On the Lexical Formation of Estonian Ecclesiastical Culture: Once More on Baptism Cover Image

Eesti vaimuliku kultuuri sõnavara kujunemisest: veel kord ristimisest
On the Lexical Formation of Estonian Ecclesiastical Culture: Once More on Baptism

Author(s): Kristiina Ross, Sven-Erik Soosaar
Subject(s): Language and Literature Studies
Published by: SA Kultuurileht
Keywords: Estonian language; language history; Christianization of Estonians; Christian terminology; language contacts

Summary/Abstract: It has been assumed that Estonians may have had some contacts with Christianity even before their violent Christianization in the 13th century. Some scholars have emphasized the Slavic Orthodox mission coming from the East, some others call attention to the westerly mission of Scandinavia, while a third party believes that the earliest Christian influences arrived in the Estonian territory together with some peaceable German missionaries in the 1180s. The Estonian word ristima 'baptize' has been considered either an early Slavic loan or a Germanic one. As the Estonian ecclesiastical vocabulary originates in the Middle Ages the studies of that vocabulary should be based on the Christian system of concepts in the way it was manifested in medieval Latin. Logically, if a people is Christianized in the range of the Latin conceptual system mediated by missionaries with a Germanic background, the first sacrament should certainly enrich the local language by a word carrying a semantic component for 'dip in water'. As the Estonian word ristima lacks that meaning entirely the word must have arrived in the language before the Latin-German mission. Actually, no Slavic language associates the word for the first sacrament with immersion as the whole relevant word family had been translated into Church Slavonic using the stem *krьstъ which denotes the sign of the cross. Consequently the word ristima can have been adopted into Estonian only from the Church Slavonic conceptual system. Moreover, the word must have had time and reason to become rooted in the local usage so firmly that the new tradition introduced in the late 12th century could not erase it, and so both the Latin baptizo and the Low German döpen (as well as the High German taufen that came along later) were translated into Estonian as ristima as a matter of course.

  • Issue Year: L/2007
  • Issue No: 10
  • Page Range: 769-782
  • Page Count: 14
  • Language: Estonian