Study of given names potentially offers important insights into information economics, communication, and culture. Douglas Galbi’s draft study, A New Account of Personalization and Effective Communication (here as a .pdf file), offers some discussion of relevant issues, data, statistics, and analysis. Galbi’s paper explores English-language names in the US since 1800 and in England since about the eleventh century. The paper shows that over the past two centuries the extent of name personalization has grown significantly. The rate of effective communication of names on a decade-to-decade basis has also increased significantly. Neither of these developments, which contrast sharply with previous centuries of English experience, appear to be related to changes in communications technology or the rise of mass media. These developments are more likely related to new patterns of personal activity and personal relationships.
The development of knowledge about the distribution of given names potentially can develop rapidly through an open, scientific, collaborative process among persons interested in scholarly work in this field. The computational challenge of analyzing large datasets and the communication challenge of effectively sharing data and results have limited research in this relatively neglected field. The development of technology has now largely overcome such barriers.
This site provides tools and data to spur further analysis of given names. This site is maintained by Douglas Galbi, who is primarily interested in communications industry developments and public policy. Contributions, comments, and suggestions are welcomed at [email protected] In addition to the paper mentioned above, the following code and data are available here:
GINAP – code to standardize given names and correct common problems in name samples. Such standardization is an important step in analysis of given names.
Popular given names, US 1801 to 1999 – a collection of sets of standardized female and male names by decade, with counts of occurrences for names with more than 10 occurrances in the samples.
Samples of names from England before 1800 – name samples from a diverse set of sources, with raw and standardized names available.
Popularity of the name Mary over the past 800 years. For discussion of related sixteenth-century English history, Shakespeare family history, and Maria and Olivia in Twelfth Night, see Sense in Communication (Secttion IV, pp. 82-112), available from my home page
Sample of cotton workers in Manchester, 1818-19 – relatively rich dataset used to study the development of the early factory workforce. Also a source of personal names.