Toponymy is the study of the meanings and origins of place names. Although a fascinating exercise in itself, it can also lead to an increased appreciation of a nation's culture and understanding of its history & social development. The challenge for the toponymist in an African country is the diversity of local languages; in Ghana there are about 80 distinct indigenous spoken languages (see Ethnologue).
GoalAt the moment the project is still in the data-collection stage. The obvious question is what to do with the results. If information of sufficient quantity and quality is collected it is hoped that some sort of publication will eventually be possible, but in the meantime an online database on the Ghana Place Names website is being maintained.
ScopeAlthough it would be much easier to limit the task to a particular ethnic group in Ghana, it is the intention to include place names from all regions of Ghana. Initially it was necessary for practical reasons to set a limit to the number of names, so the Survey of Ghana road maps, 1962 (1:500,000), & 1967 (1:400,000) were used to construct a database of about 3400 places. But information about any place name is welcome, and new names will be added to the database.
SourcesAs there is at present no published work which has toponymy as its primary focus for Ghana, the first phase of the project consisted of searching the internet for relevant comments. These can occasionally be found on traditional state or culture websites, aid or tourist organisations websites, and volunteer or visitor blogs. In some cases straight and independent translations of names have been attempted, but these are often uncertain or impossible because place names become corrupted over time.
ParticipationThe project is open to anyone to take part. The help of individuals with either the interest to pursue local research, or the ability to contribute from their existing knowledge is greatly needed. Teachers and students in Ghana schools can make a big contribution because they are bound to have, or have access to, a wide range & depth of local information. Lists of place names and guidelines for research are available. Information can be sent to the project by normal mail, but email communication is much preferred. Submissions are posted on the project website for interest, and so that others may comment.
AcknowledgementsAs information is collected, all sources are being recorded. This is so that it is possible to acknowledge all contributors. For this reason it is important that whenever possible those who send information to the project give not only their own names but also the names of people or documents from which the information was obtained. On request, original contributions can be posted anonymously.