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The meanings of the generic parts of toponyms: use and limitations of gazetteers in studies of landscape terms


Derungs, Curdin; Wartmann, Flurina M; Purves, Ross S; Mark, David M (2013). The meanings of the generic parts of toponyms: use and limitations of gazetteers in studies of landscape terms. In: Tenbrink, Thora; Stell, John; Galton, Antony; Wood, Zena. Spatial Information Theory. Cham: Springer, 261-278.

Abstract

Are the contents of toponyms meaningless, as it is often claimed in linguistic literature, or can the generic parts in toponyms, such as hill in Black Hill, be used to infer landscape descriptions? We investigate this question by, firstly, linking gazetteer data with topographic characteristics, and, secondly, by conducting analysis of how the use of landscape terms might have changed over time in a historic corpus. We thus aim at answering a linguistic, and ethnophysiographic, research question through digital input data and processing. Our study area is Switzerland and our main focus is on geographic eminences, and in particular on the use of the terms Spitze, Horn and Berg. We show that most prominent generic parts in toponyms show expected topographic characteristics. However, not all generic parts strictly follow this rule, as in the case of Berg. Some generic parts have lost their meaning in standard language over time (e.g. Horn). We therefore put a cautionary note on the use of generic parts in toponyms in landscape studies, but point out that the subtle details of these differences provide rich topics for future research.

Are the contents of toponyms meaningless, as it is often claimed in linguistic literature, or can the generic parts in toponyms, such as hill in Black Hill, be used to infer landscape descriptions? We investigate this question by, firstly, linking gazetteer data with topographic characteristics, and, secondly, by conducting analysis of how the use of landscape terms might have changed over time in a historic corpus. We thus aim at answering a linguistic, and ethnophysiographic, research question through digital input data and processing. Our study area is Switzerland and our main focus is on geographic eminences, and in particular on the use of the terms Spitze, Horn and Berg. We show that most prominent generic parts in toponyms show expected topographic characteristics. However, not all generic parts strictly follow this rule, as in the case of Berg. Some generic parts have lost their meaning in standard language over time (e.g. Horn). We therefore put a cautionary note on the use of generic parts in toponyms in landscape studies, but point out that the subtle details of these differences provide rich topics for future research.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Book Section, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
08 University Research Priority Programs > Language and Space
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Language:English
Date:2013
Deposited On:26 Dec 2013 13:53
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 17:16
Publisher:Springer
ISSN:0302-9743
ISBN:978-3-319-01789-1 (Print) 978-3-319-01790-7 (Online)
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-01790-7_15
Related URLs:http://www.springer.com/computer/database+management+%26+information+retrieval/book/978-3-319-01789-1
Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-86889

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