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Linguistic patterns in the place-names of Norway and the Northern Isles
By Berit Sandnes
Northern Lights, Northern Words. Selected Papers from the FRLSU Conference, Kirkwall 2009, edited by Robert McColl Millar (2010)
Introduction: Considering the Vikings’ massive cultural influence on the Northern Isles, the material evidence for Old Norse culture is surprisingly scarce. The buildings of the Norsemen are easily overshadowed by Neolithic structures. The Norse language lingered on for nearly a thousand years but was dead by the end of the eighteenth century. What remains are some loan words – as well as a rich legacy of place-names which is the most tangible evidence of Shetland and Orkney’s Norse past. This essay will explore place-names from different angles: as linguistic sources, as indicators of the age of settlements and as evidence for contact between the Northern Isles and Norway.