Name lists

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Name lists
« on: September 03, 2014, 05:51:14 AM »
As promised over in the blog, here's some comments on the Baltic section of name lists. I'll do this piecemeal over a few days, most likely.

Assumptions: to make Baltic names, you pull names from lithuanian or latvian sources, as no other linguistically baltic people currently exist. There were other peoples, of course, but they're now either assimilated into either Lithuania and Latvia and exist as regional dialects, or were eradicated altogether and so we only have (not very good) reconstructions of their languages. If you pulled any names from these reconstructions instead of either lithuanians or latvians, good for you! You know more than I do and should just carry on doing what you're doing.

Anyway. Here's the names that make me raise eyebrows sky high:
Kertu, Daniil, Henri, Karl, Maksim, Rasmus, Rickards, Romet, Sander.

All of them save for Rickards are odd because of one reason: word endings. Lithuanians and latvians use word endings to denote gender, grammatical case and singular plural. "Englishing" a name usually means that most of that is ignored and you just use nominative for everything, which is an established practice by now that everyone is quite fine with. However, you *do* need to get the nominative endings right.

The most common feminine nominative endings in lithuanian (and, far as I know, in latvian as well) are "-a" or "-e." (In lithuanian, the actual nominative word ending is "-?", which is important-ish because using an "-e" turns changes the case from nominative to vocative, which is mildly frustrating when reading. Not that important, though.)

Which is why "Kertu" feels ridiculous. You could turn it into the form of an actual name by changing it to Kerta or Kerte, but even then it would not be a name I have actually heard of.

Similarly, the most frequent masculine nominative ending in lithuanian is "-as", more rarer ones are "'-is", or "-ius." Far as I can tell, latvians either stick an "-s", or an "-is", or an "-ijs" at the end. The simple way to look at it is that if a masculine name doesn't have an 's' at the end, it's probably not Baltic.

Henri and Karl thus seem french and german, respectivelly. You could change 'Henri' to 'Henrikas' or 'Erikas', whereas variations of "Karl" are not much used at all.

Daniil and Maksim are slavic. The Baltic states have a long history of being occupied by the Russian empire and then the Soviet Union, with attempts at assimilation through education controls, partial extermination and massive population relocations. You want to avoid conflating names from these two language groups like you'd want to avoid calling the Dallai Lama chinese. There is a baltic version of Daniil - either "Danielius" or "Daniels." There is no baltic version of Maksim.

Rasmus is the name of a band. Rasmas, I believe, is a latvian name, though I do not know for sure.

Romet and Sander I haven't even got a clue about. Where did you get these two names?

And I think that's it for today. Later this week, I'll try to find and list some cool archaic names (the current ones feel fairly modern, and don't read like their English list counterpart at all). Maybe a bit of implied linguistic background for some of the names, though I'm not sure how useful that would be.

If other people want to use this thread for similar name-checking for the languages they know about, feel free.

Re: Name lists
« Reply #1 on: September 03, 2014, 06:16:00 AM »
I would change "Grantiana" to "Gratiana", in the Latin list.

Re: Name lists
« Reply #2 on: September 03, 2014, 08:33:01 AM »
I'm a linguist, but this sort of work falls really far from my own research interests; as such, I think it'd be best to disregard my word in favour of any testimonial given by a speaker of a language. I do have a bit of training and experience here, but most of these observations are the results of intuition rather than intensive analysis.

I'm not entirely sure what names like Gunnarr, Hakon and Tryggvi are doing on the list of Germanic names, when their origins are in Old Norse. I suppose you could make the argument that since Old Norse is descended from Proto-Germanic, and that Nordic languages in general fall under the umbrella of Germanic languages, those names are Germanic. But if the list of Nordic names is there, those names ought to be on that list instead.

Jordanes, if I remember correctly, was a Roman known for conducting diplomacy with Gothic tribes. Definitely open to correction on this one, but I think that name would serve better on the Latin list.

The English names are especially odd, a bunch of them are actually Dutch (Douwe, Gerbrandt, Martinus, Wilrik), and, to the best of my knowledge, there isn't really any historical precedent for that sort of influence. I don't think there was a period during which England was under some sort of Dutch control, let alone one significant enough to realise that sort of linguistic change. Again, there's the same argument as above, that they're both Germanic languages. But they're on entirely separate branches of West Germanic, Dutch being Low Franconian and English a member of the Anglo-Frisian branch. 'English' in general is super tricky, even in medieval times, and depending on when the game is set, that name list could be hugely different. Pre-1066, most of the names would be Germanic, Anglo-Saxon specifically, but after William of Normandy conquered England, French became the language used in noble courts (if you've ever wondered, this is the primary reason we have so many French loan-words in English), and Romanic names would have become more prominent.
Of course, dealing with languages that haven't been spoken in centuries, or are still extant but vastly different, is a really difficult job. There's this great William Labov (renowned sociolinguist) quote that I feel should preface every attempt at historical linguistics: "the great art of the historical linguists is to make the best of this bad data, ‘bad’ in the sense that it may be fragmentary, corrupted or many times removed from the actual productions of native speakers" - and that's just it, nobody's alive to testify, and written works are extremely rare, if they exist at all. I'm totally in favour of linguistic accuracy and not misrepresenting anyone's culture, but if historical linguists whose job it is to tell us what a language might have sounded like in 800AD can't provide a fully accurate answer, I'm willing to extend some leeway to this project.



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Re: Name lists
« Reply #3 on: September 03, 2014, 09:10:44 AM »
I made my name lists by googling, pasting into a spreadsheet, and randomizing. My process is utterly, catastrophically linguistically ignorant.

The English name list came from a search for Frisian names. If the "Frisian" names I found are entirely or largely Dutch, well then! That's why.

I would welcome better-informed name lists! Super welcome them!


Re: Name lists
« Reply #4 on: September 03, 2014, 12:12:41 PM »
The Frisians were a different, though related, tribe from the Angles, so I'm not sure if they're the best source for English names. I don't have the lists in front of me, so I can't recall if there are separate lists for English and Saxon, but I think English properly refers to the later national identity that began to form with Alfred the Great and is a fusion of Angle, Saxon, and Jutish cultures and language. I would recommend having either separate Angle and Saxon lists, or a single English list. The Jutes were fairly small in number compared to the other two, so they could probably be subsumed by them.

To be honest though, a lot of this is splitting hairs that historically were very tangled together. Every Germanic language has cognates of names that appear in other Germanic languages, or equivalent vocabulary that just didn't become or remain as a given name in a particular language. Also, there was a significant amount of sharing and mingling of culture, linguists, and genetics across Europe, even in the "Dark Ages", which I think the Peoples rules do a great job of capturing. It might be easier to have broader name list categories, instead of delineating down to individual tribes. I would go with Germanic, Celtic, Slavic, Romance (or Romanic), Semitic, Greek, Finnish, and something to capture the Xiongnu/Hun/Magyar steppe peoples. Many peoples were the result of mixtures of peoples from within and between these broader ethnicities. For example, the Franks might be approximated by taking from the Germanic, Celtic, and Romance lists. If you try to list actual peoples, you have to decide which peoples to include, what counts as a name used by that people, etc., which quickly turns into a nightmare.

Re: Name lists
« Reply #5 on: September 03, 2014, 05:53:43 PM »
If you're welcoming comments on the name lists, I wouldn't mind taking a crack at the Nordic list!

First some notes on anglicization: the Old Norse letters þ (thorn) and ð (eth) are both pronounced "th," the former as in "thin" and the latter "this." They are usually anglicized, respectively, "th" (as it is in Thor) and "d" (as it is in Odin and Gudrun), but sometimes you find the eth represented with "th" as well, or "dh." I'll stick with "d."

One more note: the final "-r" of a name, or the final letter of a name's ending double letter pair, e.g. "-nn," "-ll," and "-rr" is often dropped in anglicization. It generally represents the nominative case marker, and would change anyway depending on usage; for example, the name Hrafnkell is so written normally, but it's declined Hrafnkels when showing ownership: e.g. Hrafnkell's saga is in Old Norse written Hrafnkels saga, with one L.

I'm leaving the nominative "-r"s and double final letters in; you can keep them or drop them as you will. (Or expand the final "-r"s into "-ur"s, as is done in modern Icelandic, e.g. Olafur and Grimur.)

If you're interested in using names that were historically popular, it should be noted that many of the most common male names (and female, too) began with "Thor." Names like Thorsteinn, Thorkell, Thorbjorn, Thorgeirr, Thorgrimr, and Thorolfr were all very common for men, and Thorgerdr, Thordis, Thorunn, Thora, and Thorkatla for women.

Other major male names include Helgi, Ketill, Bjorn, Grimr, Einarr, Ormr, Oddr, and Ulfr; and for women, Helga, Gudrun, Valgerdr, Yngvildr, Vigdis, Jorunn, Groa, and Astridr.

Some comments about specific names on the list, pointing out foreignized and modernized forms...

Aile: This is a Sami (Scandinavian/Finnish native) version of the Old Norse name Helga.
Alwilda: Latinized version of Alfhildr (modern Danish form: Alvild).
Corri: Not sure where this one comes from. There are names Kori and Kari, but they are masculine.
Eria: Also not sure where this comes from. The Finnish name Erja?
Pora: I think this name is actually a mistaken anglicization of Þora (which should be written Thora).
Astride, Gerda, Hilde: the last vowels are all anglicized replacements for a nominative "-r" ending.

Alv: Modernized form of Old Norse Alfr.
Arvid: Modernized form of Arnvidr.
Borje: A modern variant of Birgir (which is already on the list).
Dustin: An English mangling of Thorsteinn.
Hraftan: Not sure where this comes from?
Keld: Modern form of ON Ketill (which was sometimes shortened to Kell in compound names like Thorkell).
Sorley: Mangled by both English and Gaelic from the original Sumarlidr or Sumarlidi.
Sten: Slightly more modern form of ON Steinn.
And, if you're including the nominative "-r" endings, names like Einar, Gautstaf, Geir, Halldor, Leif, Odd, Ulf, and Vidar should all have an (extra) "r" thrown on the end.

...But all of that is assuming you keep a specific Nordic list and don't, as lordpib suggests, distill it all down to broader language categories. And I hope this doesn't come off as too critical; I can definitely understand wanting to incorporate some of these names because of their foreign-filtered forms, if you want to emphasize the displacement of peoples and mixing of cultures. Echoes of famous saga heroes like Kormakr and Njall, who had Irish names transformed into Old Norse...

Re: Name lists
« Reply #6 on: September 04, 2014, 06:15:11 AM »
Oh my goodness I am in love with this thread! Please keep running with it as fast as your lithe academic legs will carry you!