2019, Volume 16, Issue 2

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Alikber К. Alikberov
Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences
Moscow, Russia

Oleg А. Mudrak
Institute of Linguistics of the Russian Academy of Sciences
Higher School of Economics
Moscow, Russia

Historical Names Albania, Aluank, and Alan in Cross-Cultural Communication

Voprosy onomastiki, 2019, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp. 213–231 (in Russian)
DOI: 10.15826/vopr_onom.2019.16.2.023

Received 9 June 2018

Abstract: The paper explores the tradition of naming the East-Caucasian state known in historiography as Caucasian Albania, and the genetic ties of this name with the ethnonym alan. Using philological (textological and linguistic) data, the authors offer an etymology for this appellation, which reveals a connection between the lexemes containing elements aluan-, alban-, and alanine their stems. The common root that all of these names derived from has well-substantiated matches in the North Caucasian languages, and is recorded in writing from the last quarter  of the 2nd millennium BC. The authors believe that implying a reconstructed Iranian etymon, which has no explicit refl ex in modern Iranian Ossetian language, is redundant. The meaning of this root ‘the ruler, the king’ is well preserved in the North Caucasian descendant languages, without neglecting some typical cases of secondary semantic transitions which are easily explained. This meaning also looks appropriate for “unexpected” uses of the lexeme alan, which the authors have approached cautiously, relying on the ethnic interpretation of this term. Additionally, traces of the name’s etymological meaning are discernable in some contexts describing the political structure of Caucasian Albania. Thus, the traceable meaning of this root implies that the related words initially had the status of political names, which could have later acquired ethnic characteristics. Thus, building on North Caucasian etymology opens new perspectives for the interpretation of historical facts in early monuments. This etymology cannot defy the well-entrenched ethnic component that has predominated since the middle of the first millennium and is associated with Iranian Ossetian people of the North Caucasus. However, this is a good illustration of the fact that the etymological and the terminological meanings of a word might stand asunder.

Keywords: North Caucasian languages, Ossetian language, Caucasian Albania, Aluank, Aghvank, Alan, Iranian languages.


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