Issues in developing a chronology for Norse and Gaelic place-names in the Hebrides

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Abstract

Thinking of the past and of how place-names are built up, we can imagine the people of a given area, over a period of time, naming features in the landscape according to their practices and their use of the land. Similarly, over a period of time, we can imagine new peoples coming
into the area and, in their turn, naming features in the landscape, according to their own practices and use of the land. Although we can often identify the original language behind these names, the question of ‘over a period of time’ is harder to qualify. It is this question that I would like to address in this article, with particular reference to Norse names in the
Gaelic nomenclature of the Hebrides.
Some areas of Scotland are comparatively rich in early documentation. However, generally speaking, the Hebrides lack relevant sources until Timothy Pont’s maps of the 16th century and, for the majority of recorded names, the earliest written source is the 19th century Board of
Ordnance 6 inch : 1 mile series.
Perhaps at least partly because of this, the dating of names in the Hebrides has largely been restricted to differentiating those considered to be Scottish Gaelic, on the one hand, from those considered to be Old Norse, on the other
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)129–138
Number of pages9
JournalThe Journal of Scottish Name Studies
Volume33
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2010

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