Then and Now: A Comparative Historical Toponomastics Analysis of Station Names in 2 of Singapore’s Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) Lines

Shaun Tyan Gin LIM, Francesco PERONO CACCIAFOCO*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Public transport is integral to the development of cities. It promotes economic development, mitigates environmental degradation, and fosters a sense of social cohesion. Notwithstanding, one can understand a place’s culture, geography, history, languages, and sociopolitical structures by studying the naming practices in public transport, such as bus routes and train stations, among others. This article studies the naming conventions in Singapore’s Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system, which serves millions of commuters daily, and alludes to the importance of public transport in urban spaces. The paper analyses MRT station names, which can be regarded as toponyms, of the North South and Downtown lines according to two aspects: firstly, by conducting a linguistic analysis of the languages used in naming these MRT stations and, secondly, by applying toponymic classifications from current research in grouping the MRT stations themselves. Ultimately, the study compares the naming practices of Singapore’s oldest and second newest MRT lines using a sociolinguistic and historical toponomastics mixed methods approach, studying the MRT station names based on social categories as well as using historical sources to account for the linguistic and historical meaning of these toponyms. This work is aimed at providing scholars and a general audience with a better understanding of Singapore’s language, culture, and society through the analysis of the naming practices of the MRT station names, unique toponyms in the urban transport of the Lion City.

Original languageEnglish
Article number37
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalUrban Science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 17 Aug 2020


  • Historical Toponomastics
  • Public Transport
  • Singapore
  • Sociolinguistics
  • Toponymy
  • Urban Studies


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