Glossary of Terms for the Standardization of Geographical Names

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Examples are given for: functional, inverse functional, transitive, symmetrical, antisymmetric, reflexive and irreflexive relationships. Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF. Skip to main content. Advertisement Hide. Chapter First Online: 09 April This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves. This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access. People familiar with the area shown on a map identify the errors in names more quickly and more easily than they do other problems connected with the use of symbols on the map.

Written language Geographical names normally originate in and are influenced by spoken language. Standardization programmes are concerned with written forms of names including their script, spelling, word forms, writing marks and capitalization. II and VI of part two. Some writing systems have evolved over centuries, others over a short period of time.

Throughout the world, the number of speech sounds and the number of ways of uttering and modifying them are very large. No single language contains all the sounds, no person can pronounce them all, and no traditional system of writing13 can represent them all. Systems for writing languages generally fall in three general groups: a Alphabetic systems Glossary, , in which the unit sounds of vowels and consonants ideally are represented by distinct symbols called letters examples: Roman; Cyrillic; Arabic; Greek; Korean, etc.

It endeavours to represent the written forms of sounds of the script of one language that is to say, its graphic characters by those of the other. Names conversion is achieved chiefly through two distinct methods: transcription and transliteration. The conversion of sounds of one language into the closest corresponding written sound symbols of another normally without any modifications to the writing of the receiver language is called transcription Glossary, Transliteration aims to enable the reverse process that is to say, a full reconstruction of the original name in the source script.

Special marks and letter symbols, however, are generally meaningless to people who are unfamiliar with their intended sounds. For this reason, transcription is often adopted for more everyday situations, using only the letters and letter combinations of a target alphabet, without attempting always to render exactly the original pronunciation. More details on names and writing systems can be found in various sources, for example, in chapters 10 and 11 of the work by Naftali Kadmon entitled Toponymy: The Lore, Laws and Language of Geographical Names, New York, Vantage Press, The cost of such endeavours is generally hidden, because the work is thought of as constituting parts of other programmes.

For example, mapping and charting organizations spend a great deal of time and production cost on the collection, selection and application of up-to-date cartographic nomenclature. This and similar work in other offices and organizations are often being done without coordination. This leads to duplication of effort and resources, as well as to variation and conflicts in name usage.

Challenges in updating the Hungarian terminology for geographical names standardization

A strong argument in favour of a national programme focuses on consolidation of effort with less overall cost, more consistent results and greater benefit to a larger number of government and non-government organizations, and the general public. There are four basic steps needed to begin setting up a national authority: a Recognition of a need; b Legal or official authority; c A clearly stated mandate; d Continuing status. Recognition of a need The need for a national programme seems obvious to those of us interested in the standardization of geographical names.

However, someone in authority in the national Government must be aware that such a programme would achieve an overall savings of government resources and must be interested and concerned enough to act on this. If that person has a high enough position or wide enough management responsibility, and available financial and personnel resources, the programme may be organized by decree or order.

The head of a mapping or internal affairs office, for example, can be effective in establishing a committee to investigate organizational procedures. Someone or a group of persons must initiate whatever action is needed to get things started. Legal or official authority14 A legal or official authority or institution is desirable for an effective national programme. This is particularly important because universal recognition and validity, within and outside government, are based on the credentials of the organization.

Legal authority already may be implied in the official mission of a particular government office. However, unless it is specifically stated, that authority may not be recognized by other government offices or by people throughout the country. It is best if the necessary legal authority for responsibility for geographical names is obtained directly from the lawmaking arm of the national Government. Such an organized national body, or coordinated group of bodies, is thought to provide the best opportunity for a nationally acceptable, balanced and efficient national geographical names programme.

Sometimes, obtaining legal authority may take considerable time, so that it may be preferable in the interim to initiate the organization and practical work of a standardization programme. Basic preliminary regulations can be written to provide consistency of approach in the meantime. A clearly stated mandate Full and legal recognition is a critical factor in the effectiveness of a national programme. The efforts of an authority need to rely on the support and respect given not only by national and local Governments, but also by citizens throughout the country.

This support depends on real powers or a real mandate given to the names authority by the Government. A mandate should clearly define powers, mission, areas of responsibility and initial procedures for a successful programme. The decision to include or exclude certain categories of toponyms within the scope of the national authority needs to be clearly indicated.

A mandate should allow a names authority to: a Approve or change names, individually or in groups, together with their applications, according to prescribed policies and procedures adopted by the names authority; b Promulgate these official names and their applications for official and public use; c Publish rules to be followed by cartographers and publishers concerning the choice, spelling and application of geographical names. Continuing status There is a continuing need for an authority to deal with the dynamics of geographical nomenclature. Continuous status for a national names authority is not only important but also critical because the naming process is an ongoing one.

Names are subject to many of the same influences that affect other aspects of language and culture. This is particularly true in multilingual areas and in areas of modern and commercial development, where cultural changes are occurring at a rapid pace. Named features might change in extent or nature depending on natural, cultural or administrative conditions. Keeping up with changes and linguistic conflicts is very important. This holds true in many countries for minor civil divisions towns, counties, boroughs. In cases of entities such as administrative areas, streets, roads, buildings and dams, the names are frequently determined by the responsible government or maintenance organization and are generally recognized as official.

Sometimes, the mandate of a geographical names authority is limited to the standardization of the names of natural features and minor populated places. A national Government may standardize geographical names in any one of several ways. Such a body, or coordinated group of bodies, is thought to provide the best opportunity for a balanced, efficient and successful programme. Although there is no recent synopsis, country reports to the United Nations Conferences on the Standardization of Geographical Names provide this type of information.

Authority structure The organization of geographical names authorities varies from country to country. Most can be classified under one of three kinds of government structures: 1. Central names office 2. National names committee board, council, commission, etc. Decentralized names authority The details can differ considerably depending on how each was internally organized with regard to principles, policies and procedures see figure III.

A names authority should be organized in such a way as to offer the best chance for success in carrying out a national standardization programme at reasonable cost in time and money. As countries differ in structure, size, number of languages in use and names complexity, national names authorities throughout the world also differ. The selection of an organizational structure is an important step in the process of creating a national geographical names authority.

Central names office In some countries, the authority is solely vested in an existing government office. It is possible, and sometimes prudent, for a national Government to officially assign this responsibility to a single agency, such as one involved with mapping, or to a separate autonomous 16 United Nations publication, Sales No. Whatever approach is taken, standardizing geographical names and standardization in general are inherently a task of government. A central office authority is the simplest form of organization.

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If located within a national mapping organization, for example, a names office can be effective because map usage plays a major role in names standardization. A university or college providing assistance to the names office, and under the authority of the national Government, is helpful in multilingual countries.

It can also provide the expertise of professional geographers, historians and linguists in names research and publication. The central office professional staff is normally responsible for determining decisions, policies and procedures for delegated categories of names. However, even in this simple structure, it is preferable for more than one person to be involved with the actual decision- making, and for final decisions to be signed off by a higher authority for example, the head of a department.

There are disadvantages when an authority is located in an agency or single office. Persons in other government offices and other users of official names might be concerned that the assigned office will introduce unacceptable preferences and agency prejudices into the selection of official names.

There is also a risk that scholars at an associated university might become more involved with theoretical issues than with the practical goal of standardizing large numbers of names. In one variation of a single names office, two or more departments are given the responsibility for standardizing particular categories of names. Named geographical entities can be grouped into several categories. National names committee In some countries, the national Government has established a geographical names committee with provision for adequate staff support. In this structure, authority and decisions rest with a committee, consisting of persons representing various key government offices and, perhaps, non-governmental experts.

Such a committee normally meets periodically, thus requiring the support of a small staff that keeps the committee informed of name issues and problems requiring formal action. It also performs background research, undertakes administrative duties and is responsible for publications relating to committee actions. The committee system introduces more complexity into a names authority. It reduces or eliminates suspicion of bias and provides an opportunity for major users of toponyms to integrate their needs into the process.

Representation from key agencies and organizations goes a long way towards eliminating concerns about the validity of the work being done by a names authority. As committees might meet infrequently, every effort should be made to avoid delay in the decision-making process, as this could adversely affect mapping and other publishing programmes. On the other hand, decisions must be based on adequate information and sufficient analysis to eliminate the need for subsequent reconsideration. Committee membership Membership of a names committee could, for example, consist of: a Representatives of national government offices and departments; b Representatives of regional governments; c Representatives from cultural or language groups; d Non-governmental experts such as advisors from universities, scientific academies or publishers.

Whatever the make-up of a names committee, membership should include representation from national agencies and offices that require nationally standardized names. The national mapping agency definitely should be involved because it publishes official maps with official names for all to use.

United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names

Other government representation may include archives, libraries, cultural affairs, parks and natural resources, agriculture, commerce, communications, urban and rural planning, transportation, defense, and postal and publishing services. A number of these activities may fall under a single department and, for example, one committee person may represent several agencies. Government offices with representation on a names committee whose work is ongoing are more likely to comply with its policies and decisions. Committee members need not be restricted to those with a scholarly knowledge of toponymy.

Their job is to consider practical considerations important in names standardization. Pertinent information is normally provided to them by the staff and by expert members or special advisory experts. Persons holding key or senior management positions in government could be included, as they are effective in making decisions and formulating standardization policies. They also are in a position to ensure conformity with the actions of a names authority within their own organizations. Committee chairperson Consideration should be given to the position of chairperson of the committee—to how the position is filled and the term of office.

If one of the existing members is to take on this role, a clear policy should be put in place as to whether in this situation an election is required, or whether various departments will rotate in providing the chairperson of the committee. A chairperson from outside government could be appointed to avoid possible biases of government departments.

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Similarly, clear guidelines should be established as to the term of office of a committee chairperson and as to whether or not more than one term can be served consecutively. Committee size The size of a names committee needs to be given careful consideration. It should be large enough to allow representation from key organizations, but small enough to function efficiently.

The optimal number of voting members for most working committees appears to be somewhere between 6 and 18 persons, not counting non-voting staff involvement. Costs for running the committee might be a consideration in determining the committee size. Frequency of meetings A names committee may meet on a regular or an irregular basis, depending on its decision-making workload and its secretariat support. In the beginning, it may be necessary for the committee to meet often to develop policies and procedures; but once a programme is established with a good working staff, the need to meet frequently will be less urgent.

In some countries, the national geographical names committee meets monthly and in others, from one to four times a year, as necessary, to deal with policy matters and to make decisions on names. Its staff, and in some cases special working subcommittees, are given responsibility for carrying out the standardization programme and the daily administrative, processing and publication work. These major civil divisions may organize names authorities following the same patterns suggested here for national authorities, that is to say, through a central names office or names committee within their own jurisdiction.

Legistics - Geographical names

However, decisions made through decentralized names authorities need national processing for universal acceptance. A small staff in the national Government can maintain a catalogue or database of approved names and make them available for national and international use. With a decentralized structure, the national Government will likely require a mechanism to deal with the naming of features outside an individual jurisdiction, such as those in national government areas for example, parks and forests , and in cases where the named features cross boundaries between jurisdictions.

It is prudent to minimize the differences in approach among the various jurisdictions. Figure IV. Once a decision to establish a programme is made, and with consideration of the requirements outlined in chapter III, it is time to plan the organization and the means to achieve objectives. A national standardization activity need not be complicated or expensive, provided there is agreement concerning the organizational and instrumental components of the task. It is important that decisions on names be objective and based on formalized rules. Names standardization rules referred to as principles, policies and procedures are best established, with the help of a knowledgeable staff, when a committee is first organized.

These rules can be modified over time, as needed and as experience is gained. As a starting point, it might be helpful to review those rules and guidelines established by other countries. It is important to keep in mind that the prime objective is standardization and not necessarily the in-depth study of geographical names, a field best left to university scholars. Of course, there are occasions when background research is necessary to resolve particular name problems or to refine rules.

In this respect, it should be kept in mind that many names of major features might already enjoy a degree of written uniformity and that it is normally prudent to give official recognition to such names as present no problem. The operation of effective decision-making on names for official standardization purposes depends more on general rules and less on individual names research.

Standardization progammes require a clear statement of purpose. Agreement on fundamental issues by interested parties is essential at the planning stage. The following questions should be considered and answered at the outset: 1. What kind of names authority is best suited for the internal structure of the national Government and the political organization of the country?

What status and resources will be available for staff support to the authority and where in government will the staff reside? What kinds of names of features will be under the purview of the national authority? What characteristics or attributes associated with toponyms will be standardized? How will the costs of operation and promulgation of official names be covered? A small core of persons who are aware of the practical needs of the programme can work out a plan of organization, procedures and even preliminary principles and policies for national standardization.

The cost of a names authority and a standardization programme need not be great. It should decrease overall costs in government by centralizing an activity performed in several offices. It is important to balance the time and money spent for national standardization with potential savings derived from the programme. Leadership A key person in any organization is the one responsible for directing its mission and leading a successful programme.

Administrative leadership of a director or executive secretary is required either for a central names office or for a national names committee. A central names office organized within the government of a country needs only the simplest form of administrative organization to do its work. The director is the main leader of the staff and programme and often is responsible for the success or failure of this effort. The person chosen for the job should have both administrative and technical abilities. The position requires efficient and sensitive management skills, and the person should be sensitive to language and cultural issues, as well as to the interests and special names-related problems of government agencies, private organizations and local citizens groups.

A national names committee centralized or decentralized in nature generally has an elected or appointed chairperson or president. That person runs the committee in compliance with established policies and may also serve as spokesperson in the public arena. The role of chairperson, however, is frequently undertaken by someone who has a full-time job performing another activity. It is generally necessary for the chairperson to rely on the director or executive secretary for administrative and operational leadership. In the case of a national names committee, the responsibilities of the director are similar to those described above for a central names office, but are performed in consultation with, or under the immediate direction of, the committee chairperson.

Every governmental or institutional body needs both administrative and technical staff to carry out its mission. Although some technical and professional help may be available from knowledgeable public and university volunteers, it seems practical for a national Government to provide some, if not all, technical and administrative support. The effectiveness of any programme in government depends on the flow of information. It is no less true for a names office. A geographical names authority, in the form of a central names office, a national names committee, or a decentralized authority, cannot function unless the everyday business of the programme is accomplished.

Geographical names require investigation and processing, letters need to be written, records need to be kept and official publications dealing with decisions and policies need to be prepared. A small professional staff headed by a director or executive secretary can do this work. It is possible to have a staff office located within an existing organization interested in supporting the programme, which could be the national mapping agency or office of natural resources.

Such an established organization could easily provide office space, and technical and administrative assistance for a small names staff. Staff support for a central names office and for a national names committee are much the same. In the latter case, the staff is responsible for providing the committee with all necessary information to allow good decision-making. A decentralized authority allows most decisions to be made locally by appropriate major civil divisions, with a small national government staff coordinating activities and dealing with issues that lie outside the authority of those divisions.

Staff responsibilities Any type of national names authority depends on accurate information to function effectively. Obtaining information is the job of a professional staff. Such information is gathered from a variety of sources, then analysed and processed for appropriate treatment. The information is obtained from: a Document research and investigation; b Scholars appointed to advise the names authority; c Support committees; d Field investigations; e Local citizens; f State, regional and local names offices.

The staff also provides administrative service, handles correspondence and answers enquiries, prepares documentation on names, maintains paper and computer records, keeps files of decisions made, and prepares reports and publications, all under the supervision of a director. The amount of work needed for standardization activities is a constant. Because of varying conditions in different countries, many factors enter into the equation, making it difficult to suggest staff size. Including the director and staff personnel, the number ranges between 4 and Staff size for a single authority can also vary over time, depending on the workload, which might be large in the beginning and less demanding later when maintenance is the main activity.

Staff qualifications A support staff includes those with administrative functions and professionally qualified people. Also, it is important to have staff with competence in using computers in order to facilitate the office work and detailed information-handling undertaken. Professional staff members are responsible for the collection, researching, and analysis of toponymic information and should have training or education adequate to deal with geographical, cartographic and linguistic problems. These needs will vary, depending on the toponymic environment found in each country: a Professional geographers and cartographers, with an understanding of geographical name phenomena, are necessary.

U.S. Board on Geographic Names

They need to have an understanding of geographical features and terminology, and be capable of correctly identifying entities for example, landscape features on maps of different scales and accuracy; b Personnel familiar with historical research methodology are useful for identifying and evaluating historical names usage found in documents; c In multilingual countries, one or more persons sensitive to cultural issues are needed to deal with linguistic concepts and questions.

Knowledge of phonetic systems, grammatical structures and orthography of relevant languages is a key requirement for understanding and recording name information. In the beginning, not every staff member needs to be expert in any of these areas. Experience can be gained by working with professionals. Most important is an interest in the standardization process and the ability to work as a team member so as to give a country the best and fairest names programme possible.

The need for establishing one or more of these committees is normally determined by the national authority. Advisory committees can be part of the standardization process. They are useful as long as they demonstrate cooperation and compliance with the policies and practices of the national authority. Support committees, with local involvement, can be sensitive to local situations important in the determination of official names.

In the beginning, it might be best, however, to delay their organization—at least until the national authority has developed initial guiding principles, policies and procedures and become fully operational. These committees may consist of key persons in local or provincial government; teachers and professors from area schools, colleges and universities; and community leaders. Committee membership may be voluntary or constitute part of regional government activity. Besides investigating and reporting on local problems, regional and local committees are able to investigate and collect toponymic information for the national programme and recommend policies affecting the national standardization of names.

Overall, they are able to reduce the investigative and research costs of a names standardization programme. Special toponymic experts For advice, some national authorities use volunteer scholars expert in disciplines pertinent to names standardization. For example, an expert might possess knowledge of a particular minority language or be able to make professional recommendations on specific kinds of issues, such as those associated with urban and administrative toponymy, or names related to desert, coastal, mountain or underwater features.

Special advisors may be permanent or temporary, depending on the nature of the work and the length of time needed for completion of the task. Different users have different reference requirements. It would be ideal to collect and standardize the written forms of all geographical names found in written and spoken use throughout the country. However, a beginning programme should not overextend its abilities.

However, one way to organize this cost-effectively would be to adopt, as official, names found on a quality map series. These map-series names can then be corrected or added to over time. There is always a need to have standard names of major and minor features for activities ranging from large-scale mapping or charting to effective maintenance of national, regional and local government records. In the beginning, a standardization programme requires a practical approach, one where priorities are established to meet immediate and important national needs.

Establishing guiding principles, policies and procedures Major programmes with specific goals normally follow formalized courses of action. In the case of toponymic standardization, these formalized processes are sometimes divided into principles, policies and procedures. Principles constitute the fundamental doctrines used for guiding the national standardization, encompassing general adherence to local usage, use of a particular script, and areas of responsibility. Policies are rules covering specific details devised to deal with problems and the means of implementing standardization.

Formalized policies may include rules covering name changes, treatment of derogatory names, names commemorating living persons, name duplication, and the use of minority-language names. Principles are seldom changed but policies may be changed over time to meet new situations or to address unforeseen events. Procedures deal with methods for carrying out names standardization according to established principles and policies.

As one of its first activities following organization, a names authority needs to formulate and adopt tentative guiding principles, policies and procedures for the national standardization of geographical names. Principles, policies and procedures should address, for example: a Rules for writing official standard names; b General aspects of acceptance and treatment of names in multilingual areas; c Dealing with the possibility of there being more than one name for a geographical entity; d Treatment of minority-language names; e Treatment of names derived from unwritten languages; f Clarification of the precise extent of the application of each name to a feature, including the naming of the whole and parts of major features; g Treatment of names established by legislation; h Treatment of names that are questioned or contested.

It is suggested that the principles and policies formulated for national standardization purposes be kept as practical and objective as possible. They should contain provisions that guard against interference from special interest groups and against political pressure. Decisions should not be arbitrary, nor based on personal opinions of correctness and appropriateness. It is also desirable for operating rules to be conservative with regard to changing names.

In such cases, there should be assurance that each name change reflects local usage or preference and that changing a name is in the best interests of national standardization. Hasty decisions often lead to reversals in the future. The names authority should ensure that adequate publicity is given not only to its existence, organization and mission but also to its principles, policies and procedures for achieving national standardization. This includes informing persons in government offices, private organizations and other groups of the procedures to be followed when submitting to the authority: reports on controversial or inconsistently used names, proposals for naming unnamed features, and changes to existing names.

This is done by publishing the rules for all to see and by creating standard forms for general use. These documents make clear the kind of information that is needed in order for proposals to be processed for submission to the names authority. Decision factors When dealing with names problems, members of a names authority are guided by established principles, policies and procedures. Problems, however, exist in a variety of forms and gradations.

They occur when there are different perspectives on the name itself, on its spelling or its written form, or on its application to a specific feature. Inconsistencies and ambiguity occur, for example, when local citizens use different names for the same feature, when locally used names differ from those used on maps or in other documents and records, and when different names for the same entity are used in maps and other records. Policies in existence at any point in time are unlikely to cover all individual situations. As particular problems arise, it may be possible to fine-tune policies or establish new ones to meet new, different or evolving situations.

Decision-making will always require judgement and documented reasons for the judgement. A few factors that could affect policies and name decisions are: a Population density and degree of local usage; b Number of years during which a local name has been used; c The kinds of official maps and documents in use and the effect thereon if a name was to be changed. Social, cultural, ethnic and political factors frequently enter into naming situations and require special consideration.

Many of these can be addressed by the principles and policies of the names authority. However, there often is a human factor that cannot be handled completely by rules. Invariably, situations occur where people involved with the names decision process view problems differently. Discussion of involved issues could help narrow the divergence of opinion. Nevertheless, there are times when each member of the staff or committee must compromise on his or her own opinion for the greater benefit of the programme.

Basic considerations A newly organized authority needs to consider two basic questions when establishing official standard names. The first concerns the basis on which names are selected for standardization. It is possible, for example, to choose names arbitrarily without reference to existing usage.

However, this procedure is not recommended because it would introduce conflict and confusion into the naming process by creating two naming systems in a country: one based on local usage and the other on government usage. It is good policy to integrate administrative and academic judgements with the preferences of local people.

The second question relates to the meaning and purpose of names standardization. Univocity, the principle whereby one standard name is assigned to each geographical entity place, feature or area at any point in time, represents the ideal toponymic standardization.

Every effort should be made to adhere to that principle so as to avoid ambiguity. In those cases, the names authority could: a Choose only one name, based on specific criteria, as the official form; b Recognize and make available for use in other languages, one or more names that is to say allonyms—Glossary, , not equal to the official form in rank, but chosen for use in specified contexts; or c Choose two or more forms as official on an equal basis multiple names would thus most likely be shown on maps where scale permitted see figures V and VI.

A national authority may adopt more than one official name for a geographical entity. It is suggested, however, that one of the names be recommended for international usage. Multiple names for a place or feature shown on a map by parenthesizing one of the names Reprinted by permission of the Ordnance Survey of Great Britain. For practical purposes, geographical names have been divided into four categories:.

This is the national and most authoritative repository of official Canadian geographical names, including those authorized by the provinces and territories. This is a document produced by the GNBC and available for consultation on its web site, under Gazetteers and publications. Its Appendix 3 provides useful and still current guidelines on the writing and translation of geographical names.

This has traditionally been the most authoritative source, but since it is in paper form, it is not as up to date as the first three. See in particular Principles 8, 9 and 12, and Appendices 3 and 5. The information regarding bilingual official names Principle 1, Note 2 may not be up to date. Chapter 15 provides extensive information on the subject. The information regarding bilingual official names This glossary, produced jointly by the CPCGN and the Translation Bureau, provides bilingual versions of generics explained under Geographical features , below.

Most geographical entities in Canada have only one official name.

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However, the treatment of that name in a document depends on whether the entity is an inhabited place or a geographical feature. Inhabited places - with the exception of those listed in Canada's Geographical Names Approved in English and French and dealt with in part 2 of this article - have only one official name: the name adopted by the provincial or federal authority in whose jurisdiction it is located. Therefore, the following names should be used in the English version of a legislative text:.

Admittedly, this represents a departure from long-standing drafting practice and from usage among the general public, and therefore there may be a psychological barrier to overcome in following the rule. Termium and The Canadian Style recommend " city " in reference to the geographical entity and " City " in reference to the corporate entity. The names of geographical features consist of a generic component, which identifies the type of feature, and a specific component, which is the proper name of the feature.

In "Buck Lake", for example, "Lake" is the generic and "Buck" is the specific. Under the federal policy, it is permissible to translate the generic component of the name, but the specific component must always be identical to the one that appears in the Canadian Geographical Names Data Base or the Gazetteer of Canada. It should be consulted first, since it is likely to contain the most up-to-date information.