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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Toponyms and cultural regions : an examination of the place-names of the Chota Nagpur, India Mia, Essop


The subject examined in this thesis is the relationship between contemporary place-names and cultural regions. It was hypothesised that there would be a relationship between place-names and cultural regions, if place-names, as organized into toponymic systems, correlated with known cultural features of the inhabitants of the Chota Nagpur region of India. The organization of the place-names into toponymic systems was on the basis of spatial and statistical interdependence and interaction of selected terms denoting spaces with different attributes. The known cultural feature for correlation in this study was the spatial and statistical distribution of the languages spoken in the study area. A one-half sample of all the place-names in the Chota Nagpur was collected from 1:250,000 maps of the area, and divided into their component elements. Following subsequent ordering by computer, distribution maps and statistical tables were drawn up for selected denotative components, the element in the name used to distinguish a particular space in the environment in terms of its attributes. Data on the spatial and statistical distributions of the languages spoken in the area was obtained from G.A, Grierson's Linguistic Survey of India and the Census of India 1931, 1951 and 1961. The results obtained from a correlation of the toponymic systems which were identified and the distribution of languages did support the hypothesis. Five toponymic systems were identified within the study area, and their spatial extents corresponded to the distribution of three of the languages in the study area. The sectors of the study area within which no toponymic systems existed also corresponded to the distribution of two languages. This suggested that the principles used in organizing the environment differ between cultures, and that the methodology presented for the identification of toponymic systems has limited usefulness. It was concluded that place-names did bear a relationship to cultural regions, and that they could be used to delineate these cultural regions.

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