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Article Archive for December 2011

GeoCurrents Break and Renovation

By Martin W. Lewis | December 20, 2011 | 3 Comments
World Map of Per Capita GDP, with Large Countries Divided

Dear Readers,
GeoCurrents will be taking an end-of-the-year break; regular postings will resume in the second week of January. During the break, plans will be made for renovating and expanding the site. In January, blog postings will increase from the current two or three per week to four or five per week. New features will also be added, focused on providing …

African Country Names in Indigenous Languages

By Martin W. Lewis | December 16, 2011 | 2 Comments
Mark Karan's Spread of Sango Map and Book Cover

After the recent GeoCurrents post on country names, Asya Pereltsvaig brought my attention to an interesting website called Endonym Map. The site features a single world map that shows the names of countries and dependent territories in their own official or national languages, as expressed in the script used for those languages. (A detail of the Endonym Map, showing most …

What’s in a (Country) Name: The Georgia/Grúziya Controversy

By Martin W. Lewis | December 12, 2011 | 23 Comments
List of YouTube Languages

Names of countries in foreign languages (exonyms) often bear no relationship to the names of the same countries in their own official language or languages (endonyms). Such differences are generally accepted without complaint; the fact that English speakers refer to Deutschland as Germany and Nihon as Japan is not a problem for the governments or the people of those countries.
Occasionally, …

Ethnic Politics and the Relocation of Ghana, Benin, and Mauritania

By Martin W. Lewis | December 10, 2011 | 7 Comments
Map of French West Africa from 1936

As was recently mentioned in the GeoCurrents discussion forum, the names of several modern African countries were derived from former African kingdoms (or empires) located in different places. When the British Gold Coast gained independence in 1957, for example, it was rechristened Ghana, a name borrowed from the Ghana Empire (830-1235 CE) in what is now Mali and Mauritania. In …

The Many Meanings of “Guinea”

By Martin W. Lewis | December 7, 2011 | 11 Comments
Map of West Africa Showing Guinea

Few place-names have been used to refer to more distinct places than “Guinea.” Four countries now share the name, three in western Africa (Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, and Equatorial Guinea), and one in the western Pacific (Papua New Guinea). Historically, several other places were referenced by the name as well. The Wikipedia disambiguation page lists thirteen “countries” called “Guinea,” in one form …

The Migration of Place Names: Africa, Libya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Sudan

By Martin W. Lewis | December 5, 2011 | 11 Comments
Wikipedia Map of the Periplus of the Erythrean Sea

Several weeks ago, GeoCurrents noted that the place name “Afghanistan” had been geographically displaced, as it originally referred to a region in what is now northwestern Pakistan. Left unsaid was the fact that such toponymic displacement is common. Over time, the areas denoted by place names often expand, contract, or move laterally. If one is not aware of such dislocations, …

Mega-Nationalist Fantasy Maps of the Balkans

By Martin W. Lewis | December 1, 2011 | 19 Comments
YouTube Maps of Greater Hungary and Greater Slovakia

YouTube videos of “greater countries,” which imagine the glorious expansion of existing states, have a distinct geographical distribution. The vast majority of these hyper-nationalistic fantasies come from the region stretching from Pakistan to Hungary. Although a number of “greater” countries outside of this area have been proposed, few are supported at the popular level by YouTube productions. Greater Morocco, for …

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