A typology of arguments for and against bilingual place-naming in Aotearoa New Zealand

Nathan John Albury, Lyn Carter

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Naming places is theorised as an activity in heritage whereby a name will index a people’s narrative and history. In postcolonial societies where the colonised and the colonisers share spaces, individual locations can host different sides of history and different cultural significance. To this end, the New Zealand government has pursued bilingual place-naming policy to reflect the heritage of both Māori as the Indigenous people, and Pākehā as the European colonisers. Drawing on quantitative and qualitative data from an attitudinal survey of New Zealand youth about bilingual place-naming as public policy, this paper places under critical review the theoretical and policy assumption that representing heritage is a core public interest vis-à-vis place names. The paper finds that only a minority of the surveyed youth were concerned about indexing heritage, with the majority instead arguing for and against bilingual place-naming on the basis of Aotearoa New Zealand’s contemporary bicultural identity, perceived linguistic challenges and opportunities associated with bilingualism, and a concern for enforcing Indigenous rights legislation. The paper typologises how these youth argued for and against bilingual place-naming with attention to a diversity of evaluative and epistemological starting points when thinking about place names.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)831-842
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 21 Oct 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Bilingual place names
  • language policy
  • Māori
  • New Zealand
  • place-naming theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language


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