Island-names in Melanesia

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Island-names in Melanesia  (1912) 
W.H.R. Rivers, M.A., M.D., F.R.S.
The Geographical Journal, Vol. 39, No. 5 (May, 1912), pp. 458-464

Most of the islands of Melanesia are denoted by at least two different names: one or more, of European origin, given by an early discoverer; another or others, names used or supposed to be used by the natives themselves. A name of European origin is usually given in atlases and charts, and this is generally the name by which an island is known to the outside world if it is known at all. The second kind of name, of native origin, on the other hand, is often that by which an island is known to the officials, missionaries and traders who live on the spot.

The anthropologist--and it is from his point of view that I approach the matter--has to decide which of these two names he will use. He has to mention the names of different places continually, and as he cannot always give two alternatives, he has to fix on one or the other. The natural tendency of the anthropologist, due to his interest in native matters, is to use native names, and this tendency shows itself in anthropological literature. It is, I believe, the general opinion of anthropologists that places should be denoted by native names whenever possible.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923.

The author died in 1922, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 80 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.