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D. E. Wyatt
10-21-2018, 08:19 AM
One of the books I'm writing is set in a world heavily inspired by early Saxon Britain. One of my beta readers (who just happens to be English) remarked that all of my place names are drawn from Old English (which was deliberate, obviously). However he noted that most place names in England originated from either Roman or native Briton names that were then borrowed into Old English. So I thought that one way I could spice up the naming of locations in my book would be to do just that: Take my Old English-derived names (which are all meaningful in some way. IE I have a large lake called the Ísmere, roughly meaning "Ice Sea," that is noted for its cold waters) find the Latin or Brythonic words that would have the same meaning, and then borrow those words into Old English.

Now here's the problem: I don't speak Old English, much less Roman Latin or any of the multitude of Brythonic languages that would have been spoken in 4th and 5th century Britain. So I have no idea how a Latin or British word would have morphed upon being "borrowed" into Old English.

Anyone linguists here have a thought on this?

waylander
10-21-2018, 12:11 PM
Look at placenames in Wales, Welsh is evolved from Brythonic so an online English/Welsh dictionary could help

D. E. Wyatt
10-21-2018, 06:00 PM
Look at placenames in Wales, Welsh is evolved from Brythonic so an online English/Welsh dictionary could help

That will help me find what words to use as my starting point. The problem is words aren't loaned into the assimilating language unchanged.

I'm looking for an idea of how the word would be morphed — mutations in consonants, vowels, etc. — as it is adopted into the phonetics of the new language. For example, burh is the Old English word for a fortified town. The Cymraeg word for the same sort of structure appears to be tref. My question is if I were to have a town ending in -burh, and instead want it to end with -tref to show that the original Cymraeg name was adopted into Old English, what, if any, changes could I expect to be made in the spelling to fit the assimilating language?

Dennis E. Taylor
10-21-2018, 08:09 PM
Get "The Story of Human Language" on Audible (or maybe there's an e-book version. I haven't checked). It discusses language drift and borrowing in general terms, and spends quite a lot of time on English in particular.

benbenberi
10-21-2018, 09:05 PM
Patterns of sound change are discussed at length in a lot of texts on historical linguistics. There's been a huge amount of work done in that field over the last 200 years, so there's plenty of information readily available to guide you through the laws and patterns of sound change across languages. Or, before you go paying for something from Audible, listen to the first few episodes (1-8) of The History of English Podcast (http://historyofenglishpodcast.com), where he talks about this in some detail.

AW Admin
10-21-2018, 09:46 PM
One of the books I'm writing is set in a world heavily inspired by early Saxon Britain. One of my beta readers (who just happens to be English) remarked that all of my place names are drawn from Old English (which was deliberate, obviously). However he noted that most place names in England originated from either Roman or native Briton names that were then borrowed into Old English.

He's not correct. This sometimes happened. But what happened more frequently was that a place had multiple names, in several languages. Sometimes a root was retained, with the suffix of another language stuck on the old root.

Look at the names for London; Londinium for the Romans, probably derived from Brythonic Celtic * Londonjon but we're not really sure of the etymology of the Lond- part. This wikipedia article is decent on the etymology of London (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Etymology_of_London).

Oddly enough, we've got a fair number of old place names for England, because of the Roman fondness for maps, and the Anglo-Saxon fondness for records like the Domesday book. Take a look at this Anglo-Saxon London (https://londonist.com/2014/01/anglo-saxon-london-map-updated) map.

What I'd do, instead of worrying about the phonetic shift, which hasn't always been hugely important in terms naming places because names adhere long after their original namers are gone, is look at equivalencies—which often involve the older root with a different suffix.

It's not going to be the kind of patterned shift we see from, for instance *Proto Celtic dividing into Goidelic and Brythonic. That took thousands of years.

The shift embodied in The Great Vowel Shift (http://facweb.furman.edu/~mmenzer/gvs/what.htm) from Old English to Middle English to Modern English was a smaller kind of patterned changes over about 300 years.

That Anglo-Saxon map of London is interesting in the phonetic shifts aren't really important.

I'd use resources like this (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_generic_forms_in_place_names_in_Ireland_an d_the_United_Kingdom) and this (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toponymy_in_the_United_Kingdom_and_Ireland).

Consider more recent politically motivated name changes and reversals. The dominant language of the people and the dominanet language of the politically powerful, for instance, made a difference. Consider the names of old roads and streets where you live. Older people may have several names for the same place or road.

D. E. Wyatt
10-22-2018, 04:55 AM
He's not correct. This sometimes happened. But what happened more frequently was that a place had multiple names, in several languages. Sometimes a root was retained, with the suffix of another language stuck on the old root.

Look at the names for London; Londinium for the Romans, probably derived from Brythonic Celtic * Londonjon but we're not really sure of the etymology of the Lond- part. This wikipedia article is decent on the etymology of London (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Etymology_of_London).

Oddly enough, we've got a fair number of old place names for England, because of the Roman fondness for maps, and the Anglo-Saxon fondness for records like the Domesday book. Take a look at this Anglo-Saxon London (https://londonist.com/2014/01/anglo-saxon-london-map-updated) map.

What I'd do, instead of worrying about the phonetic shift, which hasn't always been hugely important in terms naming places because names adhere long after their original namers are gone, is look at equivalencies—which often involve the older root with a different suffix.

It's not going to be the kind of patterned shift we see from, for instance *Proto Celtic dividing into Goidelic and Brythonic. That took thousands of years.

The shift embodied in The Great Vowel Shift (http://facweb.furman.edu/~mmenzer/gvs/what.htm) from Old English to Middle English to Modern English was a smaller kind of patterned changes over about 300 years.

That Anglo-Saxon map of London is interesting in the phonetic shifts aren't really important.

I'd use resources like this (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_generic_forms_in_place_names_in_Ireland_an d_the_United_Kingdom) and this (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toponymy_in_the_United_Kingdom_and_Ireland).

Consider more recent politically motivated name changes and reversals. The dominant language of the people and the dominanet language of the politically powerful, for instance, made a difference. Consider the names of old roads and streets where you live. Older people may have several names for the same place or road.

Heh, ironically this particular reader is an English native, specifically from along the Avon near Wick and Bredon Hill, though I don't know which exact town he's from.


Are most readers likely to notice any of this? I sure wouldn't. It seems a pretty pedantic worry to me.

caw

Clearly one did, and it stuck out to him since all of my place names were constructed from Old English. ;-) It may seem pedantic, but OTOH, doing it would also help the world feel less constructed and more "real," in a sense.

snafu1056
10-22-2018, 05:59 AM
If your world is only "inspired" by Saxon Britain, why not have the names be "inspired" too? Why not just make up your own names that sound kinda "Old Englishy" but aren't actual Old English words. Then accuracy becomes irrelevant.

D. E. Wyatt
10-22-2018, 06:50 AM
If your world is only "inspired" by Saxon Britain, why not have the names be "inspired" too? Why not just make up your own names that sound kinda "Old Englishy" but aren't actual Old English words. Then accuracy becomes irrelevant.

'Cause I don't wanna.

Pithy as it may sound, it's a deliberate choice I've made for the setting of this story.

snafu1056
10-23-2018, 12:38 PM
Fair enough

Thomas Vail
10-24-2018, 08:21 PM
Clearly one did, and it stuck out to him since all of my place names were constructed from Old English. ;-) It may seem pedantic, but OTOH, doing it would also help the world feel less constructed and more "real," in a sense.
One did, but he wasn't exactly right about it either.

morngnstar
10-28-2018, 09:04 AM
The basics of borrowing are pretty simple. If a sound exists in the borrowed-from language and not the borrowed-to language, it will be replaced with the closest approximation in the borrowed-to language. The first thing you need to know, then, is the sound inventory of Old English.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_English_phonology#Sound_inventory

Then you need to understand which sounds are good approximations of each other. It's too much for me to go into here, but it's not that complicated. Start by looking into

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Place_of_articulation
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manner_of_articulation
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phonation

The more of these match, the more likely for a sound to be a substitute. For example, French speakers approximate soft "th" with "s" because they have the same phonation and almost the same manner and place of articulation. And hard "th" is "z" because they are the corresponding sounds but with different phonation.

If you understand all that, you can probably make pretty good guesses for yourself, though you'd need an expert Anglicist to be 100% accurate.

As long as it's secondary world, why not choose a different substrate culture and language. They could be Anglo-Saxons that invaded Japanese or Yoruba culture. Your world and language would be unique, and there's the added benefit that nobody could tell you your language was wrong.