Determination of header forms

Earlier this month, someone told us on twitter that he “would love to read more on procedure for name standardisation”. This post explores that topic.

When producing an onomastic dictionary restricted to a single language, it is relatively easy to pick the header names: If there is a standard modern form, use that, if not, use something that is consistent with standard modern forms. When dealing with data coming from a number of different cultures, this is not so easy, because the same name might have competing standard modern forms in different languages, e.g., Frederick in English, Friedrich in German, F(r)ederico in Italian, and a decision needs to be made between them.

In this situation, the choice is straightforward: The Dictionary is a work in English, even if it covers names from many languages and cultures. Thus, if a standard modern English form exists, that will be taken as the canonical name form (CNF) (aka, the header form). In cases where there are competing possibilities — e.g., Carla or Carol for the feminine form of Charles, or Casper and Jasper for the third magi’s name — the editorial team (comprised of American English speakers, British English speakers, and non-English speakers) decides the matter by vote.

In some cases, names exist modernly in languages other than English, which means that the option of taking the standard modern English form is not possible — some examples conclude Gottschalk, Ulrich, and Zdeslav. In such cases, where there is a clearly identifiable standarized form in some language that dominates other possible standardized forms, that is chosen for the CNF.

There is an exception to this, and that is how we treat dithematic German names. Many dithematic German names are still in use in Germany today, while many others have fallen out of use. It is possible to reconstruct expected modern forms of those which are no longer in use on the basis of those which are, but this results often in artificial forms which are not actually extent in any context. For example, Siegfried and Friedrich are standard modern forms of these two names, but the former appears in the Dictionary with the CNF Sigfrid. This keeps is alphabetized near its related names, Siggo, Sighard, Sigmund, Sigrad, Sigward, etc. Similar examples can be seen in looking at names beginning with Gothic þiuda, all found under Theod-.

Next we have names not fitting into any of the above categories, such as names deriving from Latin roots. For those which have not survived into a modern context, and which are found only in Latin-language documents, we use the standardized Latin form as the CNF.

Finally, there are names which are currently unidentified or otherwise problematic. For these, we take as the CNF the documentary form. There are few of those which are in the published version of the Dictionary; most of them are in the internal working version with the hopes that some day we will know more about them and can upgrade their CNF to one of the above.

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One response to “Determination of header forms

  1. Pingback: Determination of header forms | e-onomastica | ...

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