Taking stock

Though, as noted earlier, we will be unable to release the first edition of the Dictionary at the end of this month as originally planned, nevertheless we are continuing to make good progress on the data-collection and -entry side of things. I thought it would be fun to take stock of things as they stand, and put up a few teaser statistics.

There are currently 297 entries ready for publication: Each of these entries includes the etymological derivation of the name; brief notes about any major royalty (kings/queens; emperors/empresses), popes, or saints who bore the name; and any other relevant information concerning the linguistic development of the name, references to secondary literature, or cross-references to other application dictionary entries. 176 of the entries are masculine names, ranging from Adolf to Zdyslav, and the remaining 121 are feminine, ranging from Accorsa to Zoete.

There are 3880 citations distributed over these 295 entries, making an average of just over 13 citations per entry. Of course, the reality is much different: Many of the entries have only a single citation, and a bare handful of entries have hundreds. Such minimal data is already indicative of the larger sample being confirmative of Zipf’s Law; one exciting consequence of the Dictionary is that research concerning empirical matters such as Zipf’s Law will be much easier to undertake as a huge body of data will all be gathered in a single place.

The citations are taken from records from the Czech Republic, Germany, England, France, Italy, Scotland, Spain, and Sweden. The earliest citations are from 779, a handful of masculine names from a Carolingian charter; the latest are from 1600 and are drawn from English parish records. Approximately 1850 citations are from Latin-language records; the remainder are from various vernaculars.

I rather like nice little statistics: Maybe we’ll do updates like this the beginning of every month!

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Onoma 50 Call for Papers: Medieval Multiculturalism: The Evidence from Names

Editors: Dr. Sara L. Uckelman, Dr. Jennifer A. McGowan, Genora Grim, and Nina Shiel.

Many people view the populations of the European Middle Ages as static, with most people never going more than a handful of miles from where they were born, and only those of high status and standing traveling any great distance. One consequence of such a view is the perception of medieval cultures as mono-cultural and consisting of relatively homogeneous peoples. Such a view, however, oversimplifies the complex cultural situation, and one area of evidence against this simplified view comes from records of personal names. The study of personal names can provide surprising insights into the multiculturalism and motility of medieval peoples, especially as this evidence is often overlooked by those who are not linguists. In order to address this oversight and bring together relevant research on the issue of personal names, multiculturalism, and motility in medieval Europe, we are calling for papers for a themed section of the journal Onoma with particular focus on these issues.

The primary scope for the themed section is Europe (western and eastern) from the fall of the Roman empire until the end of the 16th century, though we welcome proposals which cover cultures outside of this geographical area which nevertheless engage with medieval Europe, such as the introduction of Spanish names in the New World, or the influence of Arabic cultures as evidence by their influence on name pools. Topics of interest include (but are not limited to):

  • The names of foreigners recorded in vernacular languages not their own.
  • The evidence of locative bynames for travel and migration.
  • Mixed-language names.
  • Persons with multiple locative bynames.
  • The eclipse of “native” names by “Christian” names during the 11th-12th C.

If you would like to contribute to this themed section of Onoma, please submit a title and abstract by November 1, 2014, to onoma50@dmnes.org. Accepted authors will be informed by November 15, 2014, and the final deadline for completed the articles will be May 31, 2015.

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Bad News, and Good News

After having promised, for some months now, an end-of-September date for the publication of the first edition of the Dictionary, we must unfortunately bring the bad news that we’re pushing back this date to the beginning of 2015.

But the good news is, this delay is because Dr. Sara L. Uckelman, the EiC, has recently accepted the offer of a permanent position at Durham University and so will be using the next two months to pack up her and her family’s lives in Germany and move to England, instead of the much more enjoyable alternative of working on the Dictionary. But rather than put out something that doesn’t meet our exacting standards, just to meet proposed deadlines, we decided it would be better to delay things by a few months in order to ensure the first edition sparkles.

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New Email for the Editor-in-Chief

Brand, spankin’ new, you can now reach the DMNES Editor-in-Chief via eic@dmnes.org.

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“Medieval Multiculturalism: The Evidence From Names”

The editorial staff of the DMNES are pleased to announce that their proposal for a thematic section of the journal Onoma has been accepted. The theme of Onoma 50 will be “Medieval Multiculturalism: The Evidence From Names”:

Many people view the populations of the Middle Ages as relatively static, with most people never going more than a handful of miles from where they were born, and only those of high status and standing traveling any great distance. One consequence of such a view is the perception of medieval cultures as mono-cultural and consisting of relatively homogeneous peoples.

Records of personal names provide a large body of evidence for a more complex cultural situation, contrary to the simplified view outlined above. The study of names can provide surprising insights into the multiculturalism and motility of medieval peoples, especially as this evidence is often overlooked by historians.

Topics of interest include (but are not limited to):

  • The names of foreigners recorded in vernacular languages not their own.
  • The evidence of locative bynames for travel and migration.
  • Mixed-language names.
  • Persons with multiple locative bynames.
  • The eclipse of “native” names by “Christian” names during the 11th-12th C.
  • The evidence from placenames.

Further information about how, what, and when to submit papers for this thematic session will be posted when available.

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Devon: You sure are weird

I love 16th C English parish registers: You can find so many unusual things in them! (“Dennis the Irishemans bastard” still remains one of my favorite). The last couple of days I’ve been working through some from Devon. Devon is in a relatively unique situation in England, nameswise, with its proximity to Cornwall which managed to retain some distinctive names even to the end of the 16th C, despite the English influence. Quite often you can find an unusual name in either county which Withycombe will note as being of Cornish origin, or more common in Devon and Cornwall than in any other place. It’s where I’ve found pre-1600 examples of Melanie (in the form Mellany); forms of the Cornish saint’s name Meliora; Ruby (thus contradicting Withycombe’s claim that this is a modern invention); Rabige (haven’t a clue on this one!); the unusual Dewnes or Dunes which I might have thought was an error for Dennis were it not for the multiple instances in different parishes; and now, to cap it off: a very clearly female Paskow, which name I had previously thought was exclusively masculine. But it’s hard to go against hard evidence in the form of “Peter Hubert and Paskow his wife”. I’ve found feminine forms of Pask and Pascal in French, Spanish, and Italian before, but never in England!

I’ve only just touched upon the parish registers from Devon, so I’m sure I’ll find lots more in the future. Look for all these names, and more, in the Dictionary in September!

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List of Entries

Because I am a compulsive list-maker, particularly when it comes to names (why else do you think I ended up an onomast?), I have created a new page which contains a list of the head names of entries which will be appearing in the first edition of the Dictionary, with an estimated publication date of September 2014.

It might look painfully short now, but we expect the list to grow substantially over the next three months.

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