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Place Names in the Construction of Social Identities: The Uses of Names of Helsinki

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Place Names in the Construction of Social Identities: The Uses of Names of Helsinki

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Title: Place Names in the Construction of Social Identities: The Uses of Names of Helsinki
Author: Ainiala, Terhi
Abstract: Toponyms are used not only to identify places, but also to accomplish many relevant social and
interactional tasks. In a conversation speakers may use diverse forms of a toponym or different names to
refer to the same place. The choice of a name or a name variant is not coincidental or free but depends on
the context, e.g., the formality of the situation. The name variants speakers use may even reveal the
identities they have as local dwellers.
The article studies the relationship between the use of toponyms and social identity. The names used
by Finnish speakers of Helsinki (the official variant Helsinki and two unofficial variants, 'Hesa' and 'Stadi')
and both the use of them and images and ideas connected to these names, are studied. With the names 'Hesa'
and 'Stadi', the central distinctions are made between the speakers’ status as country people and city dwellers
and between native Helsinki dwellers and people who have moved to Helsinki from elsewhere. The
metalinguistic and actual use of names used of Helsinki show considerable differences. They may be based
on a desire to identify oneself with a given group, which is, however, not always manifested in actual
language use. The material consists of focus group interviews conducted among dwellers in one
neighbourhood in Vuosaari.
Subject: Place Names of Helsinki
Place Names and Social Identity
Type: Article
Rights: The following articles are © 2009 with the individual authors. They are made available free of charge from this page as a service to the community under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivative Works license version 3.0. For full details go to http://creativecommons.org.licenses/ny-nd.3.0
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10315/2924
Published: York University
Citation: Proceedings of the 23rd International Congress of Onomastic Sciences
ISBN: 978-1-55014-521-2
Date: 2009

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