Friday, May 15, 2020

Surname origins by Professor Turi King

Thursday, May 14, 2020

How medieval is your name, and why should computer science care?


Sara Uckelman speaks about Digital Humanities, Medieval History, and Lexicography
Despite not being a great fan of hermeneutics, Dr Sara Uckelman (Durham University) kindly agreed to visit our department in February 2020 as part of the DHH lecture series to introduce her own digital history project and explain the pitfalls she encountered. She is a medievalist and logician, assistant professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Durham, UK, and has been involved in numerous collaborative digital and historical projects.
Her lecture was two for the price of one, really – the first part, interesting enough in its own right, covered her efforts to build an online Dictionary of Medieval names from European Sourcesa largely volunteer-run effort to collate and document personal names found across the continent between 500 and 1600 CE, showing their meanings, variants, evolution over time, and the sources in which they are found. The target audience of such a dictionary is diverse, ranging from historians to re-enactors to parents seeking a name for their child. To fulfil the requirements of this diverse group of potential recipients, the dictionary must be simple and intuitive enough to understand on a first visit. At the same time, the content has to be rigorously checked and documented to ensure its usefulness as a source. Previous versions are kept and all contributors credited, both for version control and to show the evolution of the website itself – thereby documenting the provenance of the data.
However, the talk was not simply an introduction to an interesting project on documenting intangible heritage – it also demonstrated the relevance to the wider field of Digital History, and how the specific challenges to be addressed and overcome in its design and implementation were shared among most, if not all, current digital history projects.
The most central question, which a lot of DH shies away from addressing or even admitting, that she made explicit is “what’s in it for the computer scientists?” Many “interdisciplinary” projects focus on introducing or inventing digital tools for the humanities, which include novel ways to gather, process, evaluate and display their data. For programmers and computer scientists, however, these are often standard user applications rather than innovative research opportunities. This is compounded by the lack of a common vocabulary, including divergent opinions on what constitutes “big data”.
Dr Uckelman offered a few pragmatic ideas for solving this issue, such as fostering a willingness to pay IT consultants for projects rather than expecting it to be research for them.  Finally, she addressed the C²DH audience with the inverse question: what can the humanities contribute to computer science research in return?
Unfortunately, the combined minds of C²DH could not come up with the ultimate solution – but the discussion was fruitful, and demonstrated that the problem of giving computer scientists fruitful avenues of research through the humanities is not unique to our department, but a more general challenge to be addressed by the DH community worldwide.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Galloway Place-Names database launched


Last night (12th May), the ‘Place-Names of the Galloway Glens: The Language of the landscape’ online seminar took place, with more than 80 people from across the world ‘dialling in’ to take part in an event led by the University of Glasgow’s Professor Thomas Clancy and the Galloway Glens Place-Names Officer Gilbert Márkus about the ongoing project to study local place-names, how they are formed and what they can tell us about our landscape.

This project is a partnership between the University of Glasgow and the Galloway Glens Landscape Partnership Scheme. The Galloway Glens Scheme is a suite of projects being undertaken in the Ken/Dee Valley in Dumfries & Galloway, in Scotland’s first UNESCO Biosphere, supported by funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
For more than a year, Gilbert Markus has been working to catalogue place-names across seven parishes right in the heart of Galloway: Carsphairn, Dalry, Balmaclellan, Kells, Parton, Crossmichael and Balmaghie. The online seminar marked the unveiling of an online place-names database, which allows users to analyse and search the findings of Gilbert’s work, exploring the origin of names, the languages involved, probable age of names and what the names are trying to tell us about the landscape. More than 2,500 place names have been analysed and logged on the database.
The database is now available to all: HERE
After the event, and following the launch of the new database, Professor Thomas Clancy from the University of Glasgow who is overseeing the project, said:
“It is fantastic to be able to bring this work to the public now. Our partnership with the Galloway Glens Landscape Partnership has brought systematic modern place-name survey to south-west Scotland for the first time, and the work of Gilbert, and of our Technical Officer Brian Aitken, have brought it into the public domain in this up-to-date and user-friendly medium. This is such a rich and interesting part of the world, in its ‘intangible heritage’ as well as the beauty of its landscape, and we hope this resource will help people to explore that—even in lockdown!”
The lead place-names researcher, Gilbert Márkus, said:
“I’m really looking forward to getting feedback from users of the database. It isn’t just a collection of names and interpretations. It is marked up so that people can analyse the data in all kinds of interesting ways, seeing clusters and patterns in the distributions for example, which will offer new insights.  The launch is just the beginning.”
The Galloway Glens Project Officer, Nick Chisholm, added:
We are indebted to the hard work of our project partners and this has been epitomised by the input of Professor Thomas Clancy and Gilbert Márkus. We had intended to launch the place names website at a public gathering in the area but clearly this was not possible. Thomas & Gilbert gamely stepped forward and offered to launch the database in an online seminar. We are also very grateful to the audience at last night’s event, with a huge variety of questions and comments on the night. Please do visit the new database and look into the history of our place-names, they are surprising, diverse and give us a real snapshot of our landscape centuries ago.
Colin Mackenzie, a local place-names enthusiast who runs the Dumfries & Galloway Place-Names social media accounts (Twitter: @dgplacenames, web: has had a chance to use the new database. Colin said:
This fantastic website lets you read the landscape of the Galloway glens and explore the hidden histories encoded in its place-names. The website is intuitive and easy to use. You can search it in various different ways, such as by language or landscape feature, but there’s great fun and insight to be had just by browsing the map and selecting place-names at random. I’d recommend having a look at Thundery Knowes and Eldrick as examples of the different and surprising ways the landscape was used and thought about in the past.
The website contains a treasure-trove of information about the seven parishes it covers. But because place-names were coined using a fairly limited vocabulary, it can be used to research place-names outwith this area too. It’s an incredible resource for the region and I’m looking forward to exploring it more!
Caroline Clark, Director, Scotland of The National Lottery Heritage Fund, which is funding the Galloway Glens Scheme, added:
“It’s wonderful to see the Galloway Glens project reconnecting people with their outstanding natural landscapes and historic places. This fascinating place-names resource will now enable everyone to explore the words which help unlock the history of their town or village.”

Monday, May 11, 2020

O projektu „Živá jména“

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Víte, kde v Liberci je Wolkerák, Rušička nebo Tajch? Máte i další neoficiální pojmenování, která pro orientaci ve městě používáte?
Zapojte se do projektu Živá jména a doplňte je do interaktivní mapy
Aplikace „Živá jména“ je společným výzkumným projektem Katedry českého jazyka a literatury a Katedry aplikované matematiky Fakulty přírodovědně-humanitní a pedagogické, Technické univerzity v Liberci. Navazuje a rozšiřuje dříve prováděné výzkumy toponym (například Toponyma v krajině, jejich struktura a proměny). Výzkum probíhá ve třech na sebe navazujících fázích:
  1. sběr (podzim 2019 – jaro 2020) – získání maximálního počtu používaných toponym a jejich variant spolu s jejich přibližnou polohou
  2. znalost (předpoklad podzim 2020 – jaro 2021) – šetření mající za cíl ověřit, do jaké míry jsou toponyma sebraná v první fázi mezi obyvateli Liberce známá a používaná
  3. prostorová fixace (předpoklad podzim 2021 – jaro 2022) – šetření mající za cíl zjistit u toponym s vyšší mírou znalosti/používání (např. nad 50 %) jaký konkrétní prostor popisují
Sběr živých jmen má svůj praktický potenciál. Budeme-li vědět, jaké objekty obyvatelé města používají pro svou orientaci, mohou se stát podkladem pro pojmenování nových ulic, zastávek hromadné dopravy, rezidenčních celků, parků i jiných veřejných prostranství. Nemusela by tak vznikat umělá, nepříliš nápaditá jména, jako je například Sídliště / Park Nové Vratislavice, v jehož případě se nabízelo „zavedené“ lidové označení Rušička. Informace o živých jménech lze ale použít také pro doplnění map operačních středisek IZS, historických studií apod.

Cílem výzkumu je získat komplexní představu o skutečně používaných místních a pomístních jménech v Liberci. Výstupem bude prostorová databáze „živých jmen“ vizualizovaná formou interaktivních i statických map. Výsledky výzkumu jsou dostupné na adrese
Za skvělým projektem stojí doktor Václav Lábus z Katedry českého jazyka a literatury a doktor Daniel Vrbík z Katedry aplikované matematiky (Fakulta přírodovědně-humanitní a pedagogická TUL).

Conference "Onomastics & Literature 2020" postponed


Dear O&L members, colleagues and students of Literary Onomastics,
because of the current global COVID-19 pandemic, we have decided to postpone our O&L Conference to October 2021. The conference will be held in Cagliari as planned this year and the topics tackled will be the same. In any event, we will inform you about further updates.
O&L, Editorial Board
For further information, please contact also:
Maria Giovanna Arcamone:
Giorgio Sale:

Submit your papers: Revista Onomástica desde América Latina (2021)


Revista Onomástica desde América Latina (Onomastics from Latin America) is a semiannual publication dedicated to the promotion and dissemination of onomastic research at national and international level.
The journal is receiving articles in English, Portuguese and Spanish.
Articles received from April 2020 to November 2020 will be evaluated for number 3, with publication scheduled for the first half of 2021.
Those submitted from December 2020 to June 2021 will be evaluated for number 4 of the journal, with publication scheduled for the second half of 2021.
There is more information about the journal in the attached archive and on the journal’s website accessible by the link.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Toponyms describe Scandinavia of the Iron and Viking Ages

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Every now and then, researchers are lucky enough to experience a Eureka moment — when a series of facts suddenly crystallize into a an entirely new pattern. That’s exactly what happened to Birgit Maixner from the NTNU University Museum when she began looking at artefacts and place names.

Linguists believe that place names ending in -heim or -hem are among the oldest in Scandinavia, and are primarily dated to the Roman Iron Age (ca. 0 AD to 400 AD) and the Migration Period (ca. 400-550 AD).

Researchers have known that the name Sæheimr has been linked to centres of power. The sagas tell of two Norwegian royal manors named Sæheimr. One was in Alver in western Norway – at the place today known as Seim – and the other in Sem in Tønsberg, in eastern Norway.

“Still, no one had done a more detailed survey of the places with names derived from Sæheimr to see if the name had a meaning beyond geography”, Maixner explains.

To test her theory, Maixner assembled Sæheimr variants from all over Scandinavia. She found 54 names in total – from Ribe in southern Denmark to Grong in central Norway. The name was most prevalent in Norway, and all the names – except one – are in use today. Maixner then checked to see if there were archaeological records from these places.

“I discovered that many Sæheimr sites were located near well-known pivotal locations from the Iron Age, or centres with political, administrative and religious functions,” Maixner said.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Emma Heywood is the winner of the Society for Name Studies in Britain and Ireland' Essay Prize