Sofia Evemalm, Theory and practice in the coining and transmission of place-names : a study of the Norse and Gaelic anthropo-toponyms of Lewis

Sofia Evemalm, Theory and practice in the coining and transmission of place-names : a study of the Norse and Gaelic anthropo-toponyms of Lewis, Thèse de doctorat soutenue en 2018 (Université de Glasgow)

Résumé/abstract :

The study of place-names containing personal names is a neglected field in onomastics, despite being of great significance in various areas of name-studies. At its core, this thesis will begin to bridge the gap between the study of place-names and personal names, both practically and theoretically. The first step is to introduce a formally accepted terminology for the study of these names. Here, the term used to describe a place-name containing a personal name is anthropo-toponym. The acknowledgement of such a term would aid and indeed encourage future studies of anthropo-toponyms, both in Scotland and elsewhere. The study is approached through a close investigation of name material from the Isle of Lewis. The toponyms in question are characterised by two main linguistic layers, Old Norse and Scottish Gaelic, both of which have been included here. Although this material is partially an exercise in investigating the characteristics and properties of anthropo-toponyms, it also sheds considerable light on the social and linguistic history of Lewis place-names. Additionally, the study draws on a considerable amount of comparative evidence. This is primarily collected from the comprehensive survey of The Place-Names of Fife by Simon Taylor with Gilbert Márkus (2006-12). However, when studying the Norse dimension further, material from Landnámabók, one of the key sources for the medieval settlement of Iceland, has also been included. One of the most significant proposals made in this thesis is the concept of using a variant of the name-semantic approach, previously discussed by Peder Gammeltoft (2001a) in a Scottish context. At its core, this means that rather than emphasising the etymology of individual place-name elements, the motivation for coining is emphasised. It will become evident that using this approach makes it possible to view anthropo-toponyms in a different light. Through this method, we find that there is considerable variety to be found within the name-material, particularly when we look at the social and cognitive factors at play when place-names are coined and transmitted. Place-names that, on the surface appear to be relatively homogenous, can prove to be the opposite. For example, names such as Creagan Iain Ruaidh, Geodha Bean, Mhurchaidh, Stac Dhomhnuill Chaim and Tigh Mhaoldònuich, which are all coined in a comparable social Gaelic setting in the early modern period, appear to represent motivations relating to a birth, a drowning, the abode of a notorious outlaw, and the temporary hideout of a sheep thief respectively. By emphasising these micro-narratives, it is possible to shed light on the name material from a new perspective and to provide a greater understanding of the process of coining place-names.

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