Describe And Account For The Nature And Distribution Of Scandinavian Elements In English Place Names

2561 words - 11 pages

Describe and account for the nature and distribution of Scandinavian elements in English place names.The influx of Danes and Norwegians during the ninth century was a major influence on English place names. In order to understand the Scandinavian element manifested in English place names we must take a brief look at the history of their influence upon England. A great period of unrest is thought to have occurred within the Scandinavian Peninsula, towards the end of the Old English period. This led to a series of invasions by boat of the surrounding coastal regions. The bold and enterprising seafarers became known as Vikings and the period of their invasions and conquests, the Viking Age. ...view middle of the document...

This was a hugely eventful and turbulent period, which though summarized briefly in this essay, had a great impact upon the English language. The invasion and settlement of the Danes, particularly in relation to place names, had changed the course of history of the English language. The shift from plundering to permanent settlers is known due to the fact that over one thousand four hundred places in England contain an element of Scandinavian. This proves that this was not an entirely turbulent period and some Vikings lived in peace, adopted many of the English customs and community, and were able to amalgamate with the English. Evidence found in the Scandinavian names of monks, bishops and other aspects related to the church prove the Danes accommodated the English way of life, accepting Christianity early on. John Green suggests, ‘when the wild burst of the storm was over, land, people, government, reappeared unchanged. England still remained England; the conquerors sank quietly into the mass of those around them.’ He explains how the violence of the invasion evolved into an understanding between the two peoples, ‘Nowhere over Europe was the fight so fierce, because nowhere else were the combatants men of one blood and one speech. But just for this reason the fusion of northmen with their foes was nowhere so peaceful and complete.’Evidence shows that following the treaty of 886, the majority of the Scandinavians settled in the region of the Danelaw. David Crystal suggests that ‘over 2000 Scandinavian place names are found throughout the area.’ Few places of significance to the south or immediate north and east of this line show elements of Scandinavian. To summarise the distribution, it appears the Scandinavian influence was prominent in Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Rutland, as well as in the Lake District (Cumberland, Westmorland, Lancashire). Scandinavian place names can be found in parts of Derbyshire, Norfolk, Northamptonshire, South Durham and Cheshire although outside of these regions evidence of is limited. ).The majority of the settlers were Danes except in the northwestern areas such as Cheshire, Lancashire and Yorkshire where Norwegians settled. The Norwegian element is suggested by anomalies within place-names, such as the Norwegian búð compared to the Danish bóð, skáli, brekka, gil. Some Irish-Gaelic influences are also suggestive of the settlement of Norwegians. Examples include bueth in Boothby, Glassan in Glassonby and Corc in Corby. Both by and thorpe were thought to be used in East and West Scandinavia in unison whilst in England the two could sometimes be used to decipher whether it was a sign of Norweigan or Danish settlement, by suggesting Norweigan whilst thorpe suggesting Danish population.The density of Scandinavian place names within a region and the extent of the Scandinavian element within a name suggest the influence the Vik...


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