Indigenous place names: the cognitive-matrix analysis
Irena S. Khokholova – Liudmila S. Zamorshchikova – Viktoriia V. Filippova
The importance of this study is fueled by the attention the modern language researchers pay to the relationship between man and environment in a bid to identify the cognitive component of language phenomena. The purpose of the study lies in the comprehensive research into the toponyms (place names) of Central Yakutia using the cognitive-matrix modeling method for classifying the place names and identifying the underlying principles of their formation. The key method for studying this problem is the cognitive-matrix analysis of place names coupled with the statistical analysis method, the method of historical and geographic reconstruction, the systemic approach, the descriptive method and the GIS-mapping method. The authors have examined over 300 place names stored in the database of Khangalas Ulus in Central Yakutia.In the course of the study, the authors identified the cognitive-matrix schemas for the names of the places in the studied region. The method of cognitive modelling helped reveal the internal overlapping of the classes of components in the naming of basic geographic toponyms. This in turn led to their ambivalence. This overlapping of basic geographic toponyms (insulonyms, hydronyms, oikonyms, oronyms) has its specifics. The empirical evaluation of the place names in the studied region helped reveal the diachronic development of geographic situations, particular characteristics of landscape, hydrology, soil, vegetation, and wildlife, as well as re-enact historical events and remodel the population patterns across the territory which are related to the natural landscape. Every individual and the society as a whole evaluate the environment from the perspective of the favorable conditions and the location of the geographic objects in terms of farming. The authors discovered the perception of the world as seen by the Yakuts people through the prism of the landscape. The study also revealed the traditional system of orientation in space and the attitude to the surrounding world through the anthropocentric worldview. Man would develop the skills of spatial orientation and subjective assessment gradually, however he would always employ the cognitive “tools” around him, such as metaphor, comparison, transfer of meaning, etc. The cognitive component covers numerous aspects of cultural knowledge accumulated over centuries in this landscape territory through deciphering the semantics of the toponyms, thus revealing the historical modes in which people used to manage natural resources, engage in agriculture, find their direction in space, history and cultural experience in general; and the special attitude to natural objects and sacred places. The materials of this paper can be of great use to language researchers, historians, ethnographers, culture experts, geographers.
Key words: toponyms, place names, geographic objects, landscape, cognitive matrix modeling, cognitive context, worldview, semantics, space, linguistic representations