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Lecture on interpretations and translations of San place names
2011-09-23

Prof. Peter Raper, recently appointed as Honorary Professor: Linguistics, in the Department of Language Management and Language Practice at the University of the Free State, will deliver his inaugural lecture on Tuesday evening, 27 September 2011. His topic for the evening is “Interpretations and translations of Bushman (San) place names”. With this inaugural lecture, he also introduces an interesting one-day international colloquium on the theme: “Name-change planning – striving towards authenticity”.A panel discussion about street-name changes in Bloemfontein forms part of this colloquium and promises to elicit a stimulating debate.

Prof. Raper is probably better known for three popular place-name dictionaries, Streekname in Suid-Afrika en Suidwes, published in 1972; the Dictionary of Southern African Place Names, published in 1987, updated in 1989 and published in 2004 with some additions as New dictionary of South African place names; and Hottentot (Khoekhoen) place names, a dictionary compiled in collaboration with the famous Prof. G S  Nienaber (a former Kovsie). In fact, Prof. Raper’s work is a continuation of their world-renowned series, Toponymica Hottentotica, which was published between 1977 and 1981. It is generally regarded as the most authoritative work on Hottentot place names. His current interest in Bushman place names builds on this pioneering work and is actually also a re-evaluation of the underestimated role of the Bushman with regard to place naming in South Africa up to now. His work offers a new perspective on what could be regarded as the “first” or earliest names of places in South Africa and brings a sobering perspective to the current debates regarding place-name changes where various claims are made about “who has given the name first”.

However, Prof. Raper is also known for his role in the standardisation of place names, both nationally and internationally. In South Africa, he has served on the South African National Place Names Committee (1972-1999), the South African Geographical Names Council (1999-2002) and, since 1981, on the Names Society of Southern Africa. Currently, he is an honorary member of this association. Since 1984, he has also been serving on the United Nations Group Experts on Geographical Names and has even been the Chairperson of this Leading international standardisation body (1991-2002).

Apart from this, Prof. Raper regularly publishes his research on geographical names in a variety of academic journals and still participates in the most important national and international conferences on names on a regular basis. Prof. Raper is honoured as South Africa’s foremost names expert.

His inaugural lecture will introduce a colloquium on names planning, presented by his host department. Experts from Lesotho, Zimbabwe and the USA are participating in the proceedings, amongst others, the current Chairperson of the Names Society of Southern Africa, Prof. Adrian Koopman (University of KwaZulu-Natal).

RSVP: Joy Maasdorp on +27(0)51 401 2405 or maasdorpjh@ufs.ac.za before or on Thursday, 22 September 2011.

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