From Arkngthand to Wretched Squalor: Fictional place-names in The Elder Scrolls universe

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Abstract

In this article we would like to examine an area of onomastics that has not received much scholarly attention. We aim to provide an adequate linguistic analysis of the place-names found in The Elder Scrolls (ES) video game series. For our analysis, we rely chiefly on the methods of linguistic statistics, which have not yet gained widespread use in onomastic research. Our goal is to give a boost to linguistic and onomastic research into video games and to develop related aspects of its research methodology. Two main methods of place-name formation can be observed in our results: one is when the fictional names are coined on the basis of the lexical elements of already existing non-fictional languages (we call these mimetic names), and the other is when the game developers create so-called speaking names. In our article we demonstrate that the toponyms of the ES universe in part conform to the conventions of non-fictional place-name formation (e.g. they can be sorted into the two main categories of habitative names and topographical names), and in part they contradict such conventions, because around 14 percent of the names we analyzed are purposefully coined as semantically obscure toponyms, which does not happen in the case of non-fictional names.

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