Nordic Socio-onomastics Network in 2021

by Terhi Ainiala, Emilia Aldrin & Birgit Eggert

During 2021, the Nordic Socio-onomastics Network has continued its work and engaged in a number of activities. We have also grown during the year and now include 27 network participants from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.

In August, we attended the 27th International Congress of Onomastic Sciences and presented a paper (online due to the pandemic) describing the network and its goals, activities and outcomes, as an example of international collaboration with the aim of inspiring and supporting formation of further onomastic networks. This was a very successful event where we received positive feedback and support from international colleagues as well as an important possibility to discuss socio-onomastics from an even broader international perspective including the intersections between our Nordic and broader international arenas.

In summer 2021, the Nordic Journal of Socio-Onomastics, founded by members of the network, also appeared with its first volume NoSo 1-2021 presenting Nordic and international scientific work within the field and creating an important area for further interdisciplinary scientific development, exchange of ideas and critical discussions.

Furthermore, within the network, we have formed thematic groups that have now started working together in different ways that will be further described below and the website with its blog remains an important centre of the network.

The Thematic Groups in 2021

The network members work together in six thematic groups: Trends in Personal Names, What is a Name?, Minority and Multilingualism, Name and Nationalism, Digital landscape in the Nordic Countries, and Names in writing. Some take part in one thematic group, and some take part in a few thematic groups, that is a choice each member makes based on his or her interests.

As for all, the year was affected by the pandemic, and many researchers have had more tasks than usual. This of course means that some of the thematic groups are more active than others. However, everyone is used to participating in Zoom meetings by now, and this affects the group activities, so that meetings are held virtually and promising initiatives and collaboration ideas are discussed.

One group has started a digital data collection across several Nordic countries for collaborating on a publication; another group has written blog posts based on Danish, Norwegian and Swedish naming trends as a starting point for further studies. Others have gained an overview of the theme by writing a review of existing research; and others again have made reading groups for discussion of the most important literature. The work is promising and it is exciting what 2022 will bring.

The Network Blog in 2021

The variety of Nordic socio-onomastic research is on display on the network’s blog. A total of 25 blog posts were written between January and November in 2021, and almost every member of the network has contributed to the blog. Most of the blog posts are written in Nordic languages, while a few of the texts are in English.

In blog posts, both research results and preliminary ideas for current and future projects are presented. Various name categories, such as first names, surnames, traditional place names, street names, pet names, company names and names of bus and railway stops are discussed. The historical span of the material presented covers hundreds of years: from the Middle Ages until our times, and even taking a peek at the future.

In some of the texts, topical conferences and seminars are inspiringly presented. Socio-onomastics is of its very nature a versatile and multidisciplinary field of research. Besides this, it has a strong potential to carry a strong social relevance. For example, the questions of inclusion, equality and sustainability are apparent in reading the blog posts written in year 2021. Therefore, we as socio-onomasticians have a lot to offer for politicians and other decision-makers, and certainly to everyone interested in the interrelation between names and society!

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