Keynote Speakers

We are delighted to announce that the keynote speakers at ICOS 2014 are:

Professor Richard Coates
University of the West of England

‘Beyond FaNUK: Reflections on Surname Research and Future Development of the Family Names of the United Kingdom Project’

The Family Names of the United Kingdom project database was delivered to Oxford University Press in June 2014. In this lecture, I take stock of the project, offering some reflections on the process of creating a resource of this kind including an assessment of methodological advances and outlining some possible directions for future research and the applicability of it. Many questions have arisen about the reliability and utility of sources of data, and programmatic answers are offered for some whilst acknowledging the emergence of new ones and the persistence of others.

Naturally, we believe progress has been made in understanding the origin of many surnames, and I shall fully discuss some choice specimens illustrating either philological or methodological novelties, sometimes in surprising ways. Some names have continued to defy explanation, and the broader questions that these raise are explored.

Associate Professor Peder Gammeltoft
University of Copenhagen

‘Onomastics for all: How can new technology help broaden the appeal of name research?’

Onomastics is often accused of being too inaccessible, even elitist. This has always struck me as a rather odd epithet for the discipline, as few other, if any, sciences are so tied to people’s identity – their personal names and the names of places of importance to them. At the same time, few other areas of research tie their subject so closely into the present and the past at the same time as onomastics does.

Has onomastics become too inaccessible, too elitist and too focussed on being a discipline only for onomastics and onomasticians? Of course it hasn’t – although the closed-in science internal aspect exists within onomastics , as it does in any other scientific discipline – but we have clearly not been good enough at sharing our research results with other disciplines and particularly not the wider public.

How do we reach a broader audience, then? Outreach activities are not new within name research – this has been a part of most of us in our work, to go out and visit local history societies, schools and women’s rural institutes, etc. to talk about the local place-names or personal names. Judging from my own personal experience, such talks are getting more and more popular. However, none of us have the time or possibility to undertake these activities continuously.

So, how can we popularise name research better and more efficiently? We live in a time of constant digital developments and it has never been easier to create digital platforms – websites, smartphone apps, distributed datasources – than now. It is time to elevate onomastics to the Digital Age. The task is not easy. We – us onomasts – have to learn how to transmit our research results to ordinary folk, our institutions have to be willing to provide the resources – money, technical man-power and future hosting – in order to enable, establish and secure the digital platforms we provide. If such conditions are not present, then any efforts are going to be uphill battles.

This lecture will show some of the issues, problems and not least possibilities present in onomastics going digital. The future of onomastics has never been more interesting!

Dr Simon Taylor
University of Glasgow

‘Charting a course through the Scottish Namescape’

It is something of a commonplace, at least in Britain and Ireland, to say that Scotland has one of the most complex linguistic histories in Europe, a complexity reflected in its unusually variegated toponymy. Despite the fact that the Commonwealth Games will have been held in Glasgow just a few weeks before ICOS XXV, I will resist the temptation to award gold, silver or bronze medals for toponymic complexity for two reasons: one is that, as a Scottish toponymist working almost exclusively in and on Scotland I do not have the necessary knowledge of other European toponymies to judge such a competition; the other is that there are of course many different ways to define ‘complexity’. Rather what I will attempt in this paper is a historical chorography of the Scottish namescape, introducing to an international audience of name-scholars the languages and history of Scotland through its names, primarily its place-names, though also to a lesser degree its personal names. I will do this as concisely as its six main languages and nine different toponymic zones will allow. There is no doubt that the Scottish namescape presents particular challenges to anyone wanting to study and engage with it, and another theme of my paper will be to look at how these challenges have been met in the past, how they are being met in the present, and how they might be met in the future.