Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Mapping the Distribution of Place-Names

Bynavn is an interactive which shows the distribution of Danish towns with similar place-name endings. For example the map can show you the location of all Danish towns which end with '-havn'.

The Bynavn map includes a menu which allows you to quickly view the distribution of towns with a number of common place-name endings (e.g. -havn, -borg, -home etc). The map also includes a search box which allows you to type in any letters to view all the towns in Denmark which include those letters.

There are clear geographical patterns in the distribution of some of the place-name endings found in Denmark. For example the ending 'havn' (harbor) is found exclusively in coastal towns. While towns ending in 'løse' and 'rød' seem to be found only in eastern parts of the country. If you want to know the meaning of some of these place-names then you can refer to the University of Copenhagen's Common Place Name Types.

Bynavn seems to have been inspired by a similar interactive map which shows the distribution of different types of place-name in Germany. The End is Near allows you to search and visualize German towns by common place-name endings.

The letters at the end of German place-names can tell you a lot about local history, culture and geography. For example there are many German place-names which are derived from foreign languages. A search for Slavic suffixes, such as -ow or -itz, will reveal a strong distribution of these place-name endings in eastern Germany. These names date back to when Slavic languages were spoken in the eastern parts of the Holy Roman Empire.

Other place-name endings probably derive from local geographical features. These geographical based suffixes include -berg (mountain), -furt (ford), -brück (bridge) or -feld (field).

You can explore the distribution of US place-names on Place Names in the United States. This interactive map visualizes the spatial distribution of town & city place names in America.

For example you can view the distribution of place-names starting with the Spanish articles (El-, Los- & Las-) (mainly found in the Southwest). Alternatively you can search using suffixes. For example the distribution of towns with common British town endings, such as -chester, -wick, -wich, -pool, -ham, -ness, -port & -worth (mainly in the Northeast).

Place Names in the United States has a database of around thirty thousand towns and cities in the United States. The place-name data used is from opengeocode.org.

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