|Women's Names in the First Half of 16th Century Wales: Given Names|
Articles > Names
Women's Names in the First Half of 16th Century Wales
by Tangwystyl verch Morgant Glasvryn
|Top 20 Names = 89% 550|
In summary, there are 616 entries, with 134 different spellings representing 56 underlying names. To the extent that I am able to compare "name diversity" in populations from different documents, this one shows a relatively low diversity, although not as low as an early 15th century study (Anglsey Submissions) taken from a geographically restricted area.
The extent to which the name pool has been taken over by English borrowings is significant. Only one name in the top ten and five in the top twenty are of Welsh origin (either linguistically or culturally). In all, there are 13 "Welsh-origin" names in the sample: Angharad, Dyddgu, Goleu, Gwenllian, Gwen, Gwenhwyfar, Gweirfyl, Gwladus, Lleucu, Llewelydd, Morfudd, Myfanwy, and Tangwystl.
For most names, there is a single highly-preferred spelling, even when a number of variants are present. Gwenhwyfar is the most notable exception to this. The following table shows this more directly, giving the name heading, the number of entries in the largest spelling group, the total number of entries for each name, and the number of different spellings for that name.
The major pattern is for a single spelling to comprise the vast majority of the entries, generally 80% or more. But certain names show a much smaller concentration, with the most popular spelling being around 50% or fewer of the entries. One thing immediately noticable is that Welsh-origin names are disproportionately represented in the "less-concentrated" pattern. Of the eight Welsh-origin names that have more than one entry, seven of them follow the less-concentrated distribution. The English-origin names that are less concentrated include Joan, Isabel, Lowri, Cecilia, Christian, and Alison. Of the top twenty most popular names, all five Welsh-origin names follow the less-concentrated pattern, as well as Joan, Isabel, and Lowri of the English-origin names.
This suggests two observations. Those recording the names appear to be considerably less familiar with Welsh names than with English (no big surprise) and more likely to invent ad hoc spellings for them. Conversely, the general rule seems to have been for names to have a single, preferred spelling and to have been recorded in a "standard" form resistant to individual whim and interpretation. There is no reason to suppose that there was any more consistancy in people's individual pronunciations of "Elizabeth" than of "Angharad", but the former was spelled identically in 45 of 46 cases (and since the exception is a diminutive, it doesn't really count) whereas the latter was spelled differently each of the six times it was recorded. The difference can only be access to a culturally-understood "standard" spelling.
Another observation is that, within the less-concentrated pattern, the number of spelling variants for a name is closely proportional to the number of examples. Within the more- concentrated pattern, there are never more than five spelling variants, however popular the name is, and more then three variants is extremely rare. So it isn't simply that there were the same number of variants possible, but certain ones were highly preferred. Rather, the two go hand in hand: fewer variant spellings were in currency and one would be highly preferred.
|Name||Max||Total No. Spellings||%||Max/Total|