On the Variation of Johannes Gutslaff’s Name: His Signature versus His Estonian Orthography Cover Image

Johannes Gutslaffi nimekuju varieerumisest ehk tema allkiri versus tema eesti keele ortograafia
On the Variation of Johannes Gutslaff’s Name: His Signature versus His Estonian Orthography

Author(s): Szilárd Tóth
Subject(s): Language and Literature Studies
Published by: SA Kultuurileht
Keywords: Gutslaff; South Estonian (Tartu) written language in the 17th century; handwriting; phonotactic orthography; decorativity

Summary/Abstract: There are a number of orthographic variants of the surname of Johannes Gutslaff, the developer of the South Estonian (Tartu) written language in the 17th century: Gutslaff, Guttslaff, Gutzlaff, Gutzschlaff, Gutschlaff, Gutsleff, Gütslaff etc. In accordance with the Gothic handwriting traditions of Early New High German, an acute over every u is used in the manuscript of his translation of the Old Testament to distinguish it from other letters (especially from n); [ü] is written as ű. However, in eight trial documents handwritten by Gutslaff in the records of the Livländisches Hofgericht, his name is found written with both ú and ű. In signatures ű is more common. Such variation gives rise to the suspicion that the use of the double acute is not based on phonetic/phonological considerations: it is unlikely that Gutslaff, who in Estonian differentiated clearly between front and back vowels, would not have paid any attention to the palatovelar opposition between [u] and [ü] when writing his own name, especially when one takes into account that these are differentiated in both German and Estonian. According to the German handwriting tradition of the time, the diacritic marks used over u included an acute as well as a double acute, which means that a double acute on Gutslaff ’s name has the same function as a single acute. A handwritten ű in his Bible translation denotes a [ü]; in his signature, however, it denotes a [u] (this is also supported by the u in his name used in his printed works). The form Gutzschlaff in the register of the University of Greifswald does not indicate that Gutslaff would have written his name in that way, as names were entered into the register as they were spoken. Consonantal letters combined in a purely decorative fashion was a typical orthographic convention of Early New High German. The same decorative embellishment may account for the use of the grapheme ű in the signature instead of ú and explain the second, „extraneous” acute in ű as phonologically redundant. Consequently, it follows that Arvo Tering’s comment that „it is correct to use both the form Gutslaff, as shown on the title pages of his printed works, as well as Gütslaff, which he used himself when signing his name”, should be amended to „only the form Gutslaff is correct”. The phonotactic orthography used by Gutslaff in non-initial syllables of Estonian words – non-designation of the vowel quality (palatality) – reminds one of the non-phonetic nature of the ű in is signature, though whereas in the signature an ”unnecessary” diacritic mark is added, in noninitial syllables a phonetically ”necessary” diacritic mark is ignored for phonotactic reasons.

  • Issue Year: LIII/2010
  • Issue No: 03
  • Page Range: 211-218
  • Page Count: 8
  • Language: Estonian