Tag Archives: Czech

Mystery Monday: Lowko

Every Monday we will post an entry that hasn’t yet been published with a view towards harnessing the collective onomastic power of the internet. If you have any thoughts about the name’s origin, other variants it might be related to, other examples of its use, etc., please share them in the comments! If you wish to browse other Mystery Monday names, there is an index.

Today’s name is another Czech name, and the -ko ending indicates it is likely a diminutive. But what is the root name? Possibly some form of Louis? We’d be happier with that identification if we had forms of Louis beginning with Low- in this linguistic area. Do you have any to share?

Lowko

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Mystery Monday: Kadold

Every Monday we will post an entry that hasn’t yet been published with a view towards harnessing the collective onomastic power of the internet. If you have any thoughts about the name’s origin, other variants it might be related to, other examples of its use, etc., please share them in the comments! If you wish to browse other Mystery Monday names, there is an index.

Today’s name has citations from Austria and the Czech Republic, and is a rare example of a name spelled with K- in Latin. The deuterotheme may be related to Old High German hold ‘friendly, comely, graceful’, but the prototheme is opaque. Do you have any thoughts?
Kadold

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Mystery Monday: Hablo

Every Monday we will post an entry that hasn’t yet been published with a view towards harnessing the collective onomastic power of the internet. If you have any thoughts about the name’s origin, other variants it might be related to, other examples of its use, etc., please share them in the comments! If you wish to browse other Mystery Monday names, there is an index.

Today’s mystery name is another name from Moravia: Any Czech scholars have any thoughts?
hablo

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You want nicknames? We got nicknames!

In dictionary entries, we sort our citations by modern day country borders (because trying to ascertain which country certain towns were in at which period is quite a bit of work — especially when ‘country’ isn’t a viable geographic category for much of the Middle Ages!). One particularly interesting aspect of the multi-cultural/cross-geographic data that we have is that it allows us to trace certain patterns or trends across these boundaries, and one such pattern is the prolificness (or not) of diminutives. We touched on this in the previous post when we briefly commented on the percentage of names that are diminutives in any given era. In this post, we thought we’d explore this further, with some stats and some bar graphs; it’s been too long since we’ve had a nice graph!

Table of diminutive numbers and percentages

Country No. of dims. No. of non-dims. Percentage
Austria 0 60 0%
Brabant 18 191 8.6%
Czech Republic 241 912 18.5%
England 554 15457 3.4%
Estonia 612 905 40.3%
Finland 58 205 22%
France 1181 11744 9.1%
Germany 153 3973 3.7%
Iceland 0 63 0%
Ireland 12 294 3.9%
Italy 525 2387 18%
Latvia 201 1079 15.7%
Malta 0 10 0%
The Netherlands 36 862 4%
Norway 0 3 0%
Poland 21 123 14.5%
Portugal 2 384 .5%
Scotland 47 824 5.3%
Spain 62 1556 3.8%
Sweden 27 589 4.3%
Switzerland 102 543 15.8%
Ukraine 6 82 6.8%
Wales 46 391 10.5%

In some contexts, it is clear that we don’t have enough data to draw any sort of robust conclusions — Austria, Iceland, Malta, Norway, the Ukraine. But omitting these from discussion (and also omitting England, second from the bottom, and France, no. 8, since their much larger numbers make the graph inelegant), we are left with an interesting picture of the relative percentages of nicknames and diminutives across different geographical areas:

The four outstanding areas are Estonia, the Czech Republic, Finland, and Italy. We’ve already discussed the nicknames in Estonia and the Czech Republic when we covered German and Slavic forms; so next up, we will explore diminutive and nicknames forms in Finland and Italy.

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Nicknames: Slavic diminutives

What is fascinating about diminutive suffixes is how you can trace linguistic contact and language relationships through diminutive forms. We saw that in our previous post, with the similarity between German and Dutch diminutives, and we will see it again when we look at the French diminutives -el and -in. In this post, we look at Slavic diminutives — suffixes used in Poland, the Ukraine, and the Czech Republic — which share a clear relationship with Low German -ke(n). We concentrate on the two most common suffix types: -ko and -ek for men and -ka and -ek(a) for women.

As with the German suffixes, these show up in Latin contexts at least as early as the 13th C. [1,2] But unlike some of the German diminutive forms, which for the most part were rarer than the root names, Slavic diminutives often eclipsed the root name in popularity — for example, in the Czech Republic, diminutive forms of Judith far outstrip the full form.

In what is now modern-day Czech Republic, the suffix -ka was often spelled -ca (especially in Latin contexts where k was often avoided) or with an added sibilant, either before or after the \k\, resulting in -zca, -zka, -kza, etc. Examples of this include Anka (from Anne) and Elsca, Elzca, and Elzka (from Elizabeth). Often, this suffix was added not to the full form of the name, but to a hypocoristic from — as in the forms of Elizabeth just noted. In particular, native Slavic names were often truncated before the diminutive suffix was added, as we see in the names Sdynka, Zdincza, Zdinka (from Zdeslava) and Budka, Budcza (from Budislava). As a result, it can be often difficult to identify what the root name is, which is the case with many of the masculine examples we currently have. Given their linguistic and geographic context, masculine names such as Boczko, Czenko, Daszko, Luczko, Parcko, Raczko, Steczko, and Wyrsko are almost all certainly diminutives, though as of yet we haven’t yet confidently identified the root names.

Our data from Poland, at this point, is still relatively limited, but even amongst the handful of diminutive forms that we have, we can see the influence of the Slavic construction in forms such as Ludeko (from Louis), another example of which we find in Lübeck a few years later. What we tend to see more in our limited Polish data is similarity with German suffixes, in particular one which we didn’t discuss in our previous post: -el. When we discuss German masculine diminutive suffixes, we’ll return to this!

Finally, let’s look at Ukraine. As with Poland, our data from the Ukraine is still quite limited, and yet, even amongst that limited data we have a surprisingly large percentage of diminutive forms (making up nearly 7%!) [3]. We see both the -(z)ko and -ek suffixes in this data, as witnessed by Iaczko (from Jacob), Iwanko (from John), and Muszyk (root name not yet identified), on the masculine side, and Marsucha (from Mary) on the feminine side.

One must be leery of drawing any strong conclusions from the limited data that we’ve gathered so far. Nevertheless, even in this small data set we have ample illustration of the variety of ways in which diminutives could be formed, and evidence of their popularity.


Notes

[1] Artsikhovskii, A. V., et al. Novgorodskie gramoty na bereste, Vols I-VII. Moscow: Izdatel’stvo Akademii Nauk SSSR, 1953-78, no. 348.

[2] Moroshkin, Mikhail. Slavianskii imenoslov ili sobranie slavianskikh lichnykh imen. Saint Petersburg: n.p., 1867, p. 124.

[3] Compare that with, say, England or Spain, where diminutives make up 3%, or Sweden, where it is 4%.

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Statistics from the other side

The last few months we’ve been posting statistics about how things look with a view towards the first edition of the Dictionary, but today I wanted to say a little bit about the other side of the statistics, all the data that we’ve collected that is not yet ready for publication.

Compared to the 480+ entries that are ready for publication, we have 1580+ that have been created but are still in the drafting/research phase — nearly four times as many. These entries are sitting unfinished for any number of various reasons:

  • Time. When entering individual citations (VNFs in editor-speak), when a new name is reached that doesn’t yet have an entry associated with its canonical form (CNF in editor-speak), we simply create a CNF file which is empty other than the name form itself, and continue entering data. Depending on the data set being transcribed, over the course of an afternoon, 25+ such entries could be generated. Then, someone has to sit down, compare them to the CNF files already in existence (to make sure that it isn’t actually a duplicate of something, just in a different spelling), collect etymological and usage information, review everything to make sure it’s accurate, there are no typos, the XML formatting is correct, etc.
  • Etymology. A lot of the names we deal with are ‘known’ quantities; their origin has been well established, and thus it’s just a matter of writing up the etymological information correctly. Others, though, are unique and puzzling, and a single citation or two is not sufficient for positive identification. For this, I can offer examples the names Pelejana (Valencia, 1510), Persla (Brno, 1349), and Pevernel (Devon, 1599) (yes, I was working in “Pe-” last night…). These are likely tractable cases, but need to wait until further examples are collected before we can make headway with identification.
  • The intractable ones. Some, however, are going to be intractable: We fully expect that there will be names where all we can say is “This unique name of uncertain origin is found only in Italy in the early 14th C”, or the like. But, as with the names of (currently) uncertain origin noted above, we can’t make such a decision about a name too quickly.
  • Non-Latin alphabets (other than Greek). The Dictionary currently has no ready-for-publication entries which involve names of Hebrew origin, because we are still determining the best way to handle words written in that alphabet, in particular how to store the data and how to make sure it displays properly on the website. This means that, right now, a tremendously large number of names of Biblical origin are not yet ready.
  • Complex developments. In many cases, it’s rather straightforward to trace the development of a name through different time-periods and cultures, to confidently say, e.g., that Giovanni is a form of John. Other names are not so straightforward: Are Randal, Randolph, and Ranulph all distinct names? They are of the same etymological origin, which normally would cause us to group them together; but would someone looking for Ranulph think to look under Randal?
  • Names of cultural importance. For many names, providing the etymological information and some information about the use of the name by important royalty, saints, or popes is sufficient: The citations then speak for themselves in illustrating the spread of usage over time and space. But some names are, through their widespread use, important from a ‘cultural’ perspective, i.e., the perspective of anyone who is interested in the relationship between onomastics and social and personal identities. These names deserve greater comment, which, in turn, takes time to adequately compile, collate, and present. An example of such a name is John, whose popularity in pretty much every western European culture from the early 13th C on strips that of almost every other masculine name. (It is rare to find a data set where John and variants are not the most common name by a significant margin. I’ve always wondered about Ormskirk, Lancashire; in their 16th C baptismal register, Thomas just barely squeaks past John to be the most popular name.)

So what does all this mean? It means that the first edition is not going to contain a lot of names that people might expect to be in there (John very most likely being one of them). But it also means that there is always place for further research, and that we are unlikely to reach the end of potential new entries any time soon. It also means that at some point down the line, we’ll be able to put together a “Does Anyone Know This Name?” page where lay users of the Dictionary as well as onomastic specialists can contribute their knowledge regarding identification and etymology of rare and unusual names.

It also means that we could stop collecting data now (though we won’t!) and spend the next two months solely doing research, and there’d still be potentially nearly 10,000 VNFs that could end up in an upcoming edition, since that is the number we correctly have waiting for review by one of the editors, to ensure that the entry details are correct and that the entry for the corresponding CNF is ready for publication. And this is just a scratch on the surface: There are hundreds of thousands of names out there waiting for us to catalogue them.

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Taking stock

Though, as noted earlier, we will be unable to release the first edition of the Dictionary at the end of this month as originally planned, nevertheless we are continuing to make good progress on the data-collection and -entry side of things. I thought it would be fun to take stock of things as they stand, and put up a few teaser statistics.

There are currently 297 entries ready for publication: Each of these entries includes the etymological derivation of the name; brief notes about any major royalty (kings/queens; emperors/empresses), popes, or saints who bore the name; and any other relevant information concerning the linguistic development of the name, references to secondary literature, or cross-references to other application dictionary entries. 176 of the entries are masculine names, ranging from Adolf to Zdyslav, and the remaining 121 are feminine, ranging from Accorsa to Zoete.

There are 3880 citations distributed over these 297 entries, making an average of just over 13 citations per entry. Of course, the reality is much different: Many of the entries have only a single citation, and a bare handful of entries have hundreds. Such minimal data is already indicative of the larger sample being confirmative of Zipf’s Law; one exciting consequence of the Dictionary is that research concerning empirical matters such as Zipf’s Law will be much easier to undertake as a huge body of data will all be gathered in a single place.

The citations are taken from records from the Czech Republic, Germany, England, France, Italy, Scotland, Spain, and Sweden. The earliest citations are from 779, a handful of masculine names from a Carolingian charter; the latest are from 1600 and are drawn from English parish records. Approximately 1850 citations are from Latin-language records; the remainder are from various vernaculars.

I rather like nice little statistics: Maybe we’ll do updates like this the beginning of every month!

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