2022, Volume 19, Issue 3

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Ekaterina V. Zakharova
Denis V. Kuzmin
Irma I. Mullonen

Institute of Language, Literature and History
Karelian Research Centre of the RAS
Petrozavodsk, Russia

Karelian Toponymy in the State Index of Place Names: Mistakes Correction

Voprosy onomastiki, 2022, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp. 256–281 (in Russian)
DOI: 10.15826/vopr_onom.2022.19.3.040

Received on 11 February 2022

Abstract: The article tackles the problem that is topical for all areas of Russia with ethnic minority populations: how local toponyms are presented in the State Index of Place Names. SIPN was initiated by the Federal Service for State Registration, Cadaster, and Cartography (Rosreestr) to become a comprehensive registry of designations for topographic objects that must be used in all formal situations. For the territory of Karelia, SIPN includes over 16,000 placenames, nearly a half of which are ethnic Karelian names, the ones in use in the Karelian language milieu, in Karelian-speaking territories of the Republic. The paper gives an overview of the strategies used in the Index to adapt Karelian place names, the dominant being phonetic transcription. Analysis proves it to be highly inconsistent and contradictory due to the lack of an ad hoc manual on representation of Balto-Finnic place names of Karelia in Russian as well as their linguistically incorrect recording by cartographers and post-processing. The authors provide a classification of the main types of phonetic mistakes made in SIPN (inconsistent rendering of the sounds lacking direct equivalents in Russian — long vowels, diphthongs, umlauts, geminates), and highlight problems such as disregard of the complex structure characteristic of Balto-Finnic toponymy, linguistically arbitrary processing of names by collectors, trying to link the Karelian toponymic base to Russian word, as well as liberal treatment of the dialect map and unfortunate slips and typos. Almost a third (for some areas even a half) of Karelian placenames in SIPN are misspelled. The issue becomes more relevant in view of the recent renovation and ramification of the road network and advancement of tourism and other activities, which make the formalized toponymy ‘visible’. The authors provide recommendations for eliminating the inconsistencies and flaws in visual representation of place names and argue that Rosreestr must collaborate with researchers who have access to the fieldwork files of the Scientific Card Index of Place Names of Karelia and Adjacent Regions, which can bring the data in order.

Keywords: placenames; the State Index of Place Names; topographic maps; official place names; standardization; transcription; Karelia.

The paper was prepared under state assignment to the Karelian Research Centre RAS (Institute of Linguistics, Literature and History).


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