The cognitive dynamics of place naming: reciprocation as an example

Aktivitet: Tale eller præsentation - typerForedrag og mundtlige bidrag

Henrik Hovmark - Foredragsholder

The intimate relationship between language, culture and cognition in the conceptualisation of landscape and geographical places has recently been explored in a special issue of Language Sciences (Burenhult & Levinson 2008). Data from nine genetically, typologically and geographically diverse languages are examined, and it is argued that the domain of landscape is subject to considerable variation across languages and cultures. However, it is also argued that "prefabricated" culturally embedded linguistic systems, ‘design principles', play a major role in the categorisation of landscape (these systems are called ‘semplates' by Burenhult & Levinson, but several other terms from the literature like ‘template', ‘model', ‘schema' or ‘frame', would apply, at least in a first, more general approach).

Thus, two major points stand out: 1) the importance of culture in the cognitive and linguistic shaping of landscape; 2) the importance of semplates, at play in the linguistic system in each language, when naming places and landscape. In this presentation I will concentrate on the last point. I will explore and discuss the relationship between semplate and place naming, using data from Danish (thereby also supplementing the investigation in Language Sciences where no Indo-European language is represented). I will show how a highly generalised semplate (the oppositional patterns ‘up-down' and ‘centre-periphery'), is brought to work in the use of directional particles within the spatial domain, and eventually also used in a special case of place naming, so-called reciprocation (Jørgensen 1977).

Reciprocation is when a location is subdivided, distinguished and characterised through affixation, often using one of two oppositional pairs: Oppe Sundby (‘Upper Sundby'), Ude Sundby (‘Outer Sundby'), Nørre Skalmstrup (‘North Skalmstrup'), Store Magleby (‘Great Magleby'), etc.

Drawing on empirical data (Jørgensen 1977, Hovmark 2007) it can be shown that reciprocation is not just a matter of spatial calculation (even though the data show general accordance with spatial facts). The phenomenon is clearly a case of construal, but more specifically it can be shown that the naming by reciprocation is embedded in and shaped dynamically by the interplay between 1) the cognitively rooted linguistic system (the semplate at work in the use of directional particles when referring to places), and 2) the cultural setting in and on which the naming is taking place (the continuous construal of the local landscape by language users according to salient activities - cf. the discussion of the utilitarian principle, Burenhult & Levinson 2008: 138, 142).

In so far as time allows, data showing the diachronic dynamics of reciprocation will be touched briefly upon.


Burenhult, Niclas & Levinson, Stephen C. (2008): Language and landscape: a cross-linguistic perspective. In: Language Sciences 30(2/3) (special issue: Language and landscape: geographical ontology in cross-linguistic perspective), 135-150.Hovmark, Henrik (2007): Danske retningsadverbier og rumlig orientering [Danish directional adverbs and spatial orientation] (PhD dissertation). University of Copenhagen, Section of Dialectology, Department of Scandinavian Research.Jørgensen, Bent (1977): Reciprokering. København: Akademisk Forlag.
12 jun. 2009

Begivenhed (Konference)

TitelConference of the Swedish Association for Language and Cognition
Emnespatial language, place names, language and context, language and cognition

ID: 12674914