Changing field-names: Three areas of the Agricultural Landscape of Southern Öland World Heritage Site

By Viktoria Bengtsdotter Katz

In: Ortnamnssällskapets i Uppsala årsskrift 2020


In the project ‘Field-names of the Agricultural Landscape of Southern Öland World Heritage Site’, a study was made of changes in the use of field-names between 1960 and 2015. Three areas could be distinguished, referred to as North-East, North-West and South. These areas differ in terms of both the structure of the names and the generic elements that are most common. North-eastern parishes have preserved names to a much greater extent than other parts of the World Heritage site studied, and exhibit continuity in the structure of the names.

One difference noted is the different forms of the generic –gärde ‘enclosed infield land (field or meadow)’ used in the different areas. In the North-West and the South, the standard Swedish form –gärde is documented. In the North-East, different variants of the dialectal form –jarle are used, abbreviated in several instances in Hulterstad parish to –ale.

Differences in the generics used and the way they are used can also be observed between the areas. Examples of this include –hag ‘enclosed outlying pasture’, which is only documented in the North-East, and –teg ‘small patch of arable land’ and –rud ‘cleared land’, which are only found in the North-West. In the North-West and the South, the generic indicating the type of land has been dropped in several names. In the long run, names like Bengtes västra lott ‘Bengte’s western allotment’ are not functional in everyday usage, as they slow down communication. It seems as if shortening of such names is achieved by dropping the generic, resulting in forms such as Bengtes västra.

Judging from the study, users appear to have become less aware of the meaning of the different generics. In a modern agricultural setting, it is less important to specify whether a piece of land given a name is a gärde, horva ‘small enclosed field (of poorer quality)’ or äng ‘meadow’.