Toponymy and localisation

Cross-posted on the Statistifaction blog.

Master’s level students at ENSAE are required to work on an Applied Statistics project. Céline Duval, Pierre Jacob and myself are proposing a topic on correlation between toponymy (place names) and geographic localisation of French towns and cities (“communes”, of which there are 36,000). The idea is to detect which characteristics of a place name are informative of where in France that place is.

For example, some endings are very informative: on this map where every cyan dot represents one commune, place names ending in “-y” are mostly found in the North-East and place names ending in “-ac” in the South-West.

The following map shows that a “w” in a place indicates it lies in the North-East, and that a “k” indicates that it lies in the North-East or Brittany.

Just for fun, here is a map of place names which include one of the major rivers: Loire, Seine, Rhône, Saône, Garonne and Marne. Unsurprisingly, they align almost perfectly with the rivers.

Students interested in the project can contact Céline, Pierre or myself. People interested in the project might enjoy Keith Brigg’s pages on English place names.


5 Responses to “Toponymy and localisation”

  1. Toponymy and localisation « Statisfaction Says:

    […] Toponymy and localisation Filed under: Uncategorized — robinryder @ 12:04 Cross-posted from my personal blog. […]

  2. Mahendra Says:

    You could also look at place names ending with -ec. I guess (wrongly ?) that most of them are in Brittany.

    • robinryder Says:

      Quite a few are, but not all of them:
      Ends in -ec

      I am actually hoping that the students will come up with some kind of automatic mechanism to decide which criteria to use; there are thousands of possibilities.

  3. ROBIN Says:

    Bravo pour votre projet.
    Il y aurait de multiples applications passionantes à faire.
    D’abord les hagiotoponymes : où sont situés les Saint-Martin, du nom du patron des Gaules, ou les Saint-Michel ?
    Ensuite les noms d’origine gauloise. J’avais fait une étude sur Conde/Condat le confluent. Mais il y en a d’autres comme ceux comprenant “dun” ( la forteresse) comme Verdun ou Lugdunum, Nogent (le nouveau marché), long (aussi endroit humide) comme Gué de Longroi, etc.

    Ne serait-ce pas encore plus significatif avec la base IGN qui prend ceux des cartes au 1/25 000.

  4. Names of villages, in France | Freakonometrics Says:

    […] -bourn,bourne,burn (here) or -head (there). Actually, it is possible (Robin mentioned that already here) to do similar things in France… Consider the dataset containing the 35,250 commune names […]

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