Towards a Chronology of Topographical Elements in Irish Place-Names: Some Strategies for Establishing Relative Chronology
This paper examines the issues involved in establishing the chronology of elements referring to landscape features. Much work has been done on the Irish topographical lexicon in recent decades, notably by Prof. Liam Mac Mathúna, whose approach is rooted in word-field studies. His research has focussed on common nouns occurring in Old Irish and Middle Irish texts. This paper takes a complementary approach by asking what further light the evidence of place-names can shed on the topographical lexicon. It attempts to establish the outlines of a (largely relative) chronology, using the element 'sliabh' as an example. It then goes on to consider some strategies which can help to refine this dating, using the elements 'rinn' and 'ros' from the world-field ‘promontory’. In particular, the analysis of suffixes and tautological names are discussed as resources which can help to construct a relative chronology.