KNAB.

Greg, who sent me Geonames, followed up with another discovery: KNAB, the Place Names Database of EKI. What is EKI, you ask? Why, Eesti Keele Instituut, of course: the Institute of the Estonian Language. With this knowledge, you will understand that the coverage of the database is especially strong for Estonia and some other regions of the former Soviet Union; you can read about the database here and search it (for non-Estonian placenames) here, and there’s a convenient page of links to other geographical names databases (one of my favorites being Luistxo Fernandez’s GeoNative, a Basque/English website). Enjoy!

Comments

  1. Tim May says:

    Interesting. I’ve long used transliteration.eki.ee for its comparative charts of different transliteration systems.

  2. claudius says:

    Not to mention the wonderful Red Book of the Peoples of the Russian Empire.
    I never could find a printed copy though.

  3. Uhm, my Estonian is rudimentary, but IMHO “Eesti keele instituudis” is the inessive case. According to Kokla, Laanpere et al.’s Estonian-Finnish dictionary, the nominative case is “instituut”. Eesti keele instituut.

  4. This is interesting, but I wonder why the compilers of this and the Geonames site have such a strong urge to use abbreviations, which render it much more difficult to read. Part of the interest in sites like these is seeing, e.g. that New York is Nua-Eabhrac in ga, but what the heck is ga (Gaelic, Galician, Galápagos dialect, Georgian, something they speak in Gabon or Gambia…)? In that case I could guess, both because Eabhrac has a Gaelic look about it and because I had just seen that New Ork is Efrog Newydd in cy, and I could guess that cy was Welsh even if I didn’t know that “newydd” is the Welsh for “new”. But when I see that it is Kanon:no in moh I’m quite unable to guess what moh might be (Mohawk, Moldavian, Mozambican?). Even more familar languages can be confused — if I see pt and pl side by side it’s obvious which is which, but I just see pl by itself I’m not so sure.
    As space is not at a premium on the web, what’s the difficulty in writing all of these in full, in English, Estonian and the local language if they like? Assuming that their data files are stored in an intelligent format it would take a few minutes to fix them all at once with a suitable series of search-and-replace instructions.
    It’s the same problem as with two-letter codes for countries, with the added difficulty that depending which standard you use the same code can mean different things. FL can mean Liechtenstein or it can mean Finland, for example. I once attended an international congress in which a prominent Finnish scientist went around with a badge announcing him as being from Liechtenstein. Who is to know (if they start without preconceptions), whether UK is Ukraine or United Kingdom, or whether BE is Belgium, Bénin or Belarus? If anyone finds all this very easy, maybe they’d like to guess which country once (no longer) used SE as a country code for vehicles on the road.

  5. Panu: Thanks, I made the correction.
    Athel: Good point; at the very least, they could have mouseover explanations for the abbreviations.

  6. marie-lucie says:

    Offhand I would guess that moh means Mohawk, which is still spoken by some Native people in upstate New York and the adjacent Canadian area. Kanon:no would not be based on any version of “New York” but on a native word for the area.

  7. SE is usually Sweden, but I suppose it might be Senegal.

  8. mng, or sdn or sng or blg kind of abbreviations won’t confuse i think
    keele
    language in Mongolian is khel, i see connection!

  9. GeoMNative has one obnxious Eurocentric tropism, that of asuming there is only one valid and native name for a place versus some evil, exotic, invalid, colonialist, imperialist name foisted on it. Maybe that fits the facts in the Basque lands, but it’s ludicrous in places like California, for instance. Every place that was any place had several names in several languages all spoken all over the place in mixed towns. The same is almost certtainly true in the PNW. (Acronym in yo face!)

  10. The two-letter language codes come from ISO 639-1, and the three-letter ones from ISO 639-2. Unfortunately, codes for the languages that aren’t in 639-2 (which subsumes 639-1) are not drawn from ISO 639-3 (the really big list based on the Ethnologue) but are identified by ad hoc four letter codes, so that Gagauz is not ‘gag’ but ‘gagz’.
    Anyhow, here’s their full list in code order. ‘ga’ is Irish (Scottish Gaelic is ‘gd’ and Manx is ‘gv’), ‘moh’ is indeed Mohawk, and ‘mon’ is Mongolian.

  11. Every place that was any place had several names in several languages all spoken all over the place in mixed towns
    On a related note, I was excited by this project for a similar reason. The idea of collecting not just one “official” name for a place, but finding out what various tribes called the places they knew is fascinating because the reasons and stories behind the names will add much to the history of my home.

  12. SE is usually Sweden, but I suppose it might be Senegal
    SE is certainly Sweden in some contexts, but never on the international plate on the back of a car, where it is S.
    SE was used by the Irish Free State (Saorstát Éireann) during the period it was called that (1922 to 1937, if memory serves).

  13. Bathrobe says:

    SE was used by the Irish Free State (Saorstát Éireann) during the period it was called that (1922 to 1937, if memory serves).
    I love the way that Languagehatters treat things from the first half the 20th century as though they happened just last week. Part of the charm of the site! Now if you mentioned that kind of tidbit to your average teenager you’d get a kind of faraway look and… yeah, right, let me put my earbuds back in.

  14. marie-lucie says:

    if you mentioned that kind of tidbit to your average teenager you’d get a kind of faraway look …
    When I was very young and I heard my parents mention things that happened 10 years ago, 20 years ago, etc I would wonder “How can they remember that far back?” Of course if you are 6 years old you can’t remember your whole life, so the idea of remembering something much older than yourself seems unbelievable. People who were middle-aged or older in the 60′s had lived through the 30′s, a period that seemed very far back. Nowadays the 60′s are even further back from us. The “average teen-ager” will get interested later in life, after putting on a few decades.

  15. I love the way that Languagehatters treat things from the first half the 20th century as though they happened just last week.
    I suspect that for many of us at LanguageHat our teenager years are a distant memory. My memory doesn’t go back as far as 1937 (let alone 1922), but it does go back as far as my stamp-collecting days in the 1950s. The reason I learned about the SE is that I once saw and was puzzled by an old SE plate of the wall the office of a colleague at Cambridge. He was Irish, but I couldn’t immediately associate SE with Ireland, and, naturally, thought of Sweden. Incidentally, he had a grandfather born in 1809 — not absolutely impossible if you think about it, but not very common.
    What I like about LanguageHat is that you get people who say things like my Estonian is rudimentary. Calling my Estonian rudimentary would be grotesquely over-praising it. Still, at least I know that it’s similar to Finnish, and that probably puts me ahead of the large bulk of the population.

  16. that probably puts me ahead of the large bulk of the population.
    Not the population of Estonia.
    One advantage of living in Scandinavia is that Finnish translations appear on many objects. Today I learnt that tuorekelmu is the word for plastic wrap that will never tear along the serrated edge of the box.

  17. “if you mentioned that kind of tidbit to your average teenager you’d get a kind of faraway look …”
    Hell, they get that look when you mention the invasion of Iraq or Afghanistan by now.
    “that probably puts me ahead of the large bulk of the population.
    Not the population of Estonia. ”
    Well, half of it anyway.
    “The idea of collecting not just one “official” name for a place, but finding out what various tribes called the places they knew is fascinating because the reasons and stories behind the names will add much to the history of my home. ”
    Stuart, that’s interesting. Two things – isn’t it kind of a jump to imagine that all the Maori everywhere called everyplace all the same name, as if there was some kind of stamp of officialdom in a society with lots of sovereign entities. Secondthng – isn’t a little childlike to just say that the first name on a place is the “proper” name for it – “It’s mine; I had it first!”

  18. Two things – isn’t it kind of a jump to imagine that all the Maori everywhere called everyplace all the same name
    I agree entirely. I actually said in my comment that that is precisely why I’m excited, because the project will turn up lots of different names for the same areas. As for the “first dibs” idea, I don’t think that way either. I like the Māori names because they are more euphonious and carry more meaning. It’s hard to imagine a more spectacularly unimaginative naming system than compass points.

  19. David Marjanović says:

    One advantage of living in Scandinavia is that Finnish translations appear on many objects. Today I learnt that tuorekelmu is the word for plastic wrap that will never tear along the serrated edge of the box.

    Come ooooon. Every European west of the Iron Curtain knows that. It’s written on the box in very large letters!
    Only nerds like me read the fine print, though, and thus know that peanuts are žemėsrieksti in Lithuanian. <meaningful nodding>

  20. I’m sure you meant Latvian. Lithuanian is two words, I believe, žemės riešutas. Both ‘ground nut’.

  21. marie-lucie says:

    In French there are two words, the official arachide which is seen on bottles of peanut oil (and is also the word used in Canada, for instance for beurre d’arachide ‘peanut butter’), and the unofficial word from Mexico, cacahuète (pronounced cacaouette) used for the peanuts themselves (and also for the butter: beurre de cacahuètes). The second word sounds so much nicer, like a children’s word: I even read a children’s story once where a little girl was called Cacaouette.

  22. Its origin, tlālcacahuatl, is ‘earth cacao-bean’; the way they grow is so unusual that most languages pick up that.

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