Endonymic Place-Name Alternants and Their Cultural Significances

  • Richard Coates University of the West of England


Many places have more than one simultaneously current name within the same linguistic community, usually an official one and at least one unofficial one. In England, there are several sources of place-name alternation, and the first purpose of this paper is to categorize them. In most cases, where there is a clearly unofficial form it can be simplemindedly characterized as the form used by local people with local people in a way which asserts their shared identity and community values. In some cases, alternating usage is well entrenched, and serves stylistic ends. Where there is instability of usage, the direction of change is almost always in favour of a spelling-pronunciation. But there is sufficient evidence that simplistic assessments of the situation in England are inappropriate, and some cases are discussed which pose difficulties for the idea that informal alternants have always been produced by the same kinds of historical process.