Alasdair C. Whyte, Settlement-names and society : analysis of the medieval districts of Forsa and Moloros in the parish of Torosay, Mull

Alasdair C. Whyte, Settlement-names and society : analysis of the medieval districts of Forsa and Moloros in the parish of Torosay, Mull, Thèse de doctorat soutenue en 2017 (Université de Glasgow)

Résumé/abstract :

This is a study of settlement and society in the parish of Torosay on the Inner Hebridean island of Mull, through the earliest known settlement-names of two of its medieval districts: Forsa and Moloros. The earliest settlement-names, 35 in total, were coined in two languages: Gaelic and Old Norse (hereafter abbreviated to ON) (see Abbreviations, below). The settlement-toponymy provides irrefutable evidence that ON-speakers settled locally and named their settlements in ON. In subsequent centuries, long after ON ceased to be spoken locally, these ON settlement-names were perpetuated by local Gaelic-speakers. Many of these ON settlement-names are still used locally and are recorded on modern maps; others have fallen out of use. The same can be said of the earliest settlement-names of Gaelic origin. New etymological analysis of the earliest known forms of these settlement-names, considered alongside local pronunciation where available, forms the basis of this thesis. Much of this analysis challenges previous research. A number of the settlement-names have not hitherto been located or been subject to etymological analysis, no previous study having comprehensively engaged with their earliest forms. The earliest known forms are recorded in fiscal evaluation dating to the final decade of the 15th century and, as such, the settlement-names provide a window on the Late Medieval period. The settlement-names also provide an invaluable insight into settlement and society in the Norse period; i.e. the period in which ON was spoken locally. Norse is employed here as both an adjective, as in the Norse period, and a noun, in reference to speakers of ON. Thus, application is broadly to what is now Scandinavia and contemporary inhabitants thereof, as opposed to the more typical modern application of Norse to Norway and its inhabitants (see OED s.v. Norse). Individual place-name elements employed in ON settlement-names provide an insight into how the local landscape was perceived and utilised agriculturally by these immigrant ON-speakers. In some cases, proposed personal names identify individuals associated with specific settlements. At least one ON settlement-name is likely to provide evidence of the religion of those who coined the name. Syntactic analysis of the Gaelic settlement-names highlights the possibility that some were coined in the Early Medieval period. It also identifies names which are perhaps unlikely to have been coined before the early 10th century. Loan-words borrowed in both directions, i.e. from Gaelic to ON and from ON to Gaelic, are identified and these reveal something of the chronology of individual settlement-names, in addition to providing evidence for language contact. The distribution of ON settlement-names and the fiscal status of settlements bearing ON names can also reveal something of the status of immigrant ON-speakers and the status of local Gaelic-speaking communities. The date of the earliest known forms probably post-dates the period in which these ON names were coined by around six centuries and this clearly allows for significant displacement of settlement-toponymy. However, settlement-names of ON origin apply to both settlements of principal and of relatively low fiscal status and the implication is that there was a significant amount of continuity in settlement-toponymy up to the date of the earliest known fiscal sources. The dearth of contemporary textual sources for the Early Medieval and Norse periods and of local archaeology relating to these periods identifies these settlement-names as invaluable sources of information for contemporary settlement, society and language in the districts of Forsa and Moloros. Part One Chapter 1 sets the research in context in providing geographical, geological, topographical, tenurial, ecclesiastical and fiscal information for the two districts. Chapter 2 comprises a review of previous studies on local settlement-toponymy. Chapter 3 identifies the sources which provide the earliest known forms and outlines the employed methodology. Chapter 4 provides an historical framework and engages with Norse toponymy furth of Mull across Britain and Ireland. Chapter 5 presents discursive analysis addressing the predominant research questions. Chapter 6 presents conclusions. Part Two The place-name survey presents raw spatial data and etymological analysis, where not included in chapter 5, for each of the 35 settlement-names.

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Rédaction (2018, 8 août). Alasdair C. Whyte, Settlement-names and society : analysis of the medieval districts of Forsa and Moloros in the parish of Torosay, Mull. Mondes nordiques et normands médiévaux. Consulté le 13 juin 2024, à l’adresse

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