2018.6.11 Map of Massachusetts municipalities colored by suffixes of names
Here's the map of Massachusetts town & city names colored by suffix that I proposed pre-hiatus. I actually started work on this back in 2013 and last worked on it in 2014 but didn't finish it, so I finally completed it today.
As shown in the key, the suffixes are divided into two categories:
- morphemes, i.e. full semantic sub-units, wherever there were more than one or two names containing the morpheme;
- otherwise, simple rhymes, some of which cover rarer morphemes, e.g. -by and -sea are combined into one rhyme.
- Names that lack any matching rhymes are grouped together under "unique rhymes" and the municipalities colored white.
The groupings are fairly subjective. For instance, I grouped related morphemes together to varying degrees: -caster/-cester/-chester are grouped together, but -boro/-borough, -bury, and -burg are separate (though given similar colors) because each is found in a good number of names on its own. Meanwhile, the simple rhyme groupings are often based more on getting an adequate number of names than on consistent phonetic criteria.
The colors are very subjective too. The morphemes' colors are more saturated to reflect their greater degree of "coherence," while the simple rhymes are muted. Morphemes with geographic meanings are generally given typically associated colors: -field is yellow-green, -wood is deeper green, the watery ones are bluish, -mont/-mond is purple to evoke purple mountains, -ford is blue-green because it's both watery and landish. For contrast, most of the settlement-related morphemes are various warm colors (-town, -bury, -ville, -ham, etc. — and -ham is also somewhat ham-colored). For less color-typified morphemes, and for pretty much all the simple rhymes, I went with my own letter-color-synesthetic preferences (which I still want to write about here), because it makes the most visual sense to me that way.
You know the drill — click the map to toggle between the small version and a larger version with names of municipalities shown.
The overall effect is chaotic, but certain observations are readily made, such as:
- -ton appears to be the most numerous suffix by a wide margin — not too big a surprise
- there are more watery suffixes along the coast — again, makes sense
- there are many more -fields in western MA than eastern, which makes a certain amount of sense in terms of broad-brush "inlandness" vs. "coastalness," but the magnitude of the difference is surprising
- if one wants similar consistency to North-, East-, South-, and Westhampton, then Marlborough ought to be named Eastborough, and Brookfield should be South Brookfield.
I reserve the right to keep tweaking the colors obsessively in perpetuity.