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UCL Home  /  Geography  /  News & Events  /  News  /  News Archive  /  2011  /  October 2011  /  Global connections: What’s in a name?

Global connections: What’s in a name?

International project reveals global networks of cultural, ethnic and linguistic communities

Global connections: What’s in a name?

Links between hundreds of millions of names belonging to people from 17 countries have been analysed by geographers Pablo Mateos and Paul Longley from UCL, and David O’Sullivan, from the University of Auckland. The results reveal how our forenames and surnames are connected in distinct global networks of cultural, ethnic and linguistic communities.

For the first time global ‘naming networks’ of linked forenames and surnames are providing a valuable representation of cultural, ethnic and linguistic population structure around the world.

Dr. Pablo Mateos explains, “Rather than use a ‘name dictionary’, our approach has been to focus on the links between surnames and forenames. When you combine millions of these links into networks you see clusters emerge. They reveal the cultural baggage involved in the way in which we bestow forenames on babies and pass surnames from one generation to the next, even long after migration to a different cultural setting has occurred.”

Using repositories of names, such as telephone directories and electoral registers, the team has been able to identify ethnicity when no other alternative data source exists - something of value for future studies of public health, demography, ethnic segregation and migrant integration.


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The full paper can be found at:


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