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Published on 21 Sep 2016
Abstract As soon as one crosses the River Tamar and enters Cornwall the place names change. English place names ending in –ton become few and in their place one observes a preponderance of Celtic Cornish place names beginning Tre-. Scattered throughout his Survey of Cornwall, Carew (1602) gives various, frequently naïve, interpretations of Cornish place names. From the eighteenth century onwards a steady stream of onomastic glossaries are published. The glossaries of Gwavas (1710), Borlase (1749), Pryce (1790), and Polwhele (1860) are mainly concerned with the etymological meaning of Cornish place names for the curious. Assonance forms basis of the etymologies in these glossaries and explanations of the meanings of place names are consequently not merely conjectural but frequently fanciful. In 1871, Bannister published his Glossary of Cornish Names, containing approximately 20,000 place names. A succession of Cornish place name dictionaries for popular consumption followed in the 20th century. A more serious study of Cornish toponymy is Padel’s (1985) Cornish Place-Name Elements, a dictionary of the elements that constitute Cornish place names. It is during the 20th century that dictionaries of Cornish place names start to use standardised Cornish spellings. This led to problems. The Cornish language community were keen to see road signs with modern standardised spellings for place names alongside their current existing spellings. However, since place name etymologies are largely conjectural, much argument arose regarding precisely how Cornish place names should be respelled for the purposes of signage. This dispute continues to the present day.