Collecting and documenting informal and alternative place names

2021 ISPN Workshop
Date: 29 September 2021
Time: 09:00-12:30
Platform: Microsoft Teams (Those delegates that attend the symposium in person will be able to attend the virtual event at the conference venue.)
Fee: R500
Presenter: Dr Gerhard Rampl
Contact: Dr Chrismi Loth at

The goal of this workshop is to empower practitioners and interdisciplinary researchers with the knowledge and methodologies required to collect informal and alternative place names in a scientifically sound manner.

Informal and alternative place names are often collected with a different goal than in the case of official place names that play a role in government administration and/or official cartography. Frequently, cultural heritage and scientific aspects (like the research in the linguistic origin of names) are the driving forces in collecting these types of names. Also, these names are often collected by persons or groups that lack the resources of governmental (mapping) agencies, such as universities and cultural heritage groups.

Nevertheless, it is highly  desirable that the collected data and documentation gets processed and stored in a sustainable way. Fortunately, there are a lot of open-source tools freely available to help all different groups of collectors to maintain a sustainable collection of geographical names.

The workshop will start with a general overview on the process of field name collection.

Recommendations for the acquirement of recording hardware and/or software (mainly for cell phones) as well as for the interview setup will be given.

The main part of the workshop will focus on showcasing a workflow from audio file to visualised names data. As for processing of the obtained audio data transcription with the help of the freely available program Audacity will be shown. If desired also a look on more specific and free transcription software can be given (e.g., Praat, EXMARaLDA, Elan). The transcribed data will be exported in text format and imported into a spreadsheet (by the usage of Libre Office Calc). In the spreadsheet location and visualisation information gets added to the transcriptions. The aggregated data will be transformed to KML-format to be visualized in Google Earth. Since KML is an open standard, it can also be imported to professional GIS-software.

Overall, the free availability of the software as well as the sustainability and user-friendliness of the formats used are in the foreground. In short, the workshop will cover the following:

 1) Field work
  • Technical preparations
  • Interview setting and interview 
2) Post-processing of collected data
  • Sound editing
  • Transcription
  • Data structuring
  • Data visualisation (Google Earth, GIS)


Dr Gerhard Rampl is a Senior Scientist with the Department of Linguistics at the University of Innsbruck, Austria. In 2011/12 he was a Visiting Scholar at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and in 2016 Visiting Professor of Linguistics at the University of New Orleans (UNO). He is the chair of the Austrian Names Board (AKO), vice chair of the Permanent Committee on Geographical Names (StAGN) as well as former Coordinator for Toponymic Guidelines for Map and other Editors with the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names (UNGEGN). His research interests include Corpus Linguistics, Onomastics and Geographical Information Systems (GIS). From 2007 to 2017 he was co-project leader of the citizen science project “Survey of Minor Place Names in the Tyrol”. The project resulted in approximately 120 000 collected place names which were later added to the national UNESCO inventory of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in Austria.

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