Cartographic Examination of French Toponymic Spatial Patterns in the Mississippi River Basin

Reference work entry


Place-names, or toponyms, represent both location and symbolic meaning. In this chapter, we examine how mapping the spatial distribution of toponyms across landscapes can reveal otherwise hidden cultural patterns. This study uses spatial-statistical methods to visualize general spatial patterns of French place-names in the Mississippi River Basin and describes a qualitative historical and cultural analysis of sociopolitical patterns at the more local scale of Minnesota. The resulting maps enable us to better understand how and why French toponymic power changed over time and provide useful insights to the region’s geography and history.


Toponymy Cartography Mississippi River France Integrated methods Map analysis 


  1. Basso, K. H. (1988). Speaking with names. Cultural Anthropology, 3(2), 99–103. Scholar
  2. Coulet du Gard, R., & Western, D. C. (1977). The handbook of French place names in the U.S.A. Newark. Delaware: Edition des Deux Mondes.Google Scholar
  3. Dawson, J. F. (1954). Place names in Colorado: Why 700 communities were so named, 150 of Spanish or Indian origin. Denver: J. F. Dawson Pub. Co.Google Scholar
  4. ESRI Online Documentation Archive. (2014, August 26). ArcGIS Help 10.2, 10.2.1, and 10.2.2. Retrieved from
  5. Fuchs, S. (2015). An integrated approach to Germanic place names in the American Midwest. The Professional Geographer, 67(3), 330–341. Scholar
  6. Goodchild, M. (2004). GIScience, geography, form, and process. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 94, 709–714.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Harris, C. (1990). France in North America. In R. D. Mitchell & P. A. Groves (Eds.), North America: The historical geography of a changing continent (pp. 65–92). Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.Google Scholar
  8. Hartley, A. H. (1980). The expansion of Ojibway and French place-names into the Lake Superior region in the seventeenth century. Names, 28(1), 43–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. L ‘Association des Français du Nord. (2018). L ‘Association des Français du Nord mission statement. Retrieved from Accessed on Jan 15 2018.
  10. Labine, M. (2016). They spoke French: A book about French heritage in Minnesota (1st ed.). Arden Hills: French-American Heritage Foundation.Google Scholar
  11. Lapierre, A. (2000). From French to English: Some observations on patterns of onomastic changes in North America. Names, 48(3–4), 233–242. Scholar
  12. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. (2018, January 18). State of Minnesota approves Lake Calhoun name change to Bde Maka Ska. Retrieved from
  13. Minnesota GeoSpatial Information Office. (2016). Minnesota GeoSpatial Commons [Database].
  14. Minnesota Population Center. (2016). National historical geographic information system (NHGIS): Version 11.0 [database]. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota. Scholar
  15. Rose-Redwood, R., Alderman, D., & Azaryahu, M. (2010). Geographies of toponymic inscription: New directions in critical place-name studies. Progress in Human Geography, 34(4), 453–470.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Tuan, Y. F. (1991). Language and the making of place: A narrative-descriptive approach. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 81(4), 684–696.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. United States Board on Geographic Names. (2016). Domestic names state Gazetteer download files [database].
  18. United States Census Bureau. (2015). American community survey questionnaire archive, 2015 questionnaire. Retrieved from
  19. United States Department of the Interior. (2015, August 28). Change the name of Mount McKinley to Denali (Secretarial order number 3337). Retrieved from Electronic Library of the Interior Policies (ELIPS)
  20. United States Geological Survey. (2016a). ScienceBase-catalog [database].
  21. United States Geological Survey. (2016b). The national map (TNM) download [database].
  22. Upham, W. (2001). Minnesota place names: A geographic encyclopedia (3rd ed.). St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press.Google Scholar
  23. Weinman, J. (2017, November 15). Geographic and style models for historical map alignment and toponym recognition. Paper presented at the 14th IAPR International Conference on Document Analysis and Recognition, Kyoto, Japan.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Geography and Environmental SciencesUniversity of Colorado DenverDenverUSA

Personalised recommendations