa reveal cultural and language contact between Bushmen (San), Khoikhoi, Bantu and European language speakers over many thousands of years. These toponyms reflect the diversity of languages that had an influence on words and common names used by local people speaking different languages. Many of these place names are complex and their origins and meanings can only be explained by tracing onymic (naming) formatives in components from cognate words appearing in other languages, often only by deciphering the phonological, orthographic and morphological adaptations that they underwent, or through translated names elucidating the meanings. The findings of this research provide insights into the inter-connected, multilingual context and show names as being verifiable evidence of onymic, lexemic and toponymic exchange. They indicate language elements that survived in names that are part of the toponymic heritage of the region.


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