Geographical Names Legislation
All countries within the Norden Division have language laws and regulations on language use, only a few Nordic countries have specific laws on geographical names. Elsewhere in the Norden Division countries, geographical names regulations are either embedded in other, non-name-specific, laws or exist in the form of departmental orders.
This means that the rights, principles and rules for standardization of geographical names vary considerably from country to country in the Norden Division area, although, practically the practices on the standardization of geographical names are relatively uniform within the area.
For more detailed information on the individual Norden Division participants’ legislations on geographical names, please see below.
The guidelines for standardization of geographical names in Denmark have been given in a departmental order of 1978. Standardization of geographical names is settled by recommendation of the Danish Place-Names Commision (Stednavneudvalget) to the Minister of Cultural Affairs.
The Faroe Islands does not have any specific regulations on geographical names. Owing to doubts as to who had authority to authorize geographical names in the Faroes, the Lagman’s administration decided in 2008 that this authority lies with the Lagman who has subsequently delegated it to the Ministry of Cultural Affairs. The Minister of Cultural Affairs in 2009 appointed a committee for Faroese Place Names (Staðarnavnanevndin) and on the 6th of July 2010 signed the regulations for the appointment and how the committee should be appointed.
In Finland, the guidelines of standardization of geographical names are stated in a departmental order, which, however, do not have legal force. The Institute for the Languages of Finland assumes the right and responsibility for providing normative recommendations for geographical names in Finnish and Swedish. The Giellagas Institute at the University of Oulu assumes the the same right and responsibility regarding names in the Saami languages.
The Greenland Home Rule has by law authorized the Place Names Committee of Greenland (Nunat Aqqinik Aalajangiisartut) to authorize geographical names and give guidance to Greenlandic authorities and the public in questions related to geographical names in Greenland.
In Iceland, the issues of standardization of geographical names are mostly dealt with under the Farm Names Act, which sets up rules for the standardization of Icelandic farm names as well as a range of other types of geographical names. Authorization is made on the basis of recommendations of the Icelandic Place-Name Committee.
Geographical names in Norway are standardised and used in accordance with the Place-Names Act (Lov om stadnamn) of 1990 with later amendments. A new paragraph has been passed, leaving the right to the owners to decide on the spelling of their single holdings names. For all other geographical names the bill proposes stronger protection. Up to now the standardization of most geographical names is effected by the Norwegian Mapping Authority (Kartverket).
Since 2000, geographical names in Sweden have been protected under the Swedish Heritage Conservation Act, in which a passage gives instructions on maintaining a proper place-name practice. The act safeguards not only Swedish language geographical names, but also names derived from national minority languages, such as Finnish, Meänkieli and Saami.