I commenced this (still very incomplete) section as a putative taxonomy to help me understand more about the subject, through its possible structure.
But from the start I encountered difficulties.
Any taxonomy imposes one particular perspective: a decision has to be made as to which aspects to group together, and which to separate.
These aspects might be termed:
For example, Patrick Hanks’s taxonomy for family names of the United States rightly regards the type of name as paramount; thus bringing together occupational names of all cultural groups.
For Great Britain, however, the ethnic mix is less, whilst the potential time-scales are longer. For these reasons, the first cut has been arbitrarily made as:
This first division is ambiguous and open to criticism (e.g. are medieval Jewish names to be treated as assimilated, and 20th century arrivals as non-assimilated?).
Nonetheless, most surnames in Britain have origins in widely-differing early source languages, Old English/Continental Germanic/Scandinavian, that a non-specialist is unaware of, whilst discerning the origins of recent arrivals.
In essence, this assimilated/non-assimilated category is merely just a pragmatic device to separate post-Victorian name arrivals, as most name studies will involve pre-Edwardian source documents, and as you might gather, it is one that I am not too comfortable with.
Surnames, by their often unknown origins, can be impossible to uniquely classify. They are slippery eels.
“A surname like Stevens may mean:
Source: Percy H. Reaney A Dictionary of British Surnames London, Routledge and Paul, 1958.
In this particular case, you need to decide whether to assign it to a primary category, or to all possible ones.
Another area of ambiguity is status nicknames. A name like Pope is not likely to be derived from an actual position, but more likely to have been a role in a pageant.
I mentioned different perspectives earlier. You might wish to look at all types of names that derive from
I have included an alternative classification that groups these.
I have not included any notation, because this taxonomy is experimental and embryonic. Also, the idea is not for each aspect of a name to be recorded by a relevant notation, and perhaps stored in a database But here is an example
The source language, gender (though perhaps not the morphology) could be notated as standard sub-divisions (in the same way that in the Dewey Decimal system .942 is the standard subdivision for England, thus 320-942 = Political History of England, 330.942 =Economic History of England)
Hence the code could be for the language .19107, gender .1922
Then there will also be temporal and spatial sub-divisions (for the hearth tax, census, electoral roll), and the notation becomes totally unwieldy. Rather, I would envisage a taxonomy with radio buttons that is linked to an Access database
Actually, I have decided no longer to pursue a taxonomy per se. Rather I want to convey an idea of the complexity of the subject, and an indication of which areas are being studied, and a flavour of the writing. There is no name for this - so I am using the term 'aspect map' instead. Pretty naff, and I may change it.