2020, Volume 17, Issue 1

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Bair Z. Nanzatov
Vladimir V. Tishin

Institute for Mongolian, Buddhist and Tibetan Studies, Siberian Branch of the RAS
Ulan-Ude, Russia

Bayïrqu and Barγu: Deconstructing One Myth

Voprosy onomastiki, 2020, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp. 168–189 (in Russian)
DOI: 10.15826/vopr_onom.2020.17.1.009

Received 28 January 2019

Abstract: In academic and unspecialized literature related to the ethnogenesis and ethnic history of the Buryats, the two ethnonyms Bayïrqu ~ Bayarqu, known in the Old Turkic period, and Barγu ~ Barqu, first recorded in the early 13th century, have been commonly regarded as corresponding forms, phonetically or, at least, semantically. This position fit well into the ideas about the ethnic continuity in the history of the population of the Baikal region at different stages. Once hypothetically suggested, this point of view established itself in historiography. But although accepted by many authors, this position has never been subjected to verification or philological criticism. The article aims to reconsider and dispel this misconception. The authors give philological evidence to prove that treating the ethnonyms Bayïrqu ~ Bayarqu and Barγu ~ Barqu as phonetic forms of one word at different historical stages is completely ungrounded. Specifically, the study shows that there are no phonetic rules, known at least for Altaic languages, to argue the transformation of forms Bayïrqu and Bayarqu, attested in written sources of the 8th–10th centuries, to Barγu known since the 13th century. The authors also consider different versions of the etymology of each of these ethnonyms, based on the materials of the Turkic and Mongolic languages. The name Bayïrqu ~ Bayarqu must be derived from the stem bay+u- ~ bay+ï- ‘to be or become rich’ and is likely a verbal noun with the meaning ‘enrich (Acc.)’. Contrary, the ethnonym barγu is attested among Mongolic peoples and displays parallels in the ethnonymy of the Turkic peoples in the forms of Barγï, Barqï. It can be either a Turkic borrowing or an original Mongolic formation, in both cases representing a verbal noun from the stem bar-.

Keywords: ethnonym, etymology, Bayïrqu, Barγu, Baikal region, Innermost Asia, Turkic languages, Mongolic languages, ethnogenesis of the Buryats.

The study was supported by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research (grant 19-09-00082, Innermost Asia on Historical Maps: Reconstruction of its Historical and Cultural Past).


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