Toponyms and spatial representations
PDF (English)


cognitive map
linguistic relativity


This paper addresses an interesting issue in name theory, specifically the relationship between toponyms and spatial representations, as well as the cultural differences manifesting themselves in connection with these. Studies have shown that the name model (a general knowledge of names) created based on the mental representation of names is partly language and culture dependent. Thus, the knowledge of the speaker on how reliably the toponyms correlate with the actual features of the landscape or whether they should only be considered as labels identifying an area is culturally determined. This, in turn, influences the extent to which name-users may rely on them in structuring space and in creating a cognitive map.
PDF (English)


Aporta, C. (2016). Markers in Space and Time: Reflections on the Nature of Place Names as Events in the Inuit Approach to the Territory. In W.A. Lovis & R. Whallon (Eds.), Marking the Land: Hunter-Gatherer Creation of Meaning in their Environment. (pp. 67–88). New York: Routledge.

Balázs, G. (2008). A helynevek antropológiai nyelvészeti szempontból [Toponyms from the point of view of anthropological linguistics]. Magyar Nyelvőr, 132, 348–354.

Basso, K. (1988). “Speaking with names”: language and landscape among Western Apache. Cultural Anthropology, 3(2), 99–130.

Blevins, J.P., & Blevins, J. (2009). Introduction: Analogy in Grammar. In J.P. Blevins, & J. Blevins (Eds.), Analogy in Grammar: Form and Acquisition (pp. 1–12). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Boroditsky, L. (2006). Linguistic relativity. In L. Nadel (Ed.), Encyclopedia of cognitive science (pp. 917–921). London: MacMillan Press. (Retrieved from

Boroditsky, L. (2009, June 11). How does our language shape the way we think. Edge.

Boroditsky, L. (2011). How language shapes thought. Scientific American , 304(2), 62–65.

Bright, W. (2003). What IS a name? Reflections on Onomastics? Language and Linguistics, 4(4), 669–681.

Burenhult, N., & Levinson, S.C. (2008). Language and landscape: a cross-linguistic perspective. Language Science, 30, 135–150.

Bybee, J.L., & Slobin D.I. (1982). Rules and schemas in the development and use of English past tense. Language, 58, 265–289.

Coates, K.S. (2004). A Global History of Indigenous Peoples. Struggle and Survival. Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan.

Cogos, S., Roué, M., & Roturier, S. (2017). Sami place names and maps: transmitting knowledge of a cultural landscape in contemporary contexts. Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research, 49(1), 43–51.

Downs, R.M., & Stea, D. (2011). Cognitive Maps and Spatial Behaviour: Process and Products. In M. Dodge, R. Kitchin & C. Perkins (Eds.), The Map Reader: Theories of Mapping Practice and Cartographic Representation (pp. 311–317). John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Dúll, A. (2007). A környezet hatása a tanulási folyamatokra: környezet és alkalmazkodás [The influence of the environment on learning processes: environment and adaptation]. In V. Csépe, M. Győri, A. Ragó (Eds.), Általános pszichológia 2. Tanulás — emlékezés — tudás (pp. 111–153). Budapest: Osiris Kiadó.

Ekstrom, A.D., Kahana, M.J., & Capla n, J.B. (2003). Cellular networks underlying human spatial navigation. Nature, 425(6954), 184–188.

Francis, H., & Kelley, K. (2005). Traditional Navajo maps and wayfinding. American Indian Culture and Research Journal, 29(2), 85–111.

Győrffy, E. (2015). A névismeret és a kognitív térkép [Name awareness and cognitive maps]. Magyar Nyelvjárások, 52, 5–33.

Győrffy, E. (2017). Empíria és elmélet a helynévhasználat vizsgálatában [Empiricism and theory in investigation of place-name usage] [Unpublished habilitation dissertation]. University of Debrecen.

Gyselinck, V., Meneghetti, C. (2011). The role of spatial working memory in understanding verbal descriptions: A window onto the interaction between verbal and spatial processing. In A. Vandierendonck, A. Szmalec (Eds.), Current issues in memory. Spatial working memory (pp. 159–180). Psychology Press.

Harris, C.L. (2006). Language and Cognition. In L. Nadel (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Cognitive Science (pp. 1–6). John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Haviland, W.A., Prins, H.E.L., Walrath, D., & McBrid e, B. (2011). Anthropology. The Human Challange. Wadsworth.

Hercus, L., & Simpson, J. (2002). Indigenous Place Names: An Introduction. In L. Hercus, F. Hodges & J. Simpson (Eds.), The Land is a Map: Place Names of Indigenous Origin in Australia (pp. 1–23). Canberra: Pandanus Books in association with Pacific Linguistics. TOPONYMS AND SPATIAL REPRESENTATIONS 37

Heth, C.D., & Cornell, E.H. (1985). A Comparative Description of Representation and Processing During Search. In H.M. Wellman (Ed.), Children’s Searching. The Development of Search Skill and Spatial Representation (pp. 215–249). Hillsdale: Erlbaum.

Hoffmann, I. (1993). Helynevek nyelvi elemzése [Linguistic analysis of place names]. Debrecen: Kossuth Lajos Tudományegyetem.

Hoffmann, I. (2012). Funkcionális nyelvészet és helynévkutatás [Functional linguistics and onomastics]. Magyar Nyelvjárások, 50, 9–26.

Hunn, E. (1996). Columbia Plateau Indian place names: What can they teach us? Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, 6(1), 3–26.

Jarvenpa, R., & Brumbach, H.J. (2016). Initializing the Landscape: Chipewyan Construction of Meaning in a Recently Occupied Environment. In W.A. Lovis & R. Whallon (Eds.), Marking the Land: Hunter-Gatherer Creation of Meaning in their Environment (pp. 13–44). New York: Routledge.

Jett, S.C. (2011). Landscape embedded in language. The Navajo of Canyon de Chelly, Arizona, and their named places. In D.M. Mark, A.G. Turk, N. Burenhult & D. Stea (Eds.), Landscape in Language: Transdisciplinary Perspectives (pp. 327–342). Amsterdam: John Benjamins Pub. Co.

Jett, S.C. (2014). Place names as the traditional Navajo’s title-deeds, border-alert system, remote sensing, global positioning system, memory bank, and monitor screen. Journal of Cultural Geography, 31(1), 106–113.

Kari, J. (1989). Some principles of Alaskan toponymic knowledge. In M.R. Key, General and Amerindian Ethnolinguistics: In Remembrance of Stanley Newman (pp. 129–149). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Kelley, K.B., & Francis, H. (1994). Navajo Sacred Places. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Kitchin, R. (1994). Cognitive maps: what are they and why study them? Journal of Environmental Psychology, 14, 1–19.

Kitchin, R., & Blades, M. (2002). The Cognition of Geographic Space. London, UK: I.B. Taurus Publishers.

Langacker, R.W. (1987). Foundations of cognitive grammar (Vol. 1). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Levinson, S.C., Kita, S., Haun, D.B.M., & Rasc h, B.H. (2002). Returning the tables: Language affects spatial reasoning. Cognition, 84, 155–188.

Lőrincze, L. (1947). Földrajzineveink élete [Life of toponyms]. Budapest: Teleki Pál Tudományos Intézet Néptudományi Intézete.

Lovis, W.A., & Whallon, R. (Eds.) (2016). Marking the Land: Hunter-Gatherer Creation of Meaning in their Environment. (Routledge Studies in Archaeology). New York: Routledge.

Lukács, Á., & Szamarasz, V.Z. (2014). Téri nyelv [Spatial language]. In Á. Lukács & C. Pléh (Eds.), Pszicholingvisztika (Vol. 2, pp. 877–917). Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó.

Lukács, Á., Pléh, C., Kas, B., & Thuma, O. (2014). A szavak mentális reprezentációja és az alaktani feldolgozás [Mental represenatation of words and morphological processing]. In Á. Lukács & C. Pléh (Eds.), Pszicholingvisztika (Vol. 1, pp. 167–250). Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó.

Maffi, L. (2002). Linking Language and Environment: a Coevolutionary Perspective. In C.L. Crumley (Ed.), New Directions in Anthropology and Environment: Intersections (pp. 24–48). Lanham: Altamira Press.

Meadows, W.C. (2008). Kiowa Ethnogeography. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Meilinger, T., Schulte-Pelkum, J., Frankenstein, J., Hardiess, G., Laharnar, N., Mallot, H.A., & Bülthoff, H.H. (2016). How to Best Name a Place? Facilitation and Inhibition of Route Learning Due to Descriptive and Arbitrary Location Labels. Frontiers in Psychology, 7.

Nánay, B. (2000). Elme és evolúció: Az elmefilozófia és a kognitív tudomány evolúciós megközelítése [Mind and evolution: Evolutional approach of mind philosophy and cognitive science]. Budapest: Kávé Kiadó.

Nelson, R. (1983). The Athabaskans: People of the Boreal Forest. Fairbanks, AK: University of Alaska Museum.

Nyström, S. (2016). Names and Meaning. In C. Hough (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Names and Naming (pp. 39–51). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Oetelaar, G.A. (2016). Places on the Blackfoot Homeland Markers of Cosmology, Social Relationships and History. In W.A. Lovis & R. Whallon (Eds.), Marking the Land: Hunter-Gatherer Creation of Meaning in their Environment (pp. 45–66). New York: Routledge.

O’Keefe, J. (1976). Place units in the hippocampus of the freely moving rat. Experimental Neurology, 51, 78–109.

O’Meara, C.K. (2016). Physical and Linguistic Marking of the Seri Landscape. In W.A. Lovis & R. Whallon (Eds.), Marking the Land: Hunter-Gatherer Creation of Meaning in their Environment (pp. 133–151). New York: Routledge.

Pederson, E. (2007). Cognitive Linguistics and Linguistic Relativity. In D. Geeraerts & H. Cuyckens (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Linguistics (pp. 1012–1044). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Regier, T. (1996). The Human Semantic Potential: Spatial Language and Constrained Connectionism. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Reszegi, K. (2009). A tulajdonnevek mentális reprezentációjáról [On the mental representation of proper names]. Névtani Értesítő, 31, 7–16.

Reszegi, K. (2012). Cognitive Approach to Hungarian Toponymy. Onoma, 47, 367–379.

Reszegi, K. (2015). A névközösség fogalmához. Névközösségek napjainkban és a régiségben [On the concept of name community. Name communities today and in the past]. Helynévtörténeti Tanulmányok, 11, 165–176.

Reszegi, K. (2018). Helynevek — térszemlélet — mentális térkép. A nyelv, a helynevek és a tér összefüggései [Toponyms — spatial perception — mental map. The relationships of language, toponyms and space]. Magyar Nyelv, 114, 169–184.

Reszegi, K. (2020a.) Name — Culture — Identity. The Semantic Structure of Names. In L. Caiazzo, R. Coates & M. Azaryahu (Eds.), Naming, Identity and Tourism (pp. 154–167). Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Reszegi, K. (2020b.) Cognitive Maps and Toponyms in a Broadening Geographical Horizon. In O. Felecan (Ed.), Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Onomastics Name and Naming: Multiculturalism in Onomastics. In print.

Schemmel, M. (2016). Towards a Historical Epistemology of Space. Introduction. In M. Schemmel (Ed.), Spatial Thinking and External Representation. Towards a Historical Epistemology of Space (pp. 1–34). Berlin: Max Planck Research Institution.

Schreyer, C. (2006). “What You See is Where You Are”: An Examination of Native North American Place Names. In E.C. Robertson, J.D. Seibert, D.C. Fernandez & M.U. Zender (Eds.), Space and Spatial Analysis in Archeology (pp. 227–232). New Mexico: University of Calgary Press.

Thiering, M. (2015). Spatial Semiotics and Spatial Mental Models: Figure-Ground Asymmetries in Language. De Gruyter Mouton.

Thiering, M., & Schiefenhöve l, W. (2016). Spatial Concepts in Non-Literate Societies: Languauge and Practice in Eipo and Dene Chipewyan. In M. Schemmel (Ed.), Spatial Thinking and External Representation. Towards a Historical Epistemology of Space (pp. 35–92). Berlin: Max Planck Research Institution.

Thornton, T.F. (1995). Tlingit and Euro-American Toponymies in Glacier Bay. In D.R. Engstrom (Ed.), Proceedings of the Third Glacier Bay Science Symposium (pp. 294–301). Anchorage, AK: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service.

Tolcsvai Nagy, G. (2008). A tulajdonnév jelentése [The meaning of proper names]. In A. Bölcskei & I.N. Császi (Eds.), Név és valóság (pp. 30–41). Budapest: Károli Gáspár Református Egyetem Magyar Nyelvtudományi Tanszék.

Tomasello, M. (1999). The Cultural Origins of Human Cognition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Tomasello, M. (2009). The usage-based theory of language acquisition. In E.L. Bavin (Ed.), The Cambridge Handbook of Child Language (pp. 69–87). Cambridge University Press.

Tuggy, D. (2005). Cognitive Approach to Word-Formation. In P. Štekauer & R. Lieber (Eds.), Handbook of Word-Formation (pp. 233–265). Dordrecht: Springer.

Tuck-Po, L. (2016). Signaling Presence. How Batek and Penan Hunter-gatherers in Malaysia Mark the Landscape. In W.A. Lovis and R. Whallon (Eds.), Marking the Land: Hunter-Gatherer Creation of Meaning in their Environment (pp. 231–260). New York: Routledge.

Varga, Z. (2020). Helynév-szociológiai vizsgálatok két romániai magyar településen [Socio-onomastic studies in two Hungarian settlements in Romania] [Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. University of Debrecen.

Vaarzon-Morel, P. (2016). Continuity and Change in Warlpiri Practices of Marking the Landscape. In W.A. Lovis & R. Whallon (Eds.), Marking the Land: Hunter-Gatherer Creation of Meaning in their Environment (pp. 201–230). New York: Routledge.

Valentine, T., Brennen, T., & Brédart, S. (1996). The Cognitive Psychology of Proper Names. On the importance of being Ernest. London–New York: Routledge.

Webster, A.K. (2017). Why Tséhootsooí Does Not Equal “Kit Carson Drive”: Reflections on Navajo Place Names and the Inequalities of Language. Anthropological Linguistics, 59, 239–262.