What's in a name? linguistics, geography, and toponyms

Lisa Radding, John Western

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


In differing ways, linguistics and geography each observes that a name's significance is connected to a society. According to lexical theory, a word is arbitrary: Its sound and meaning have no intrinsic link; its function is grammatical. Names are, however, special words. We bestow names based on how they sound or on what they may already have come to represent; names are not arbitrary. In turn, toponyms are special names, and as example we discuss a specific one, " New Orleans." Far from an arbitrary pairing of form and meaning, this toponym reveals that names reflect the experience of the people who use them.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)394-412
Number of pages19
JournalGeographical Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2010


  • Linguistics
  • Names
  • New Orleans
  • Toponyms
  • Words

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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