York University ICOS Graphic
21 Mar 2019 04:20am -0400 EDT
Home | About ICOS | Contact Us

ICOS 2008 Conference Abstract

A Glimpse through a Dirty Window into an Unlit House: Names of the Northwest European Islands

R A Coates
University of the West of England, United Kingdom

It is well known that many of the major island-names of the archipelago consisting politically of Ireland and the United Kingdom are etymologically obscure to a high degree. In this paper, I present a corpus of those which remain un- or uncertainly explained, for instance Mull, Lewis, Bass Rock, Ynys Môn, Scilly, Rathlin, Oileán Chléire, Aran, and Arran. It is timely to do this, since in the disciplines of archaeology and genetics there is an emerging consensus that after the last Ice Age the islands were repopulated mainly by people from a refuge on the Iberian peninsula. This opinion is at least superficially compatible with Theo Vennemann’s Semitic and Vasconic hypotheses, i.e., that languages (a) of the Afroasiatic family and (b) ancestral to Basque are important contributors to the lexical and onomastic stock of certain European languages. The unexplained island names represent a sufficiently dense cluster to make it worthwhile to hope for the emergence of some hard evidence bearing on their collective linguistic heritage, and therefore to give or fail to give preliminary support to Vennemann’s hypotheses.

Canadian Flag
ICOS 23 © 2006-2008