Place Names on the 17th–19th Century Estonian Grave Markers Cover Image

Kohanimed XVII–XIX sajandi hauatähistel
Place Names on the 17th–19th Century Estonian Grave Markers

Author(s): Pille Arnek
Subject(s): Cultural history, Lexis, Historical Linguistics, Baltic Languages, 17th Century, 18th Century, 19th Century, Philology
Published by: SA Kultuurileht
Keywords: epitaphs; Estonian language history; place names;

Summary/Abstract: The oldest survived stone crosses commemorating Estonians date back to the late 16th century. Many of these Maltese and wheel crosses are rather rich, giving evidence of a rise of the self-awareness and social position of the wealthier Estonians. As many of the stonemasons were Estonians, too, it can be assumed that a number of the epitaphs have been engraved by a native Estonian. As survived records written by an Estonian hand are few, those old stone crosses are certainly a valuable source of written Estonian. The article analyses the place names engraved on the grave markers of deceased Estonians from the 17th–19th century. The research material consists of 48 17th-century place names, three place names from the 18th-century, which, as we know, began with the Great Northern War and the plague, and 193 place names selected from the abundant ones representing the 19th century. As far as morphology is concerned, most of the place names are in the genitive case. This is due to the pre-nominal position of place names as well as other cognomina. After all, a place name would often serve as a cognomen in oral speech. The assumption that the genitive case might be a trace of a generic term (village, farm etc) once following the place name was not confirmed for the epitaphs analysed, where the use of such generic terms was increasing rather than decreasing with time. Solid writing of the principal name and the generic term (if given) may have been either occasional or a sign of inconsistent usage typical of the development phase of any standard language. Separate writing, however, is more eloquent of a separate perception of the two components (e.g. Kodda asseme ‘place of home’). The texts engraved on grave markers provide interesting additional information on the development and use of place names, in particular on their shortening, folk etymology and bureaucratic etymology, while some variants found add new information, some help to confirm current assumptions.

  • Issue Year: LXII/2019
  • Issue No: 05
  • Page Range: 391-406
  • Page Count: 16
  • Language: Estonian