Chair: Gerwyn Wiliams
Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba (AÀA) is the national advisory partnership for Gaelic place-names in Scotland. Our remit is to provide correct and authoritative forms of Gaelic place-names throughout Scotland for use mainly on signage and other published materials. Gaelic orthographic conventions are applied where appropriate and these forms are promoted through an online database available to the general public.
The research process takes three main paths: Historical written forms of the place-name, for instance on maps, medieval charters or anywhere else. Information gathered by reliable scholars. Spoken forms of the names as given by local people, where appropriate.
The treatment and interpretation of place-names can present serious methodological problems, particularly in a minority language milieu such as in Scotland. In many cases the original Gaelic form may not be directly in evidence and must be deduced from the incomplete evidence. Alternatively, conflicting evidence may be present, or there may be uncertainty about the exact referent of a given name. AÀA are also aware of people with pro- and anti-Gaelic feeling, both with strong ideas about how Gaelic place-names and bilingual signage should be presented to the public.
This paper will discuss the work carried out by AÀA, with a demonstration of their online resources as well as some of the primary sources used in research.
'Sabrina', the British-Latin name of the river Severn, has been problematic, despite discussion by A.L.F. Rivet and Colin Cmith in their The Place-names of Roman Britain (Princeton, 1979). Analysis in the light of Indo-European languages yet suggests an interpretation as 'flooder', referable to the Severn’s well-known tidal bore, which figures in early Welsh and Welsh-Latin literature.
As Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru, the University of Wales historical dictionary of the Welsh language, approaches it centenary, this paper will discuss the extent to which its editorial principles have changed over the course of the project’s history. Practical historical lexicography requires certain compromises to be made in order to enable a huge project of this type to be completed within an acceptable timespan. For most of its existence, GPC has been published in a traditional printed format which necessitated a number of space-saving and readability strategies. Now that the work is available online and as an app, many opportunities present themselves to improve the user experience and to facilitate access to more of the dictionary’s content and to add additional features. Online access has also changed the dictionary’s user base, and it is now used by a far more diverse set of users, as well as being used for many different purposes and with various expectations.
The paper will also examine some possible future changes and consider to what extent continuity and consistency are important considerations when contemplating possible changes. The question of freedom of access and public funding will also be considered in the context of the financial sustainability of large lexicographical projects.