[Image: Fragment of the Gough Map]
[Image: Fragment of the Gough Map]

Linguistic Geographies: The Gough Map of Great Britain

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Linguistic evidence

Posted on 11 September 2010 by Elizabeth Solopova 

I have been comparing the spellings of place-name found on the map with those quoted in the English Place-Name Society (EPNS) volumes, and here are some preliminary observations. The map does not preserve Old English place-names or their forms. Where they are different (which is not uncommon), the map always has post-Conquest forms (Droitwich is the only example I have found so far which shows a possible awareness of an Old English name). The map also generally does not reflect 11th- and 12th-century forms of the names. When they are significantly different (usually by displaying a lesser degree of reduction or simplification of earlier compound Old English and Old Norse words), the map regularly has later Middle English forms. Thus modern Okehampton appears on the map in the form 'okinton' (probably overwritten by a 15th-century reviser). It's earliest close parallel among the spellings recorded in the EPNS volume for Devon is 'Ochanton', which comes from the Feudal Aids volumes (1899-1920) for 1284. All earlier examples quoted by the EPNS have the first element in a less reduced form Okemen-/Okema-/Okem- reflecting its derivation from the name of the river Okement. The spellings which are closest to the one used on the map, such as 'Okington' or 'Okenton', are attested in the 16th century. Similarly Scarborough appears on the map as 'scarborgh'. The earliest attestation of a similar spelling 'Scareburgh', quoted in the EPNS volume for Yorkshire, dates from 1414. All 12th- and early 13th-century attestations have the first element in the form Scarthe-/Scarde-, reflecting its derivation from an Old Norse personal name Skarthi. Another example is Peterborough. According to the EPNS volume for Northamptonshire, we know from Bede that the site of the original monastery was called Medeshamstedi, but on its rebuilding after Danish invasions the place became known as Burg. Early Middle English sources, starting with the Domesday Book, contain variations on this name. The modern form, reflecting the dedication of the Abbey to St. Peter, is first noted as ‘Petreburgh’, quoted from the Calendar of Close Rolls for 1333. This form became common in the 14th century. The majority of the place-name spellings found on the map seem to be those first attested from the second or third quarter of the 13th century onwards. I have not found any evidence so far (though I am looking for it) that would make an exemplar from the time of Edward the First linguistically impossible, though the closest parallels to the spellings on the map do seem to be somewhat later, and date from the 14th and 15th, rather than the 13th century.


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