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English Place-names across Time & Space - LAN00072H

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  • Department: Language and Linguistic Science
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Eleanor Rye
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23

Module summary

This module will introduce students to the study of place-names in England. The first part of the spring term will introduce methods of place-name study and the languages used historically in place-name formation in England. We will then move on to explore the range of information—historical, archaeological and especially linguistic—that is preserved in place-names. Students will read and discuss book chapters and journal articles and will have the opportunity to carry out a detailed analysis of place-names from an area of England in which they are particularly interested.

Pre-requisite modules

Any two of the following:

  • History of English I (LAN00002C)

  • Introduction to Phonetics & Phonology (LAN00009C)

  • Introduction to Semantics (LAN00012C)

  • Introduction to Sociolinguistics (LAN00010C)

  • Introduction to Syntax (LAN00011C)

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Spring Term 2022-23 to Summer Term 2022-23

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • to provide students with an understanding of how English place-names were formed and how they can be interpreted
  • to provide students with an understanding of the historical and linguistic contexts of English place-name formation
  • to develop an awareness of the different types of linguistic information that can be extracted from place-names.
  • to investigate and describe features of historical varieties of English
  • to develop students’ independent research skills.

Module learning outcomes

On completion of this module, you should be able to:

  • understand and apply methods used in the study of English place-names
  • identify languages used in English place-names using place-name reference works
  • find and use resources for investigating modern and historic stages of English
  • assess the strengths and limitations of name material as a source of linguistic evidence
  • carry out accurate linguistic analysis of place-name material
  • synthesise information from a number of sources
  • find and critically evaluate secondary literature
  • plan and carry out an independent project

Module content

Provisional programme

Week Topic

Spring 2

Introduction: what’s in a name? Languages used in England’s place-names.

Spring 3

Methods and resources in place-name studies; pre-English place-names

Spring 4

Old English place-names; personal names in place-names

Spring 5

Old Norse place-names.

Spring 7

Naming in the second millennium CE: Old French and Middle and Modern English place-names

Spring 8

Place-names and varieties of English

Spring 9

Place-names, lexis and landscape

Spring 10

Place-names and phonology

Summer 1

Place-names and morphosyntax

Summer 2

Field-names and street-names

Summer 3

Place-names and other disciplines: history and archaeology

Summer 4

Mapping workshop and field-trip


Task Length % of module mark
Place-name project - 3000 words
N/A 70
Open Examination
Place-name commentary - 1000 words
N/A 30

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Reassessed at the module level


Task Length % of module mark
Place-name project - 3000
N/A 100

Module feedback

Oral feedback will be provided in seminars.

Students will submit extracts from their project corpora, for which they will receive individual written feedback.

Students will receive written feedback from the course instructor on both summative assignments within 20 working days.

Indicative reading

Introductory reading

Either of the following will provide a good introduction to the study of place-names in England:

Cameron, K. (1996). English Place-Names (new ed.). London: Batsford.

Gelling, M. (1997). Signposts to the past: Place-names and the history of England (3rd ed.). Chichester: Phillimore.

Indicative reading

Examples of articles and book chapters we will read and discuss in seminars are:

Coates, R. (2013). Place-names and linguistics. In J. Carroll & D. N. Parsons (eds.), Perceptions of place: Twenty-first-century interpretations of English place-name studies (pp. 129–58). Nottingham: English Place-Name Society.

Hough, C. (2010), Toponymicon and lexicon in North-West Europe: Ever-changing connection. E. C. Quiggin Memorial Lectures, 12. Cambridge: University of Cambridge, Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse & Celtic.

Kitson, P. R. (1995). The nature of Old English dialect distributions, mainly as exhibited in charter boundaries. In J. Fisiak (ed.), Medieval Dialectology (pp. 43–135). Berlin/New York: de Gruyter.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.