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New web survey to map everyday placenames

16 July 2010

Everyday placenames like 'The Midlands', 'city centre' and 'the East End' are in common use but have no precisely agreed boundary. These vernacular place names cause a problem when people use them to find information on the web because they cannot be pinned down to any particular location.

Now, researchers at Cardiff University, together with the Ordnance Survey, have launched a web survey to tackle this problem. The survey, at, will compile knowledge of the informal place names in Great Britain, so that future information systems will be able to understand where they refer to. Benefits could include emergency services being directed quickly to the right destination, and online customers of travel agencies easily explaining where they want to go.

Web-based navigation and mapping systems rely on catalogues of place names, or gazetteers, which associate place name names with map coordinates. Gazetteers are usually based on the names found on published maps but do not contain the vernacular names that people often use when talking about places.

Christopher Jones, Professor of Geographical Information Systems at the School of Computer Science and Informatics, Cardiff University is leading the project. The survey people across Great Britain to contribute vernacular place names, along with their location, given by a postcode or an area on a map. The newly generated data sets will result in information systems with a better understanding of geographical language.

"If a lot of people contribute a location for the same vernacular place names we can generate statistical models that capture the variation in our perceptions of places and allow us to create representations of their location," says Dr. Florian Twaroch a research associate in the School of Computer Science and Informatics.


For additional information or a sample copy, contact:

Dr. Florian Twaroch

School of Computer Science

Cardiff University

5, The Parade .

CF24 3AA



Phone: 02920 87 6058

Stephen Rouse,

Public Relations Office,

Cardiff University.

029 2087 5596


Cardiff University

Cardiff University is recognised in independent government assessments as one of Britain’s leading teaching and research universities and is a member of the Russell Group of the UK’s most research intensive universities. Among its academic staff are two Nobel Laureates, including the winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize for Medicine, Professor Sir Martin Evans.

Founded by Royal Charter in 1883, today the University combines impressive modern facilities and a dynamic approach to teaching and research. The University’s breadth of expertise in research and research-led teaching encompasses: the humanities; the natural, physical, health, life and social sciences; engineering and technology; preparation for a wide range of professions; and a longstanding commitment to lifelong learning.

School of Computer Science and Informatics

The School of Computer Science and Informatics in Cardiff University carries out research in a range of areas including high performance and visual computing, health informatics and biodiversity, ambient and pervasive systems and geographical information systems. Research is supported by various sources, including the UK Government (DTI, WDA), Research Councils (BBSRC, EPSRC, PPARC), Europe (EC) and Industry.