administrative division for several villages taken together

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susanna76

Senior Member
Romanian
Hi,

I was reading an American's guy book about Romania (Sam R., The Complete Insider's Guide to Romania) and he says that town in Romanian is comuna. It's not. We have another word for towns, and while towns around the world vary in terms of size and other characteristics, they are rural areas. The word the author was using, "comuna" (plural: "comune") designates rural divisions. But how would you translate comune in English? I have been browsing through Wikipedia pages but can't find an answer. I see that in the US there are counties and counties can have townships, but it doesn't look like townships can be a group of villages.

I'm thinking that even if you don't group villages together for administrative purposes in the US and the UK, there should be a name in English for this kind of administrative division in other parts of the world. So which is it?

Thanks!
 
  • susanna76

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    Yes, it is. Does it not exist elsewhere? Rural division would be just that, a rural area made up of a group of villages which instead of being ruled individually have a mayor as a group.
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    I don't know enough about the local government of Norway or Italy, the two countries that come to mind where the local spelling of 'commune' is used as a name of a small unit, to know whether they're anything like what you want. Nothing specific to the UK, such as 'parish' or 'hundred', would seem more generally applicable. Faute de mieux, I'd use 'commune' or the original Romanian spelling.
     

    Kwistax

    Senior Member
    français - Belgique
    So, it's like a Kibboutz in Israel or a kohlkose in ex-Russia...

    We don't have anything like that in western Europe I'm afraid.
    "Une commune" in Belgium is an administrative division, but it has nothing to do with anything rural.
     

    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    I would say "commune" which is the English translation of what they're called in countries such as Italy which have them. It may not correspond exactly to how they're set up in Romania, but I think it would convey the general idea well enough. :(
     

    Einstein

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    I agree with Donny. We can only anglicise these terms without looking for an equivalent in our own country. Italy, for example, has four levels of administration (national, regional, provincial and municipal); how can you translate these into British English, when we have only national, county and borough (as far as I know, it's been a long time!). So we talk about an Italian province and a Canadian province, even though the two are vastly different.
    In Italy the "comune" is the town council (and the town itself as an administrative division).
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    I'm always doubtful about the use of the words commune and community in English, capable as they are of being applied to anything from three hippies in a squat to the whole of the EEC.

    But Kwistax is wrong to say in #5 "We don't have anything like that in western Europe". I live in a commune (French for local authority) which is part of a canton (French equivalent of the "comuna" that Susanna76 is asking about). In Britain I'd call this a rural district, which is English enough to sound familiar, but without capitals acts as a common noun that can easily serve to replace comuna.

    In any event, if this were for use in an academic work, the writer would be well advised to gloss it the first time it's used, and then consistently use either comuna or rural district. My own preference is to translate wherever possible on the principles that:
    • You can't assume that the reader is familiar with the word, and
    • Any text with too great a smattering of untranslated words becomes unreadable.
     

    Kwistax

    Senior Member
    français - Belgique
    I beg to differ from Keith's comment.
    I think a Belgian "commune" share enough similarities with a French "commune" to allow me to gather both concepts in one unique explanation:
    A commune, in France as well as in Belgium is an administrative subdivision, its competences cover the administration of the local territory. In France as in Belgium, a commune is managed by a comitee of magistrates with a mayor at its head. A commune is granted by the central state an autonomy, hence an authority in various fields of action: police, culture, education, land registry, taxes etc…
    In France as is the case in Beglium, the commune is the first administrative level (then province, departement (France), communauté (Belgium), région)
    I really don’t see any link with a presumed rural fonction or nature per se (even if a commune can happen to encompass a rural zone, of course, particularly in France). Paris is also a commune, even if she’s also a departement…
     
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    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    I take Keith's point (post #9) about the word "commune" having hippy connotations in an English context. :eek:

    But the problem I would have with "rural district" is that they were abolished as local government adminstrative units back in 1974 and I suspect the phrase nowadays would be associated just with open countryside dotted with farms and villages. Which I suspect is not what susanna had in mind when she asked her original question. :confused:
     

    susanna76

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    Thank you all. This may be obvious, but somehow I don't get this part: don't France and Belgium have villages? How come the commune, and not the village, is the first administrative level?
     

    Kwistax

    Senior Member
    français - Belgique
    A village has no administrative power in itself. His interests are represented and defended on the communal level.
     

    raumar

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    Some countries, such as France, Belgium and Norway, have a standardized name for the lowest level of local government. There is no difference between rural and urban areas in that respect. This standardized name ("commune" etc) is usually translated as "municipality" in the English-language political science literature.

    Other countries, such as Romania, make a distinction between rural districts and cities. I checked The Oxford Handbook of Local and Regional Democracy in Europe, and found that Romania's three types of local government were translated as "communes", "cities" and "municipalities".

    This Wikipedia article on "Municipality" may also be useful: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Municipality
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    ... a commune is managed by a comitee of magistrates with a mayor at its head…
    (A minor point, but these aren't magistrates in English! A magistrate is a volunteer judge in a court of first instance. You mean councillors or elected members.)

    But look, I was talking about the canton, which in France is a group of communes. In that respect it seems to be like a comuna, so you're wrong to say there's nothing like a comuna in Western Europe.

    And since rural districts no longer exist, that leaves the phrase free for re-use, perhaps.
     
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    susanna76

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    Thank you all. I like the sound of "rural district" and could also vary it with "the comuna administrative unit," explaining when I first introduce the notion that it comprises several villages. Problem solved. Thank you everyone!
     
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