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Identifying migrants in medieval England: the possibilities and limitations of place-name evidence

Carroll, Jayne

Authors

Jayne Carroll



Contributors

J. Story
Editor

W.M. Ormrod
Editor

E.M. Tyler
Editor

Abstract

Many English place-names came into existence in the early medieval period as descriptive, meaningful phrases (‘the river estate’, ‘the clear stream’, ‘Edward’s farm’, and so on).They evolved in the conversation of ordinary people as they referred to familiar places. Over time, these phrases underwent loss of sense in the process of ‘nomination’ (becoming a name). In other words, the meaning that they bore as descriptions was lost, as they came to refer (point to a place) rather than to carry sense (describe that place), thus becoming ‘fossilised’ as names. Other place-names may have been deliberately bestowed, as meaningful administrative labels by those in positions of power, for example, or to commemorate particular events.2 They too underwent a similar process of fossilisation. Whatever the precise circumstances of evolution, place-names can yield valuable information about the periods in which they first arose, if they are handled carefully.

Publication Date 2020
Publisher Oxford University Press
Series Title Publications of the British Academy
Book Title Migrants in Medieval England, c. 500-1500
APA6 Citation Carroll, J. (2020). Identifying migrants in medieval England: the possibilities and limitations of place-name evidence. In J. Story, W. Ormrod, & E. Tyler (Eds.), Migrants in Medieval England, c. 500-1500Oxford University Press

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