About the ISPN

The vision of the International Symposium on Place Names series is to advance research on place names and to provide a platform for international collaboration in this regard. As such, in addition to the symposium, a workshop on documenting place names for both practitioners and researchers will directly precede the symposium.

History of the ISPN

Prof Peter E Raper, one of South Africa’s foremost experts on the Bushman (San) substructures of place names, was appointed as a Professor Extraordinaire in Linguistics at the UFS in 2011. Subsequently, his host department, together with the now-defunct Unit for Language Facilitation and Empowerment, initiated the Place Names Symposium. The hosting of the symposium is now situated within the newly restructured Department of South African Sign Language and Deaf Studies.

The symposium became an international occurrence when the Joint IGU/ICA Commission on Toponymy came on board in 2015. Hosted every second year, this symposium is the only one in Southern Africa that focuses exclusively on toponomy. The 2011 symposium, entitled 'Planning name changes – the quest for authenticity', was hosted in Bloemfontein, as was the one in 2013 with the theme, 'Place names in a multilingual society'. The symposium in 2015, which focused on 'Place names, diversity and heritage', was held in Clarens. The University of Namibia collaborated to host the 2017 symposium, 'Critical toponymy: place names in political, historical and commercial landscapes', in Windhoek, Namibia. ISPN returned to Clarens in 2019 with the theme 'Recognition, regulation, revitalisation: place names and indigenous languages'. Up to now, every symposium was followed by an accredited publication.

Organising committee

  • Symposium Coordinator
    Dr Chrismi Loth (University of the Free State, RSA)
  • Host: Prof Theodorus du Plessis (University of the Free State, RSA)
  • Resident member: Dr Lucie A Möller (University of the Free State, RSA)
  • Joint IGU/ICA Commission on Toponymy:
    • IGU Chair: Prof Cosimo Palagiano (Sapienza University of Rome, Italy)
    • ICA Chair: Prof Peter Jordan (Austrian Academy of Sciences, Austria / University of the Free State, RSA)
    • Common Vice-Chair: Prof Paulo Márcio Leal de Menezes (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
    • Member of the Steering Board: Prof Peter E Raper (University of the Free State, RSA)

Scientific committee

  • The members of the Organising Committee
  • Dr Petrus Angula Mbenzi (University of Namibia, Namibia)
  • Dr Boga Manatsha (University of Botswana, Botswana)
  • Dr Thabo Martins (National University of Lesotho, Lesotho)
  • Dr Sambulo Ndlovu (Great Zimbabwe University, Zimbabwe)

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