A Socio-Linguistic Investigation into the Etymology of American State Names

Abdel-Rahman H. Abu-Melhim, Nedal A. Bani-Hani, Mahmoud A. Al-Sobh

Abstract


The aim of this article is to determine the semantic and etymological roots of the fifty names of the American states. It examines the etymology of these names and seeks to explain the sociolinguistic aspects that contributed to their development. Moreover, it unearths the origins of the original inhabitants of these states, respectively, taking into account the fundamental roles that language and culture played in the naming process. This research article is therefore qualitative and descriptive in essence and depends greatly on consultation with etymological authorities. For example, it referred to official information available on the websites of the respective states in order to access important details related to the development of the naming process. Collected data were analyzed and collected primarily within the framework of past and present mainstream theories of etymology. In addition, this study was undertaken with a view towards providing the most logical and reasonable explanations for states' names. It concluded that all fifty states have acquired their names from a diverse assortment of languages. For example, twenty-four of the states come from languages indigenous to the Americas and one comes from Hawaiian. Eight states' names are derived from Algonquian languages; seven states' names are derived from Siouan languages; three states' names are derived from Iroquoian languages; one state derives its name from a Uto-Aztecan language and five states derive their names from other languages indigenous to the Americas. Twenty-two of the other states derive their names from languages of Europe; seven states derive their names from Latin; five states derive their names from English; five states derive their names from Spanish and four states derive their names from French. The origins of the names of six states are contested: Rhode Island, Oregon, Maine, Idaho, Hawaii and Arizona. Eleven states are named after individuals. For example, seven states are named after queens and kings. These include North and South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia, Georgia, Louisiana and Maryland. Interestingly, only one state was named after a president - Washington. 


Keywords


American state names, etymology, sociolinguistics, historio-linguistics, name coinage

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7575/aiac.ijalel.v.4n.4p.248

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