Place naming and the dominated population

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The preceding chapter has reviewed onomastic literature related to this study. This chapter presents the theoretical framework to be used in this study. The theoretical framework adopted in this study is premised on the understanding of the place name as capable of expressing onomastic meaning (Nicolaisen, 1978). This study adopts Geosemiotics as propounded by Scollon and Scollon (1993), a theory which looks at the placement of language in the material language. The concepts in Semiotics, Pragmatics and Semantics on meaning construction guide analysis of the process of inscribing meaning on the landscape and the whole exercise of the social construction of places in the three selected urban centres during the colonial period in Zimbabwe. Semiotics, Pragmatics and Semantics help in appreciating the fact that names have a semantic import. The chapter indicates how the adopted theoretical framework can be used in doing a sociolinguistic analysis of place names


The coining of the term Geosemiotics and its subsequent development as a theoretical framework is attributed to Scollon and Scollon (2003). Geosemiotics is defined as: “the study of the social meaning of the material placement of signs and discourses, and of our actions in the material world” (Scollon & Scollon, 2003: 2). Scollon and Scollon argue from a social semiotic perspective and they proffer an inclusive understanding of a sign consistent with Pierce’s (1955) treatment of a sign as “any material object that indicates or refers to anything other than itself” (Scollon & Scollon, 2003: 3).
Scollon and Scollon’s (2003) understanding of a sign includes any semiotic system. This implies that language and discourse are constituent elements of the semiotic system that participates in the discursive construction of the public space. The basic tenet of Geosemiotics is that there are sign systems in the world outside of language but to which language points or in which language is used. Scollon and Scollon (2003) are convinced that meaning is not confined to language per se, but it is also located in the complexity and realities of the lived world. These perceptions explain the term Geosemiotics. The theory has it that the interpretation of the meaning of public texts is made possible by the emplacement of the public signs, that is, the immediate world in social and physical terms, where a public sign is located. In this whole scheme, names need to be considered because they are forms of signs which interact with other elements in the material world in the semiotic process (the meaning making process).
Scollon and Scollon’s perspective of Geosemiotics is anchored on the argument that: “there is a social world presented in the material world through its discourses- signs, structures, other people- and [that] our actions produce meanings in the light of those discourses” (Scollon & Scollon, 2003:1). The central argument pursued by geosemioticians is that the meaning of a sign is best understood in the material world and in its spatiality. Gottdiener and Lagopoulos (1986) posit that the material objects are the vehicles of significance, so that the symbolic act always involves some physical object as well as social discourse in it. Viewing the landscape in terms of Geosemiotics helps us to appreciate the urban society in the colonial society as an aggregate of semiotic signs (monuments, place names, flags and all cultural symbols that grace the landscape).
The object of study in the present research being place names in a contested space of a colonial society makes it imperative to choose a theoretical framework that studies the meaning system by which language is located in the material world. This placement of language in the material world goes beyond the location of words in books to include the urban planning designs and the placement of signs in the built environment in urban areas. A case in point is the concern in Geosemiotics on how streets are laid down and the signs placed on those streets (Scollon & Scollon, 2003). In this regard Geosemiotics is an effective tool in studying the general urban spatial mapping system and the subsequent placement of signs in the cityscape. This theoretical framework underscores the salience of the spatial, material, physical context for the meaning of language and signs (Flowerdew &Wei, 2013). A full appreciation of the meanings of place names usedduring the colonial period in Zimbabwe involves understanding the role of place names inthe place-making process. This is consistent with Jaworski and Thurlow’s (2009) view of semiotic landscape which is centred on the argument that all landscape is semiotic.
Public signs in a colonial society are unlikely to be neutral given the power relations obtaining in the society. Kress (1993) points out that no sign is innocent. As such, all signs are equally subject to critical reading. While this standpoint might appear to be an overgeneralisation which attracts criticism, what is not debatable is that public signs have a potential of reflecting power and status of groups whose language(s) appear (or not appear) on public signs. This is more applicable to the colonial society where semiotic systems are expected to mirror power relations of the dominating and the dominated groups. It is such observations that Geosemiotics has been chosen as a theoretical framework to analyse the linguistic landscape in the colonial society.
This study examines the relationship between the place name and where the named place is located in space in the colonial urban area. It has been indicated under section 1.1.4 that spatial mapping in the colonial period was controlled by different legislative framework and conscious efforts to create separate spaces for Europeans and Africans were made. Allensworth (1975) submits that planning does not take place in a vacuum. Local political institutions, such as city and suburban governments and the political processes surrounding these governments control urban planning. The political influence is more pronounced in the colonial set up where the colonial government makes every effort to control public space. In this study, school names as components of the toponomastic landscape are treated as texts. This study, conscious of the salience of space and spatiality in the colonial period, examines the dialogical relationship between school names and the place in which they were found.
Geosemiotics has proved to be very influential in recent studies on linguistic landscapes and multilingual signage (Wielfaert, 2009; Aboelezz, 2012; Tan, 2009; Liang & Huang, 2009; Pierce, 2009; Kotze, 2010; Hamid, 2011, Lou, 2009). The theory is based on Semiotics. Words constitute verbal symbols, and for the purposes of this study, names are the linguistic signs. Using tenets of post-structuralism as advanced by Barthes (1972), Debray (1993), this study goes beyond the Saussurean tradition of regarding the signifier-signifier constituent parts of the semiotic sign by treating a sign as a product of the human [social] meaning construction activity. Tuan (1979), arguing from a human geographical standpoint which studies people’s spatial feelings, submits that people give meaning to places by ascribing “personality” and “spirit” to the place. People possess meaning and they are centres of their own worlds. As such, they use language to convert buildings and cities into centres of meaning. It is through language that places are made to have greater emotional charge than merely a location. Tuan (1991) advances that language is core of all place-making strategies.
Unlike Semiotics which studies the sign systems or the properties of signaling systems, whether natural or artificial (Saeed, 1997), Geosemiotics has it that the greater part of the meaning of signs and symbols is derived from how and where they are placed in the material world.The urban toponomastic landscape in Salisbury, Umtali and Fort Victoria is analysed using the following concepts of Geosemiotics as propounded by Scollon and Scollon (2003): the principle of indexicality, the principle of dialogicality and language choice

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The Principle of indexicality

Scollon and Scollon (2003) submit that indexicality is concerned with how social actors interpret meanings of signs in terms of their location in the built environment. The power of language to index the world around is based on indexicality. Scollon and Scollon (2003: 19) explaining the physical emplacement of signs submit that: “the central thesis of Geosemiotics is that exactly where [original emphasis] on earth an action takes place is an important part of its meaning”. The meaning of a sign is derived from where it is seen on the landscape. It is Scollon and Scollon’s (2003: 2) submission that:
signs and symbols take a major part of their meaning from how and where they are placed- at that street corner, at that time of the history of the world. Each of them indexes a larger discourse […].
Indexicality is anchored on the assumption that the meaning of signs is dependant on their physical location. All signs, whether they are icons or symbols, achieve their meanings through their material placement in their world. In their discussion on finding differences among an icon, a sign and an index, they noted that an icon can be a picture of an entity in the physical world. A sign to them can be a completely arbitrary representation of an entity in the physical world. On index, they argue that it is a sign which derives its meaning from where and when it is located in the world. The overall observation was that indexicality is a quality of all signs because all of the three; icons, signs and indexes also index.
Indexicality as a principle of Geosemiotics helps in the understanding of signs used in a colonial state where conscious efforts were made to create separate spaces for different races. Spatial mapping was largely based on racial lines. European and African urban areas were distinctly marked in the urban landscape. The distribution of school names in European areas and African urban areas indicate their indexicality quality. School names got their meaning from their placement in the material world, in either European areas or native urban areas. European schools were largely given European names. Coincidentally, the schools were found in European areas. On the other hand, schools for Africans were generally given Shona names. The schools were sited in African urban areas (Black Townships) in the three urban centres under study in the present research. Efforts were made to guard against placing a European name, which signify European identity and history, in African areas. In Geosemiotics theory, this mistake of placing a sign in a “wrong” place is known as “transgressive emplacement” (Scollon & Scollon, 2003: 198). Judgment of a transgressive placement is a subjective exercise which depends on the reader and/or interpreter of a sign and the thought system and feelings of the immediate community of the reader

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The principle of dialogicality

A place is understood to be a “geosemiotic aggregate” defined as “multiple semiotic systems in a dialogical interaction with each other” (Scollon & Scollon, 2003: 12). This aspect of Geosemiotics is known as dialogicality. A sign exists in dialogical interaction with other signs and cultural discourses. This principle of dialogicality in Geosemiotics means that:
All signs operate in aggregate, and there is always a dynamic among signs. Each sign indexes a discourse that authorises its placement, but once the sign is in place it is never isolated from other signs in its environment… (Scollon & Scollon, 2003: 205).
This principle is akin to the concept of “kinship between texts” (Duszak, 2009: 45 cited in Aboelezz, 2012: 2). School names, in this study, are analysed in the way they are embedded in the form of signs which interact with each other. This dialogicality of signs reveals the sensibilities and the thought system of the immediate community. A place name exists in relation to other indices in its environment. This study treats dialogicality at two levels: micro-level dialogicality and macro-level dialogicality. At the micro-level, this study examines the continual dialogue between the school name and other names in the school yard, such as, names of buildings, especially, hostels, libraries and halls and sporting houses. School names also exist in contiguity and continual dialogue with school logos, monuments, school colours and pictures (especially, of people which the schools are named after and other symbolic aspects) as part of the cultural discourses.
At the macro-level, dialogicality entails the dynamic relationship between the school name and other names, signs and cultural discourses that are not within the school. Street names, names of suburbs, names of public institutions, such as other schools, hospitals, stadia, monuments and all the sum total of signs and cultural symbols within the immediate environment are in constant dialogue with the school names

Language choice

Language choice means the language in which signs are composed. Language choice reinforces the argument that discourses are significant in the social construction of an identity of a particular place because the preferred language on signs depends on the geopolitical location of a sign. Applied to this study, language choice points to the use of a language that is consistent with the socio-political configuration of the place. The principle helps in the analysis of the prevalent use of European names for European schools established in European areas and African names for African schools in African urban areas (Black Townships). Pan and Scollon (2000) cited in Lou (2007: 107-8) makes use of this dimension of Geosemiotics and observe that monolingual Chinese shop signs indicate the store’s geographical location in mainland China or Taiwan.
A language, in addition to being a conduit for communication, also embodies a philosophy of life of a society. The choice of language for the place name is not, therefore, a haphazard exercise. It is conscious process done with the aim of projecting the linguistic and cultural characteristics of the immediate community. In language planning studies, Scollon and Scollon’s (2003) discussion on language choice is extended to code preference, on bilingual signs where the language placed above another code or at the centre is the preferred code on bilingual signage. The next section examines the subsystems of Geosemiotics

The subsystems of Geosemiotics

Geosemiotics has three main systems: interactional order, visual semiotics and place semiotics. It should be noted that three systems of Geosemiotics point to the fact that the theoretical framework integrates other approaches to discourse in context (Flowerdew & Wei, 2013). The theory has managed to bring together the above three separate studies within a single framework. This was a landmark development in terms of a theory of studying the linguistic landscape by its thrust on the way in which language is placed in the material world

1.0 Introduction
1.1 Background to the study
1.2 Statement of the problem
1.3 Aim of the study
1.4 Significance of the study .
1.5 Scope of the study
1.6 Delimitation of study
1.7 Conclusion
1.0 Introduction
2.1 Place naming and power
2.2 Place naming and identity
2.3 Place naming and the dominated population
2.4 Totemism and [place] naming
2.5 New Directions in Toponomastic studies: Linguistic landscape
2.6 Conclusion
3.0 Introduction
3.1 Geosemiotics
3.2 Semiotics
3.3 Pragmatics
3.4 Semantics
3.5 Conclusion
4.0 Introduction
4.1 The Research Design: Case study research
4.2 Qualitative research
4.3 Data gathering techniques
4.4 Sampling
4.5 Data analysis
4.6 Ethical issues
4.7 Conclusion
5.0 Introduction
5.1 Presentation of data
5.2 Categories of the school names
5.3 Analysis of data using CDA
5.4 Conclusion
6.0 Introduction
6.1 A summary of chapters
6.2 A Summary of findings
6.3 Contributions to Onomastic theory
6.4 Recommendations

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