ISSN: 2306-5737E-ISSN: 2658-4069
Acta Linguistica Petropolitana
Transactions of the Institute for Linguistic Studies
ISSN: 2306-5737E-ISSN: 2658-4069
Acta Linguistica Petropolitana
Transactions of the Institute for Linguistic Studies 

Transethnic Contacts in Karelia as Revealed by Karelian Toponymy Evidence

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Kuzmin D. V. Mezhetnicheskoye kontaktirovaniye v Karelii v svete dannykh kareloyazychnoy geograficheskoy terminologii. Acta Linguistica Petropolitana. 2020. XVI(3): 289–307.

Geographical names are traditional sources of information on the settlement history of a region, and the Republic of Karelia is no exception. Recent studies have demonstrated that toponymy is an essential source for investigating the history of the region. The local geographical vocabulary represented by an immense amount of place names is an important source of toponymic data and a promising object of toponymic research proper as well as of ethno-historical studies. The fact is that the distribution of the fairly numerous local geographical terms may reveal certain links between a given area and other language and dialect zones.

The Sami are known to be native inhabitants of Karelia, and their traces in the toponymy of Karelia are quite significant. Furthermore, Karelian dialects contain quite a number of geographical terms of the Sami origin: cf. čieke ‘reindeer herding ground’, čulppo ‘upland’, jänkä ‘large wetland’, köynäs ‘waterfall’, lašša ‘rocky shoal, rocky bottom exposed at low tide’, puahto ‘cliff; precipice’, or vuara ‘wooded upland’.

The presence of some typical Finnish lexis in the Karelian toponymy is an indication of ancient migrations from the Finnish territory. Further evidence for this is found in the lexical borrowings in Karelian dialects: cf. heittijö ‘abandoned field’, hitelikkö ‘wooded ridge; dense young pine stand’, juokšu ‘water current’, kunnaš ‘mount, hill, slope’, kutveikko ‘rough, densely overgrown site’, lamu ‘flatbottomed hollow between hills’, letto ‘small rocky site’, loma ‘gully, ravine, hollow between hills; crevice’, nikara ‘small mound; (small) river rapid’.

A close affinity of the South Karelian and Vepsian toponymic systems makes identification of different Vepsian traits in the toponymy of Karelia rather a challenging task. The geographical lexical borrowings from Vepsian to Karelian are not numerous either. Nonetheless, some known toponymic and lexical facts do suggest that Vepsians could have directly contributed to the formation of the population of the southern parts of Karelia: cf. *čuhakko ‘hill’, kuare ‘gully’, kuarakko ‘lowland, hollow’, palde ‘slope of a mount or knoll; hillside’, burde, purde, ‘spring, fountainhead’, *viranda, *veranduz ‘slashed site ready for burning’.

Both toponymic and lexical material provide evidence of centuries of contacts with Slavic population whereby Karelian has acquired many words of the Russian origin, including borrowings into the landscape vocabulary: cf. *bojoviššu ‘site where spawning fish is caught’, bruudu ‘pond; lakelet’, *bukl’a ‘backwater (with springs)’, dremužik ‘site overgrown with mixed forest’, loššina ‘hollow, lowland’, or *lovišša ‘hunting or fishing ground’.

Thus, further efforts to identify and study the borrowed vocabulary will ensure deeper understanding of the linguistic and ethnic processes in Karelia that have eventually shaped its current population.

toponymy, geographic terminology, language contacts, Karelia
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toponymy, geographic terminology, language contacts, Karelia
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