25th International Congress of Onomastic Sciences: an overview

2014-08-26 19.29.16

Carole Hough speaking at the Glasgow City Chambers reception on Tuesday evening

When the premier conference in the field of name studies has just finished, there seems no blog post more fitting than a recap of some of the highlights. On Friday, the 25th International Congress of Onomastic Sciences (the conference of the International Council of Onomastic Sciences) finished after five days packed full of fascinating papers and discussion. Held this year in Glasgow, the 2014 Congress was organised by outgoing ICOS President, Carole Hough, and her team, with special mention to Daria Izdebska. With 176 papers and around 250 delegates from 42 countries, organisation was no small feat, yet the entire week ran smoothly from start to finish.

Papers, based upon the conference theme ‘Names and their environment’, were extremely varied, ranging from ‘Names and references in Midsummer Night’s Dream‘ (Grant Smith) to ‘Marketing software: environmental complications to predicting ethnicity with onomastics’ (Lisa Radding) to ‘The diverse naming patterns of contemporary India’ (Sheila Embleton). With 6 parallel sessions and personal names, place-names, commercial naming, online naming, and theory/methodology all being strongly represented, there was a great array of papers and some difficult decisions as to which to attend! Some personal favourites included Line Sandst’s paper on ‘The onomastic landscape of Copenhagen – organization and disorganization’, Jennifer Scherr and Gwyneth Nair’s ‘What were women really called?: pet forms of female names in English parish registers, 1540-1850’ and Alison Grant’s ‘Occupational surnames in the Older Scots language in their lexicographical environment’.

Thought-provoking keynote lectures were provided by: Simon Taylor (University of Glasgow), discussing the intricacies of studying Scottish place-names, and also giving an overview of Scottish onomastic studies; Richard Coates (University of the West of England), who spoke on the FaNUK (Family Names of the United Kingdom) project, particularly referring to the resolution of methodological issues; and Peder Gammeltoft (University of Copenhagen), who argued that more names-research should embrace technology, with one aim being to raise the profile of onomastics.

Besides the wide selection of papers and the three keynotes, several scholars brought along posters of their research. These were displayed in the foyer throughout the week, inspiring plenty of discussion, and were also automatically entered into a competition for ‘Best Poster’. Congratulations are due to Birna Lárusdóttir, whose poster ‘Risking One’s Life for a Place-Name: The Case of Surtsey Island’ was voted the best by delegates.

With receptions on Sunday evening in the Hunterian Art Gallery and Tuesday evening in Glasgow City Chambers, there was no shortage of time for socialising and networking. The conference dinner on Thursday night, held in the Glasgow University Union, was particularly well-attended. For those who wished to see a few famous Scottish sights, excursions were held on Wednesday, with coaches heading to destinations including the Glengoyne distillery, the Antonine Wall, Stirling Castle, the Burns museum, and Loch Lomond to name but a few.

Several delegates were tweeting throughout the Congress, most using the #ICOS2014 hashtag, and a few tweets are included below to give you a flavour of the week. The triennial Congress will next be held in Debrecen (Hungary) in August 2017, with Valéria Tóth being the main organiser. To learn more about the International Council of Onomastic Sciences and their future Congresses, please check out their website, or connect with them on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.








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