Old London Streets  

     Toponymy is the scientific study of place names, their origins and meanings. The word "toponymy" is derived from the two Greek words tópos (place), and ónoma (name). Toponymy itself is a branch of onomastics (the study of names of all kinds). The word toponymy first appeared in English in 1876.

     Each ridge, valley or ravine, forest or glade has its own name.

     So imagine if all geographical names vanished one day from the maps and from our lives. What would happen then? It would be an exaggeration to say that life would practically stop. Trains would not be running, and planes would not be flying. People would not be able to say where the place they urgently need to go is located, or to where they need to send a letter. It would not be possible for the post or the telegraph to function, the fire brigades or the ambulance would not know where to go. If there were no names, there would be no addresses.

So, why is toponymy so important for language learners?


1.  Toponymy helps us to understand the relation between names and language, and the evolution of places and people. A knowledge of place names can be great help to history because names of places change very rarely. It's for this reason that the study of place names can reveal facts relating to the past and might even hold information about history, religion and civilisation of the first occupants of different places.

2.  It's thanks to toponymy that linguists can make their on conclusions, build their own theories, or test their hypothesise. For instance, one typonomist found out that that a name of a geographical area somewhere in Africa had French roots. He then had a theory that the first settlers there were French. He also supposed that French people invaded the area and renamed it. Toponymy is closely related to history. It shows us the ancient movements of people, it stores information on the history of settlements and land reclamation, it clearly explains to us how the world developed.

3.  Toponyms help to reconstruct dead language that aren't spoken anymore. For example: an area is very rich iron, but linguist do not know the derivation of its name, because it comes from a dead language. It's known and proved that in the past, settlements and localities were named for different reasons. One of them says that toponyms were named for the types of soil or minerals that were extracted in the area. If we count this all up, we can probably say what the name of this place means. It might mean a word for iron, or something connected with iron. By using. This method, people can reconstruct dead languages.

4.  Toponymy helps learners better understand the structure of words and the way the language works. For example, Stratford upon Avon, famous because of the playwright William Shakespeare. The name is a combination of the old English "stræt", meaning street, and "ford", meaning that a roman road forded the river Avon at the site of the town.

5.  Toponymy helps to discover new words that have already disappeared from the language. For example, the place name Vrazhehsky lane in Moscow was thought to be connected to the word "enemy" (Vrag in russian means enemy). People believed that battles with opponents happened there, until scientists found the origin of the name. It appears that Vrazhensky lane means a place situated on ravines. Ravine in russian sounds just like "ovrag". The word "Vrag" in the meaning of ravine existed on Russian in the XIII century, until it was replaced with the word "ovrag".


So in conclusion, toponymy is very important to people. It helps to uncover a forgotten past, and helps to truly understand the language and the history of the country, and we probably wouldn't be able to live without it.

London today