Sunday, January 22, 2006

Today's Linguistics Curiosity

River names are among the oldest in any region. New settlers seldom outnumber the old ones at first, and adopt the name already in use. This often gives us some clue as to where various groups of people lived, and when. The Indo-European root "D-n" for river gives us Danube, Dnieper, Donets, Dniestr, Don, and a dozen others in that Black Sea region. Of all the Indian names which persist in America, rivers far outnumber other features. Name-continuity happens less often with mountains because people do not particularly use mountains as they do rivers. Political features are often named intentionally by the inhabitants, and there is usually good reason not to remind everyone who the recent owners were.

1 comment:

jg said...

s certainly mongrel myself (the perennial European sneering point) I am always fascinated by how our (mongrel) America came by its names.

Certain features might be called one thing by one group, another by a separate group, and still another within a different span of time.

What are the names? What do they mean? What parts have they played in our life (lives)?

It's a fascinating question you raise.