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date: 22 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The names of settlements, man-made structures, and natural features all evolved to help human societies to function more efficiently by imposing order on their surroundings. Linguistic analysis of successive strata of name-giving reveals the languages spoken in different areas and at different periods, throwing light on settlement patterns. The study of names in present-day use helps to show how and why names develop. Many names are descriptive, including the majority of those in Britain and continental Europe from Celtic languages such as Breton, British, Cornish, Cumbric, Gaelic, Manx, Pictish, and Welsh, or from Germanic languages such as Old English, Old Norse, and their descendants. Other types include incident names and commemorative names. The repetitive nature of name formations facilitates comparative analysis, but also means that established structures tend to attract others to them, leading to folk etymologies. In other ways too, name evidence offers peculiar challenges, alongside rich rewards.

Keywords: Celtic, commemorative names, Gaelic, Germanic, incident names, Old English, Old Norse, place names, settlement names, settlement patterns

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