2015 №2 (19)

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Albrecht Greule
University of Regensburg
Regensburg, Germany

“Onomastic Archaeology” (with Reference to German Toponymy)

Voprosy onomastiki (Problems of Onomastics), 2015, Issue 2, pp. 101–113 (in Russian)
DOI: 10.15826/vopr_onom.2015.2.004

Transl. from German by E. D. Kosareva
Received 4 December 2014

Abstract: The author argues that archaeology and historical linguistics, each using their own tools, both seek to understand and interpret cultures of the prehistoric and early historical periods and, thus, can enrich and supplement each other. The author believes that the most potential of what he proposes to call “linguistic archaeology” is concentrated primarily in the study of proper names, which makes it possible to complement the general notion of “linguistic archaeology” with a narrower term — “onomastic archaeology”. This interdisciplinary cooperation can be most fruitful in the field of the study of place names, since the latter generally have a reliable historical and geographical attribution and are linked with a particular place or area during a relatively long period of time. The suggested approach is illustrated by some Southern German place names of Celtic origin. The etymological analysis shows that they all served to designate Celtic fortified settlements which makes these onomastic data valuable for further archaeological investigations and reconstruction of ancient Celtic culture. The author suggests that, besides oikonyms, hydronyms also play a significant role because of their capacity to conserve, due to metonymic transfer, the names of early historical monuments mentioned in ancient sources but considered to be lost. Referring to the Jastorf culture, whose area of diffusion displays, alongside with prevailing Germanic hydronyms, names of other origin, the author shows that hydronyms can be particularly important when reconstructing the “linguistic landscape” of an archaeological culture. In the concluding section of the article the prevalence of the Germanic linguistic component within the Jastorf culture area is illustrated by the analysis of the name of the ancient Slavic tribe of Wagri. In the author’s opinion, this ethnonym was either borrowed from an earlier Germanic population of that area during the period of bilingualism or adopted by the unnamed Slavic tribe as an already existing Germanic name.

Key words: German language, toponymy, place names, hydronyms, historical onomastics, linguistic archaeology, Jastorf culture, Wagri, etymology


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