Language history and onomastics in medieval Cumbria: an analysis of the generative usage of the Cumbric habitative generics cair and tref
Hicks, Davyth A.
This thesis explores the way generic place-name elements can cast light on both the history of the northern British later known as the Cumbri, and their language in the period 650-1200. Place-name evidence, when used with care, provides useful information and sometimes, considering the lack of early Scottish historical sources, the only information available to the modem scholar. Thus the thesis uses place-name evidence to provide otherwise unobtainable information both on British settlement and historical chronology. Questions raised include the extent of Cumbria, the issue of medieval language shift, and the reasons for the ultimate demise of Cumbric in our area. Before discussing Cumbric place-names an historical framework based on nononomastic evidence is established to give context to the analysis which follows. This framework shows how the Cumbri expanded into Cumberland and elsewhere from a Lanarkshire / Dumbartonshire base in the 10th century. When the place-name evidence is set against this background a chronology of place-name usage consistent with the known historical facts emerges. The evidence suggests that the main usage of certain place-name generics fell within a certain time frame, and that the pattern of Cumbric expansion indicated bears a resemblance to that suggested for the subsequent take-over of parts of southern Scotland by the Gaelic-speaking kingship. The following chapters deal with the generic habitative elements cair and tref The two elements were chosen (1), because they occur regularly throughout Cumbria, and (2), because they are also the two chief generative habitative elements in the other Brittonic countries. In these chapters both local and pan-Brittonic aspects of the elements are discussed. To each of these chapters a Gazetteer has been added discussing all probable occurrences of the element in our area. The internal evidence from the data, taken together with the conclusions to be drawn from their distribution, indicate that the cair and tref elements enable us to chart and assess the Cumbric expansion, and provide suggestive leads in relation to the demise of Cumbric. In the concluding section the findings on cair and trefare juxtaposed.That cair and tref show a relatively 'late' usage compared to other elements prompts the hypothesis that they indicate the extent of the Cumbric re-expansion up until the mid 11 th century and that after that first political independence was lost and later the language. With language loss the Cumbri became either Gaelic or Scots speakers.