This paper on the toponymy of Somalia is not meant to be an exhaustive study and is not intended to be used for reference purposes. Nor is it meant to be an essay in classical toponymy, i.e. historically-reconstructively oriented. It aims to offer a general and, possibly, holistic overview of the phenomenon, its concerns being linguistic and anthropological. It addresses questions such as: What geographical items are named? How are they named? Why are they named? What role do toponyms play in traditional Somali life? What do Somali toponyms tell us about the people that make use of them and their relation to the Land? It first addresses some general characteristics of Somali toponymy, its uniformity and some major issues of interpretation: different transcriptions, subsequent layers of reference and the distinction between proper and common nouns. The evidence suggests that Somali place names have multilayered meanings, presumably unparalleled in other more familiar traditions. In addition to naming a specific item in the territory, they often add some information about it: the presence and quality of water, vegetation (with particular reference to pasture and cover), (dangerous) animals, and other resources (such as wood or stone). It is reasonable to assume that Somali herdsmen had (and in most cases still have) a relation with their place names which is different from that to which we are generally accustomed: they represent a cognitive map of the environment, one which gives information on various elements which are crucial to the nomadic way of life.

SVOLACCHIA M (2009). Insights into Somali place names. In Lessons in Survival: the Language and Culture of Somalia. Thirty Years of Somali Studies, Studi Somali 13, Torino: Harmattan Italia (pp. 67-85). TORINO : L'Harmattan Italia.

Insights into Somali place names

SVOLACCHIA, Marco
2009

Abstract

This paper on the toponymy of Somalia is not meant to be an exhaustive study and is not intended to be used for reference purposes. Nor is it meant to be an essay in classical toponymy, i.e. historically-reconstructively oriented. It aims to offer a general and, possibly, holistic overview of the phenomenon, its concerns being linguistic and anthropological. It addresses questions such as: What geographical items are named? How are they named? Why are they named? What role do toponyms play in traditional Somali life? What do Somali toponyms tell us about the people that make use of them and their relation to the Land? It first addresses some general characteristics of Somali toponymy, its uniformity and some major issues of interpretation: different transcriptions, subsequent layers of reference and the distinction between proper and common nouns. The evidence suggests that Somali place names have multilayered meanings, presumably unparalleled in other more familiar traditions. In addition to naming a specific item in the territory, they often add some information about it: the presence and quality of water, vegetation (with particular reference to pasture and cover), (dangerous) animals, and other resources (such as wood or stone). It is reasonable to assume that Somali herdsmen had (and in most cases still have) a relation with their place names which is different from that to which we are generally accustomed: they represent a cognitive map of the environment, one which gives information on various elements which are crucial to the nomadic way of life.
978-2-296-09380-5
SVOLACCHIA M (2009). Insights into Somali place names. In Lessons in Survival: the Language and Culture of Somalia. Thirty Years of Somali Studies, Studi Somali 13, Torino: Harmattan Italia (pp. 67-85). TORINO : L'Harmattan Italia.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11590/164907
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