22th session of the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical
New York, 20-29 April 2004
Working Paper No. 30
Item 5 of the Provisional Agenda
Prepared by Danutė Mardosienė, Aistė Pangonytė, Vita Strautniece, Elvi Sepp
1. National standardization; names authorities of Estonia
The Place Names Board is the main names authority in Estonia, being a consultative body responsible to the Minister of Internal Affairs. A working group at the Board had worked out a new version of the Place Names Act which was submitted to Parliament in 2003. The Act was passed on November 5, 2003 and will come into force starting July 1, 2004. Some specific minor legal acts needed for the implementation of the Place Names Act will be adopted prior to this date.
The main emphasis in the Place Names Act has remained the same. The Act specifies requirements on place names to be used officially. More consideration in the new Act is given to legal procedures, and the needs of the National Place Names Register which is to acquire a central role in collecting all geographical names data. Another important difference with the old (1997) version of the Act is that the Place Names Board will have the statutory right to approve by a resolution official geographical names. This will be done in cases when no other names authorities have initiated procedures to establish a geographical name.
On December 2, 2002 a new composition of the Place Names Board was nominated, since the first five-year term had come to an end. 11 members of the old composition continued their function, and four new members were named.
There were minor amendments to the official list of populated places in 2003 and 2004, adding two new names. On January 1, 2004 there were 4622 populated places in the list: 8 towns (linn), 9 boroughs (alev), 173 small boroughs (alevik), and 4432 villages (küla).
Another reorganization of local government units took place prior to the local elections in October 2002. Several municipalities were merged into larger units. On January 1, 2004 there were 241 municipalities in Estonia: 202 rural municipalities (vald) and 39 urban municipalities (linn).
|Amalgamated municipalities||New name||Date of decision*|
|Anija vald + Kehra linn||Anija vald||11 July 2002|
|Rapla vald + Rapla linn||Rapla vald||11 July 2002|
|Räpina vald + Räpina linn||Räpina vald||11 July 2002|
|Kohila vald + Kohila vald (alev)||Kohila vald||11 July 2002|
|Märjamaa vald + Märjamaa vald (alev) + Loodna vald||Märjamaa vald||11 July 2002|
* These changes took effect in October, 2002, after the local elections.
On various meetings of the Board also other matters were discussed, e.g. the names of roads and streets, commemorative names, etc. In October, 2003 a training session was held for local government officials in Southern Estonia on names standardization issues. All the materials concerning the Place Names Board have been published on its website (http://www.eki.ee/knn/), mainly in Estonian but also with English summaries. News on the current activities of the Board are regularly updated in both languages.
2. Field collection of place names, mapping programmes and training courses in Estonia
Field survey of place names is being carried out in two directions. At the Institute of Estonian Language there are collections of place names which are expanded mainly with the help of students and local enthusiasts. Recently plans have been discussed on possible digitalization of the records. Cartographic enterprises, when preparing new basic map sheets, conduct their own field collections, consulting both the local governments and the collections held at the Institute of Estonian Language.
Base Map of Estonia (Eesti baaskaart, 1 : 50 000) is a digital map that can be used in GIS applications and in the production of thematical maps. In printed version there are 103 sheets, these were issued in 1997-1998.
Basic Map of Estonia (Eesti põhikaart, 1 : 10,000) is a digital topographic database providing information on settlements, hydrography, relief, toponyms and land use. Digital production includes orthophotos, vector maps and raster maps. By the end of 2003 almost all of the territory of Estonia had been covered by digital mapping. In printed version (1 : 20,000) there are currently 187 map sheets available. These have been published by the National Land Board, Estonian General Staff of Defence Forces and the Board of Border Guard.
Sea charts. Estonian Maritime Administration (EMA) has produced 53 sheets in the scale 1 : 100,000 and 1 : 50,000, etc. Since 1998 these are available in digital form. Combined atlas of map sheets (1. Narva-Jõesuu to Osmussaar 2. West-Estonian Archipelago, 3. Saaremaa-Ruhnu) is available for small craft.
Other maps. The most comprehensive privately produced cartographic work is the Estonian Road Atlas 2002/2003 (1 : 150,000) by AS Regio, an updated version of the atlas of 1997/98. The atlas includes an index of over 11,000 place names, it is also available on a CD. An online-version (http://regio.delfi.ee/) includes a search engine with about 4000 place names.
Other maps include several road maps of Estonia, county and municipality maps. Map companies have also published world atlases and maps for schools.
There have been several courses for onomastics at the University of Tartu and the Tallinn Pedagogical University which deal with topics like applied toponymics and names standardization.
3. Registers, gazetteers and toponymic data files of Estonia
The National Place Names Register (http://www.ekk.ee/knr) has entered into its database during 2002 and 2003 16,500 names of geographical features, including names of administrative units and populated places (5,000), streets and roads (5,000), and some natural features from the Base Map of Estonia (6,500). The register will start operating under the new Place Names Act during 2004; in the first half of 2004 the Register will open a public user interface.
Two other databases should also be mentioned. A database of standardized place names, including names from Estonia and abroad (appr. 80,000 entries at present, http://www.eki.ee/knab/knab.htm) is being compiled at the Institute of Estonian Language. The Institute has also the largest collection of Estonian place names, containing about 600,000 entries, collected in field work. The database of place names of the historical county of Võrumaa (http://www.ekk.ee/avka/) is being compiled by the Institute of Võru, this includes at present the data of four parishes (out of eight).
At the end of 2003 the Estonian Maritime Administration produced the first Sailing Directions in Estonian waters since 1927. This richly illustrated reference book in Estonian contains many toponyms of coastal areas. An English edition of the publication is being considered. A new version of List of Lights will be published in 2004.
No new gazetteers have been issued since the Eighth United Nations Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names.
4. Standardization of names in multilingual or dialectally diverse areas of Estonia
The Place Names Act supports the use of minority place names, in some cases two parallel names are officially established. For example, there are parallel Estonian and Swedish names in the municipality of Noarootsi.
In South East Estonia the names of populated places in several municipalities of the counties of Võrumaa and Põlvamaa have been standardized in their local form, i.e. in the Võru variety. This has been done with the aid of the Võru Institute. The Basic Map of Estonia uses almost exclusively local name forms for natural features. Differences with the formerly used name variants are mainly phonetic.
5. Exonyms and principles of writing foreign place names
Recommendations on the spelling of foreign geographical names are given by the Estonian Language Committee at the Mother Tongue Society jointly with various institutions (Geography Institute at the University of Tartu, Estonian Encyclopaedia Publishers, BNS News Agency). Recently discussed questions include names of some countries (notably Serbia and Montenegro) and the spelling of Turkmen and Uzbek names; in 2002 the Committee recommended the use of the new Roman alphabets for the Turkmen and Uzbek languages. The policy has not changed: the use of exonyms is limited and in principle any endonym used in an Estonian text should not be considered a "mistake".
6. Divisional co-operation
On May 28-30, 2003 Estonia hosted the Sixth Meeting of the Baltic Division. The meeting was held on the island of Kihnu in the Gulf of Riga, participated by 20 experts from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Experts discussed legal standardization procedures, standardization principles, databases and minority names.
Nime murre. Pühendusteos Valdek Palli 75. sünnipäevaks 30. juunil 2002. [Dialect of a Name. Festschrift for Valdek Pall.] Eesti Keele Instituudi toimetised 11. Eesti Keele Sihtasutus, Tallinn 2002. 349 pp. • Mariko Faster, Evar Saar. Võromaa kotussõnimmist. [About Place Names in Võrumaa.] Võro Instituudi toimõnduseq 13. Võro 2002. 255 pp. • Marja Kallasmaa. Name Studies in Estonia. In: Onomastica Uralica 2. History of the Study of Toponyms in the Uralian Languages. Debrecen-Helsinki 2002, pp. 47-80. • Marja Kallasmaa. Läänemurde loodus- ja viljelusnimed. [Names of Natural Features and Cultivation in the Western Dialect of Estonian.] Eesti Keele Sihtasutus, Tallinn, 2003. 196 pp. • Karl Pajusalu, Tiit Hennoste, Ellen Niit, Peeter Päll, Jüri Viikberg. Eesti murded ja kohanimed. [Estonian Dialects and Place Names.] Eesti Keele Sihtasutus, Tallinn 2002. 320 pp.
8. Further information may be obtained from:
(Place Names Board)
(Ms. Elvi Sepp, tel +372-6935802)
AS Eesti Kaardikeskus
(Estonian Map Centre)
Mustamäe tee 33
(Mr. Olev Veskimäe, tel +372-6528216)
Eesti Keele Instituut
(Institute of Estonian Language)
(Mr. Peeter Päll, tel +372-6446153)
Eesti Veeteede Amet
(Estonian Maritime Administration)
(Ms. Malle Hunt, tel +372-6205645)
Maa-amet (National Land Board)
Mustamäe tee 51
(Ms. Kiira Mõisja, tel +372-7385102)
(Mr. Jüri Jagomägi, tel +372-7387330)
Võru Instituut / Võro Instituut'
(Institute of Võru)
(Mr. Evar Saar, tel +372-7821960)
1. National standardization
There is no centralized geographical names authority or board in Latvia. The names of administrative units initiated by local governments are approved by the Cabinet of Ministers. The corresponding ministries approve names of railway stations, ports, navigation aids, airports, and state roads. Local governments are fully responsible for the naming of villages, farmsteads, dwelling houses, buildings, real estates, streets, cemeteries etc. The names authority for names of natural features is the State Land Service, but for official names approving the agreement of the local governments is necessary.
A consultative expert body - the Place Names Sub-commission (consisting of experts in linguistics and geography) of the Latvian Language Experts Board with the State Language Centre was established in 2002.
1.3. Place names laws. There is no particular Place name law in Latvia. The standardization procedures and competence of the listed below different authorities are regulated by different laws and normative documents.
1.4. Field collection of place names has been performed previously for checking of the existing information within framework of mapping projects, and for scientific purposes.
1.5. Office treatment of place names (names on the maps, in registers etc.).
The State Land Service of Latvia, a state surveying and mapping authority, has continued the state mapping projects:
The toponymic material for all these map sheets had been compiled or checked by the experts of Laboratory of Toponymy.
A local dictionary of place names of the Sēlpils civil parish was published in 2003, and the Gazetteer of Latvia 1:1000 000 is compiled by the State Land Service. Both of them are compiled using the Place Names Data Base of Latvia.
The State Register of Addresses (managed by the State Land Service) maintains the official names of cities, towns, villages, streets, farmsteads, buildings of Latvia. The entire information is based on legislative acts and decisions of local governments. The official address information about cities, towns, villages and streets is available on http://www.vzd.gov.lv (in Latvian).
The private map publishing company "Jāņa sēta Map Publishers" has continued the production of regional maps of Latvia (1:100 000 and 1:200 000), city and town plans (1:15 000 - 1:20 000), school maps and atlases, maps of foreign countries. The updated version of CD-ROM JS Latvija, containing all the latest maps of territory of Latvia produced by "Jāņa sēta Map Publishers" with a data base containing information about more than 15 000 settlements, natural objects and points of interest was issued.
The current volume of the standardizing linguistic dictionary "Place Names of Latvia (Paaglis - Piķu-)", an integral part of the Latvia's Place Names Thesaurus initiated by J. Endzelīns, was prepared by the Latvian Language Institute, University of Latvia, and published in 2003.
1.6. Standardization of dialectal place names of Latvia
The standardization of village, house and natural feature names more close to their local dialectal forms, especially in the eastern region of Latvia, is being recommended since 1993. One part of the village and house names has been standardized according that. Many local forms of names of natural features and villages are used on the Satellite Map of Latvia 1: 50 000, and on topographic maps.
1.7. Standardization based on local use of place names
In 2003, recommendations for standardization of civil parish and village names based on their local use have been prepared by the Place Names Sub-commission, Latvian Language Experts Board, and presented to local authorities.
2. Exonyms and country names
The Latvian Language Experts Board with the State Language Centre is responsible for standardization of Latvian forms of foreign geographical names. Consultations concerning spelling of foreign geographical names etc. are available at the Consultation Department, State Language Agency.
Foreign place names in their original or romanized forms are used on all state topographic maps, road maps and atlases except school maps and atlases.
The Place Names Sub-commission is preparing a Latvian translation of the Glossary of Terms for the Standardization of Geographical Names.
4. Writing systems. Romanization
The Romanization System GOST-83 is used for maps and map sheets covering the territory of Russian Federation (except school maps where traditional exonyms dominate).
5. Toponymic education and practice in Latvia
Lecture courses on Toponymy are being delivered at the Faculty of Geography and Earth Sciences and the Faculty of Philology, University of Latvia. Students' papers on toponymic topics are being compiled at the University of Latvia each academic year.
Further information can be obtained from:
LU Latviešu valodas institūts
(Latvian Language Institute, University of Latvia)
Akadēmijas laukumā 1
(Dr. Ojārs Bušs, phone: +371-7213606)
LU Reģionālās ģeogrāfijas un toponīmikas zinātniskā laboratorija.
(Scientific Laboratory for Regional Geography and Toponymy, University of Latvia)
Raiņa bulvāris 19
Valsts zemes dienesta Kartogrāfijas pārvaldes Toponīmikas laboratorija
(Toponymy Laboratory, Board of Cartography, State Land Service of the Republic of Latvia)
Ojāra Vācieša iela 43
(Mrs. Vita Strautniece, phone: +371-7614906)
"Karšu izdevniecība Jāņa sēta"
(Jāņa sēta Map Publishers)
Elizabetes iela 83/85, k.2
(Mr. Jānis Turlajs, phone: +371 7092277;
fax: +371 7092273
1. National standardization
1.2. Geographical names authorities
The State Commission of Lithuanian Language (http://www.vlkk.lt) participates in the process of standardisation of toponyms as a collegial legal institution and a public office. The Institute of the Lithuanian Language (http://www.lki.lt) is an institution of scientific research. The staff of the Onomastics Department are the main experts on the issues of accuracy and standardisation of toponyms. The Onomastics Department accumulates the card index of toponyms, publishes dictionaries, etc.
Activities of the national mapping authority - National Land Service under the Ministry of Agriculture of the Republic of Lithuania (http://www.zum.lt/nzt) is directed to enter geographical names on official maps. The National Land Service relies mainly on published sources and the collection of toponyms at the Institute of Lithuanian Language. All official maps will be checked (onomastic expertise) at the Onomastics Department of the Institute of Lithuanian Language.
1.3. Laws on the toponyms
The official usage of toponyms in the Republic of Lithuania is defined by the Law on the State Language, Article 14: "Official, standardised forms of toponyms are written in the official language in the Republic of Lithuania."
The names of the counties of the Republic of Lithuania, of their centres and of municipalities are determined, amended and eliminated by the Seimas. The names of populated places initiated by local municipalities and accepted by the State Language Commission, are going to be approved by the Government. The official forms of populated places - residential areas, streets and so on are entered in the Register of Residential Places (run by the Register Centres).
The official usage of geographic names on maps and databases is defined by the Law on Geodesy and Cartography:
and by Regulation GKTR 1.02.01:2004 Usage of geographical names on maps (approved 3 February 2004 by National Land Service under Ministry Agriculture).
1.4. Field collection of toponyms
The toponyms of the territory of Lithuania are collected and kept at the Institute of the Lithuanian Language. The Institute of Lithuanian Language has the largest collection of Lithuanian toponyms - a card file containing about 600 000 entries.
Base of toponyms on maps of Lithuania - first topographical surveying at scale 1:10 000 in field (1949–1954) and updated edition in last years.
National mapping enterprises: Aerial Geodesy Institute Ltd. (http://www.agi.lt) in Kaunas city and State enterprise State Land Survey Institute in Vilnius city (http://www.vzi.lt)
1.5. Official usage of toponyms
In 2003, having considered the names of larger geographical objects of the territory of Lithuania the State Language Commission revised the written forms of seventeen populated areas, and accentuation and accents of eighteen place names. Twenty-six municipalities (savivaldybes) were requested to initiate the procedure of the replacement of the revised place names. Accentuation and the accents of the above-mentioned place names were revised in the Register of Residential Places.
In 2003, the Commission approved of seven new names of residential places and rejected one non-normative variant.
Official mapping and charting production (with toponyms) of National Mapping Authority - National Land Service under the Ministry of Agriculture of the Republic of Lithuania in 2003:
1.6. New sources of toponyms
In 2002, The Dictionary of toponyms was published (compiled by lingvists Aldonas Pupkis, Marytė Razmukaitė and Rita Miliūnaitė. Vilnius: Mokslo ir enciklopedijų leidybos institutas, 2002).
A list of Lithuanian and world place names (compiled by L. Bilkis) was placed in the Internet (see: http://www.autoinfa.lt/webdic/, see the link Vietovardžiai). It consists of about 2500 place names. The supplemented list (3000 place names) was made into a CD and accompanies the Dictionary of the Modern Lithuanian Language.
Geographer Vytautas Butkus prepared book about geographical names (800 traditional, translated and adopted geographical names in Lithuanian language) in World maps.
Updated and printed 2th edition about Lithuanian hydronyms by lingvist Aleksandras Vanagas.
New hydrographic data (with hydronyms) abaut 5400 Lithuanian rivers according to 1:25 000 scale maps published by geographers Brunonas Gailiušis, Jonas Jablonskis, Milda Kovalenkovienė.
Classificator of rivers and lakes (with hydronyms) of Lithuania adopted for State Cadastre of rivers, lakes and ponds.
Updated State Register of administrative units, populated places and streets of
1.7. Standardization of dialectal toponyms
The standardisation of the toponyms of Lihuania was basically carried out before the Second World War, in 1935 and 1936.
1.8. Standardization in multilingual areas
According to the Law on Ethnic Minorities of the Republic of Lithuania, informative signs in administrative territorial units densely populated by one particular ethnic minority can be given, along with the Lithuanian language, in the language of the particular minority. In some places - actually, only in the Vilnius region - there exist some street signs with the text in Polish: here the street names have been re-written in Polish letters without changing the official form of the street name. Street signs in Russian letters are very scarce; they are relics of the Soviet times.
In 2003, in one town of the municipality of the Vilnius region the street signs gave the names of the streets translated into Polish (e.g., ul. Dębova instead of ul. Ažuolų). In the opinion of the Language Commission, if the street names in the language of a national minority are given along with the names in the state language, then words describing the type of streets (street, square, lane) are translated into the language of the ethnic minority, while proper names are not changed or translated; they can be re-written in the letters of the language of the ethnic minority. Following the conflict between the municipality and the language institutions, the Government of the Republic of Lithuania authorised the Department for Ethnic Minorities to work out the rules for writing the street names on the street signs in the languages of ethnic minorities.
In 2002, the Institute of the Lithuanian Language initiated the creation of the database of ethnic place names (project manager - M. Razmukaitė). The work is carried out according to the programme for the preservation of dialects and ethnic place names, approved by the Government and the State Language Commission. About 3000 ethnic place names - of areas beyond the present territory of Lithuania that were or still are inhabited by Lithuanians - have been accumulated on computers and in the card index. Several separate card indexes have been formed of these place names: of their Lithuanian forms and their non-Lithuanian (Belorussian, Latvian, Polish, Russian and German) equivalents.
At present the State Commission of Lithuanian Language is reconsidering the status of the traditional Lithuanian place names of the Kaliningrad region, or, in Lithuanian, Karaliaučiaus kraštas. The present view is that these gepgraphical names should be recognised historical ethnic geographical names and that the sphere of their use should be narrowed down.
3. Writing systems. Romanization
In September 2002, the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania authorised the State Language Commission to determine the manner in which personal and place names of other languages are to be given in academic literature, information publications and special texts: adapted and followed by original forms or original with adapted forms given together.
In the Soviet period (1941–1990), the Russian language considerably influenced the Lithuanian language; in addition, most information reached Lithuania in Russian. Thus in the Soviet period the principle of adaptation had taken deep root in Lithuania. All place names of other languages were given adapted according their pronunciation in Lithuanian letters. For instance, in the Lithuanian Soviet Encyclopaedia all place names were adapted (their original forms were given in brackets next to the adapted head forms and in indexes).
Turning back to the tradition that was developing in independent Lithuania in the period between the two wars, in 1984 the Language Commission decided that original forms could be given next to the adapted ones. After 1990, when Lithuania re-established its independence, the original forms were used increasingly more frequently; for example, one of the country's largest dailies, the Lietuvos Rytas, started using the original forms. The spread of the original forms raised discontent of part of the public, especially among the older generation and people of poorer education. Volume 1 of Visuotinė lietuvių enciklopedija (Universal Lithuanian Encyclopaedia) published by the Institute of Science and Encyclopaedia Publishing in 2001 raised a wide discussion in the press, since here, following the principles set out by the State Language Commission, the head forms were the original forms while the adapted forms were given in brackets and in the indexes.
A sociological survey carried out by the State Commission of Lithuanian Language in 2003 showed that the residents of Lithuania give preference to the principles of the use of foreign names set in 19971; the majority of respondents held the view that original forms should be used in science and information publications, documents, etc. The revised variant of the usage principles was presented to the public in the Internet website www.svarstome.lt (Implementing Of Public Consultation In Central Governmental Institutions Of Lithuania). Some radical views were expressed there yet the majority thought that the transition to the original forms should be gradual, starting with their use in business and scientific styles. In periodical press the tradition of giving the place names, especially well-known ones, in their adapted form, is still strong.
Thus, although the Language Commission does not intend a radical change in the principles of the use of foreign names, it considers the issue of how the place names of foreign countries should be presented in publications intended for schools, and which are the cases when priority should be given to traditional Lithuanian forms of place names (exonyms).
Regulation Usage of geographical names on maps (in Lithuanian language) presented romanization systems for neighbour states territory on official maps of Lithuania.
1 In 1997, the Commission by its resolution set the following principles of the use of foreign names: Names and place names in fiction, popular and children's literature in languages based on the Latin alphabet are adapted, i.e. written as they are pronounced, taking into account the readers' age and education. In academic literature, advertising, informative publications and specialised texts foreign proper names are written in the original; more common place names are often adapted. Both adapted and the original forms of names can be given (one of them in brackets). In the Lithuanian language, however, those proper nouns and place names which have traditional accepted forms are preserved. Foreign names and place names of languages based on other than the Latin alphabet are transcribed, taking into account the pronunciation of the words and the prevailing writing traditions in the Lithuanian language, or they are transliterated.
4. Toponymic education and practice
Geographers (students) of Vilnius University prepared two research works of Toponymic team.
5. Country names
On the basis of the changes to standard ISO 3166-1 (the information is provided by the Department of Standardisation), the State Commission of Lithuanian Language amends the List of the Countries (Lithuanian equivalents), approved by the resolution.
6. International cooperation
Lithuania has actively participated in the work of the Baltic Division of UNGEGN 2003 year. A representatives of Lithuania Jūratė Palionytė, Aistė Pangonytė (State Commision of Lituanian Language), Aldona Burvienė (Standartization Department) and Romas Girkus (Aerial Geodesy Institute Ltd.) participated with a report at the Sixth Meeting of the Baltic Division on May 28-30 2003 in Kihnu island of Estonia.
7. Plans for the future
The Guidelines of the State Language Policy for 2003-2008, which were approved by the resolution of the Seimas in 2003, set the task of creating a database of geographical names of Lithuania and an electronic database of administrative units and residential places in the territory of the Republic of Lithuania.
8. Conclusions and recommendations
The geographical names of Lithuanian territory are collected and standardised.
The use of official standard forms is controlled.
The established database should be connected with a coordinates system to avoid of different forms of toponyms in different registers. Also is necessary to coordinate the registers.
Ms. Danutė Janė
Nacionalinė žemės tarnyba prie Žemės ūkio ministerijos
Deputy of Mapping and Charting Division
National Land Service under Ministry of Agriculture of Lithuania
Gedimino av. 19
LT - 01103, Vilnius
Tel: INT + 370 5 2 39 84 35, INT + 370 2 39 13 06
Fax: INT + 370 5 2 39 13 31
Ms. Jūratė Palionytė, Vice-chairperson
Ms. Aistė Pangonytė, Advisor
Valstybinė lietuvių kalbos komisija
State Language Commission
Žvejų g.14, LT-09310 Vilnius
Tel: INT+370 5 272 33 58
Fax: INT+370 5 272 50 94
Mr. Laimutis Bilkis, Head of
Ms. Marija Razmukaitė, Researcher
Lietuvių kalbos institutas
Institute of Lithuanian Language
Antakalnio g. 6, LT-10308 Vilnius
Tel: INT+370 5 263 81 71
Fax: INT+370 5 234 72 00