Journal cover Journal topic
Proceedings of the ICA
Journal topic
Articles | Volume 1
16 May 2018
 | 16 May 2018

When places change their names on maps. Cases study from the Arab world

Mohsen Dhieb

Keywords: Arab World, Place names, Toponymic transcription

Abstract. The transcription of geographical names on maps in one given language is a very complex process. Depending on the used language, toponyms are mostly deformed from their natural language. In the Arab world, this deformation is treated in various ways. In many cases, Arabic place names suffer a double distortion when first transcribed from Arabic or another original language into French or English, and second when taking the same way back. Through a review of examples from some Arab place names, a few cases are analyzed to reveal the mechanisms of such anomaly and a strategy is recommended to avoid it.
Departing from Arabic atlases, we will realize three steps. First, we examine this anomaly through case studies taken from the English and French toponymic transcriptions. Second, the produced names area compared to those of other countries, considering the processes and mechanisms involved. Third, we propose a global strategy to overcome this anomaly in transcribing names in the Arab world by prioritizing produced transformations.
The proposed strategy witnesses the concept of standardized “exendonyms” presented and discussed in a previous research for foreign languages such as French or English. When Arabic is used, the phonetic local transcription is recommended but should also fit transcription rules of the used language as much as possible. In doing so, transcripts should not shift or deviate so far from original name places and much ambiguity can be avoided. This strategy must obey standardized international rules and may repose on modern techniques or media.

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