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An exonym (from the Greek: ἔξω, éxō, "out" and ὄνομα, ónoma, "name") is a name for a place or a personal name[1] that differs from that used in the official or well-established language within that place or for that person by the local inhabitants,[2] or a name for a people or language that is not native to the people or language to which it refers. The name used by the people or locals themselves is called endonym, autonym (from the Greek ἔνδον, éndon, "within" or αὐτό, autó, "self" and ὄνομα, ónoma, "name"), or self-appellation. For example, Germany, Greece, and Japan are the English exonyms corresponding to the endonyms Deutschland, Ellada, and Nippon.

Exonyms may derive from distinct roots as in the case of Deutschland, Germany mentioned above, they may be cognate words which have diverged in pronunciation or orthography, or they may be fully or partially translated from the native language. For example, London is known as Londres in French, Spanish and Portuguese, Londino (Λονδίνο) in Greek, Londen in Dutch, Londra in Italian, Romanian and Turkish, Londer in Albanian and Londýn in Czech and Slovak, Londyn in Polish, Lundúnir in Icelandic, and Lontoo in Finnish. An example of a translated exonym is the name Soviet Union.[2]

Exonyms can also be divided into native and borrowed (i.e., from a third language). For example, Slovene uses the native endonyms Dunaj (Vienna) and Benetke (Venice), but the exonyms Kijev (Kiev) and Vilna (Vilnius), borrowed from Russian and Polish, respectively.


Tendencies in the development of exonyms

Exonyms develop for places of special significance for speakers of the language of the exonym. Consequently, most European capitals have English exonyms, e.g. Athens (Αθήνα/Athína), Belgrade (Београд/Beograd), Bucharest (Bucureşti), Brussels (Bruxelles, Brussel), Copenhagen (København), Lisbon (Lisboa), Moscow (Москва/Moskva), Nicosia (Λευκωσία/Lefkosía), Prague (Praha), Rome (Roma), Vienna (Wien) or Warsaw (Warszawa). Madrid and Amsterdam, with identical names in most major European languages, are exceptions. For places considered to be of lesser significance, attempts to reproduce local names have been made in English since the time of the Crusades. Livorno, to take an instance, was Leghorn because it was an Italian port essential to English merchants and, by the 18th century, to the British Navy. Not far away, Rapallo, a minor port on the same sea, never received an exonym.

In earlier times, the name of the first tribe or village encountered became the exonym for the whole people beyond. Thus, the Romans used the tribal name of Graecus (Greek), the Russians used the village name of Chechen, medieval Europeans took the tribal name Tatar as emblematic for the whole Mongolic confederation (and then confused it with Tartarus, a word for Hell, to produce Tartar), and the Magyar invaders were equated with the 500 years earlier Hunnish invaders in the same territory, and were called Hungarians.

The Germanic invaders of the Roman Empire applied the word "Walha" to foreigners they encountered and this evolved in West Germanic languages as a generic name for all non-Germanic speakers; thence, the names Wallachia, Vlachs, Wallonia, Walloons, Wales, Wallasey, and even the Polish name for Italy, Włochy.

Some exonyms may have arisen from terms describing other ethnic groups as "foreign-" or "non-speaking". The classic example is the Slavic term for Germans, Nemtsi, which possibly derives from a plural of nemy (mute). Standard folk etymology has it that the Slavic peoples referred to their Germanic neighbors as mutes because their language was not intelligible. This term survives to this day in Russian nemtsy (немцы), Bulgarian Nemci (немци), Polish Niemcy, Czech Němci, Slovak Nemci, Serbian Nemci, Croatian and Bosnian Nijemci, as well as Hungarian "Német" and Romanian "Nemţi" (both adopted from Slavic). This etymology has not been verified. It's possible that the Slavic exonym derives from the Nemetes, an ancient Germanic tribe mentioned by Tacitus and Julius Caesar.[citation needed]. It is worth pointing out, though, that one of the more prominent theories regarding the origin of the term "Slav" suggests that it comes from the Slavic root slovo (hence Slovenia/Slovakia), meaning word, speaking, or speech. In this context, Slavs describing Germanic people as mutes — in contrast to themselves, "the speaking ones" — certainly makes sense. Another example of such development is the exonym Sioux, an abbreviated form of Nadouessioux, derived most likely from Proto-Algonquian term *-a·towe·, foreign-speaking.

White settlers in South Africa thought the Khoi-San natives gabbled nonsense syllables, so they called them Hottentots. Two millennia earlier, the Greeks thought all non-Greek speakers spoke gibberish like bar-bar-bar, so they called them all barbarians, which eventually gave rise to the exonym Berber.

In the late 20th century the use of exonyms often became controversial. Groups often prefer that outsiders avoid exonyms where they have come to be used in a pejorative way; for example, Romani people prefer that term over exonyms like Gypsy (from Egypt), or the French term bohème (from Bohemia), or the Spanish term flamenco (from Flanders). People may also seek to avoid exonyms due to historical sensitivities, as in the case of German names for Polish and Czech places which used to be ethnically or politically German (e.g. Danzig/Gdańsk and Karlsbad/Karlovy Vary), much like Russian placenames being used for locations once under its control (e.g. Kiev/Kyiv).

In recent years, geographers have sought to reduce the use of exonyms to avoid these kind of problems. For example, it is now common for Spanish speakers to refer to the Turkish capital as Ankara rather than use the Spanish exonym Angora. However, according to the United Nations Statistics Division, "Time has, however, shown that initial ambitious attempts to rapidly decrease the number of exonyms were over-optimistic and not possible to realise in the intended way. The reason would appear to be that many exonyms have become common words in a language and can be seen as part of the language’s cultural heritage."

Other difficulties with endonyms have to do with pronunciation, spelling and word category. The endonym may include sounds which are highly unfamiliar to speakers of other languages, making appropriate usage difficult if not impossible for an outsider. Over the years, phonetic changes may happen to the endonym either in the original language or the borrowing language, thus changing an endonym into an exonym, as in the case of Paris, where the s was formerly pronounced in French. Another example is the endonym for the German city of Cologne, where the Latin original of Colonia [Agrippina] has evolved into Köln in German, while the Italian and Spanish exonym Colonia closely reflects the Latin original. In many cases no standardized spelling is available either because the language itself is unwritten (even unanalyzed) or because there are competing non-standard spellings. Use of a misspelled endonym is perhaps more problematic than the respectful use of an existing exonym. Finally, an endonym may be simply a plural noun and does not extend itself to adjectival usage in another language, like English, which has a propensity to use the adjectives for describing culture and language. The attempt to use the endonym thus has a bizarre-sounding result.

The name for a language and a people are often different terms, of course, which is a complication for an outsider.

Sometimes the government of a country tries to endorse the use of an endonym instead of traditional exonyms outside the country:

Many Chinese endonyms have successfully replaced English exonyms, especially city and most province names in mainland China, following Hanyu Pinyin spelling, as the current standard romanisation in China, e.g. Beijing (北京 Běijīng), Guangdong (广东 Guǎngdōng) (province), Qingdao (青岛 Qīngdǎo), although older English exonyms are sometimes used in certain contexts - i.e. Peking (duck, opera, etc.), Canton, Tsingtao, etc.

The Irish words for England and its people are Sasana and Sasanach, while the word for the English language is Béarla. Sasana comes from the word Saxons, while Béarla was an older word not originally associated with the English language. Irish legend says an ancient high king of Ireland sent out his people to study the languages of the world; using this knowledge, he created the Irish language from the best parts of other languages. It was said he gave the Irish language the name "Béarla" meaning "selected language". Along side Gaeilge, Béarla was used as a poetic empathetic word for the Irish language, but as English took precedence writers and poets began to use the word Béarla for English to show its status as the new "selected language" of Ireland.

Confusion with renaming

Exonyms and endonyms must not be confused with the results of geographical renaming as in the case of Saint Petersburg, which became Petrograd (Петроград) in 1914, Leningrad (Ленинград) in 1924, and Saint Petersburg (Санкт-Петербург Sankt-Peterbúrg) again in 1991. In this case, although St Petersburg has a German etymology, this was never a German exonym for the city between 1914 and 1991, just as Nieuw Amsterdam, the Dutch name of New York City until 1664, is not its Dutch exonym.

Old place names, which have become outdated after renaming, may afterwards still be used as historicisms. For example, even today one would talk about the Siege of Leningrad, not the Siege of St. Petersburg, because at that time (1941-1944) the city was called Leningrad. Likewise, one would say that Immanuel Kant was born in Königsberg in 1724, not in Kaliningrad (Калининград), as it has been called since 1946. Sometimes, however, historical names are deliberately not used because of nationalist tendencies to linguistically lay claim to a city's past. As a case in point, the Slovak article on the 1805 Peace of Pressburg does not use either of the city's names then in use (the Slovak Prešporok or the official, that is German, Pressburg), but today's name Bratislava, which became the city's name only in 1919.

The name Madras, now Chennai, may be a special case. When the city was first settled by Englishmen, in the early 1600s, both names were in use. Possibly they referred to different villages which were fused into the new settlement. In any case, Madras became the exonym, while more recently, Chennai became the endonym.

Likewise, Istanbul is still called Constantinople (Κωνσταντινούπολη) in Greek, despite the name having been changed in Turkish (and other languages) between 1923 and 1930. (Ironically, the name Istanbul itself derives from a Medieval Greek phrase[3].)

Orthographic exonymy in languages with phonetic spelling

There are a few languages in Europe in which the use of seeming exonyms (in terms of spelling but not necessarily pronunciation) for places and people is actually the norm and not an exception: Latvian, Lithuanian, Turkish, Azerbaijani and Serbian (when written in Roman script), all having Latin-based script, transcribe foreign proper names whenever necessary, including those originally written in Latin script. The reasons are the respective nations' preference for their own consistent phonetic spelling and the need to add native inflectional endings to most nouns. The resulting advantage is that reading and spelling in these languages remain easy (knowledge of how to spell any unadapted foreign words is not required); a disadvantage is that foreigners may erroneously complain that their names have been "misspelled". In reality, the phonetic transcription is often more correct: e.g., Varšava, Varšuva, Varšava, Varşova, Varşava (in Latvian, Lithuanian, Serbian, Turkish and Azerbaijani respectively), with [v] and [ʃ], is phonetically closer to the original Polish Warszawa [varˈʂava] than the English Warsaw wɔrsɔː]. (The sound [ʂ] is usually perceived far closer to [ʃ] than [s] by speakers of languages with those two sounds but not [ʂ].)

See also


  1. ^ Exonyms and Endonyms at page 3
  2. ^ a b UN document discussing exonyms (PDF)
  3. ^ "The Names of Istanbul". Dünden bugüne İstanbul ansiklopedisi. 5. Ciltli. 1994.

External links



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