Surname typology and the problem of inconsistent classification

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Parkin, H. (2013)

This paper analyzes methodological inconsistency in surname classification, and the implications this has for the comparability of different works. Many studies have organized surnames by type, based on each name’s ‘meaning,’ in order to identify national trends and regional differences in surnaming patterns. However, the ambiguity of ‘meaning’ and the lack of any standard classificatory practice mean that such studies are incomparable. By reviewing P. H. Reaney’s and R. A. McKinley’s classifications of surnames from the same sources, and identifying discrepancies in their calculations and methods, a case for a standard method of surname classification is made. Only when there is a greater level of consistency in the classification of surnames can the findings of separate studies be reliably compared, allowing for meaningful conclusions on surnaming patterns to be drawn.
  • References (2)

    Kurath, H., S. M. Kuhn, and R. Lewis. 1952-2001. The Middle English Dictionary. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

    Reaney, P. H. and R. M. Wilson. 1997. A Dictionary of English Surnames. rev. 3rd edn. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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