One of the main outcomes of my research thesis is a set of map resources that may be used to illustrate how certain types of names are distributed in the landscape. This is partly a linguistic endeavour, but also one that needs a geographer’s tools and mindset (it remains to be seen whether I have this!).
I needed to find an Open Source mapping tool, and QGIS presented itself, particularly so since a great number of people use it for a variety of uses, from physical geography to anthropology.
QGIS provides the means to load data from CSV files, in my case a list of place names with coordinates. These are then ‘projected’ onto a map canvas (remembering that the Earth is curved) and then displayed. The basic idea is that a map (in the form of a picture), is linked to a coordinate system (in this case the Ordnance Survey system), and then OS points (places) are then mapped onto the map image.
Once this first step is completed, all sorts of really cool stuff can be done (mathematical stuff), such as finding nearest neighbours, statistical co-relations, density calculations and so forth. One of the goals of this for Cornwall is to look for associations between name types and man-made features such as fortifications and roads, or natural defences such as rivers.