My Interpretation of the Croatian Toponyms
The Salt Lake
on the Mljet Island.
It's sometimes suggested
that the islands
were once the places richest
in toponyms, because people
had to use
every single source of
fresh water and every single
piece of fertile land.
ATTENTION: Some of the opinions stated in the following text are contrary to the mainstream science. I will not advise you to read it if you don't have a substantial background in linguistics. I am not a conspiracy theorist who wants to bombard people with controversial statements they don't know how to evaluate. If you are ready to read it, click here.
Croatian is a Slavic language. However,
I think there aren't actually that many Slavic toponyms in Croatia.
If there were, they would make sense to those who speak Croatian, and
the vast majority of them don't. So, I argue that attempts to explain
the Croatian toponyms without an obvious etymology with Slavic roots
is, in fact, a very flawed method, and I attempt to reconstruct a
language of the ancient Croatian toponyms (the Illyrian language) and
explain the toponyms using it.
To give you an example, Issa, the ancient name for the island of Vis, isn't explicable by Latin or Greek, and is widely stated to have an unknown, perhaps Pre-Indo-European etymology. But here is a clue: there were some quite strong springs there in ancient times, that the Roman baths were getting water from. And wherever there were large Roman baths in Croatia, the same or similar element repeats. The ancient name for Daruvar was Balissa and the ancient name for Varazdinske Toplice was Iasa. There we have it: *issa~iasa meant "spas" (health-giving springs). And I believe I can trace that name back to Proto-Indo-European: it probably comes from *yos (spring, derived from *yes, "to boil") and the collective noun ending *eh2 (probably pronounced "ah"). Using that knowledge, we can explain some modern Croatian toponyms without an obvious Croatian etymology, like Jozinci (assuming an ancient name such as *Iasona, meaning "on the health-giving spring", in the sense "on the source of salt water", since salt was believed to have health-giving properties by people of ancient Slavonia). Namely, Jozinci is a small village near Donji Miholjac. It's known that, in ancient times, there was a stream of brackish water flowing through Donji Miholjac, but it's not certain where its source was. It might have very well been in Jozinci (show/hide details).
Of course, things are a lot more complicated than the above paragraph might lead you to believe. Here is what Dubravka Ivsic, perhaps the most prominent Croatian etymologist (supporting the mainstream interpretations of the Croatian toponyms), said about it when I asked her via e-mail: Naselje "Issa" su osnovali Grci, a ne Iliri. Rimske terme su bile jednostavno kupališta, nisu nužno bile ljekovite. Puno je vjerojatnije da je "-issa" u toponimima poput "Balissa" i "Certissa" sufiks nego da su to složenice (uspoređuju se s keltskim toponimima u kojima je "-issa" sufiks). Drugim riječima, po svemu sudeći, toponim "Issa" morfološki nije usporediv s "-issa" u Balissa, a i čini se da ti toponimi pripadaju različitim slojevima, tj. različitim jezicima (treba voditi računa i o geografskoj udaljenosti). "Iasa" u "Aquae Iasae" se i inače izvodi od indoeuropskog *yes 'vreti', i moglo bi pripadati istom jeziku kao "Balissa", ali ponovno nije morfološki usporedivo. Ako i pretpostavimo da "Issa" i "Iasa" pripadaju istom jeziku (što je malo vjerojatno), trebalo bi objasniti razliku u obliku (ako ciljate na indoeuropski ablaut, treba objasniti kakav je to ablaut i zašto se razlikuju stupnjevi).
Dubravka If you are not able to understand it, not even using Google Translate, which usually does a good job translating Croatian to English (though not the other way around), perhaps you shouldn't proceed reading.
Anyway, I find the arguments rather weak, primarily because the mainstream linguistics considers the name "Issa" to be related to the toponym "Antissa" on the Greek island of Lesbos, and Vis and Lesbos are even further away from each other than Vis and Daruvar are. As for the Celtic suffix "-issa", it probably doesn't go back to Proto-Indo-European for it to be relevant here, since Proto-Indo-European phonotactics generally avoided geminates. There does indeed appear to be a suffix "-issia" in Illyrian. As for the differences in the grades of ablaut, that's not so surprising if you take into account that there were two words for spring in Proto-Slavic that were different only by a grade of ablaut, *virŭ and *vorŭ. Again, I can't promise you (and probably nobody can) to know all the relevant technical details.
Here is a list of the etymologies of the Croatian toponyms I've supported on the "Croatian Toponyms" thread linked on the left:
Aenona (Nin) < *h2ekj-mon (where a lot of stones are)
Albona (Labin) < *h2elbh (white)
Aljmas < *h2elm-yess (on a fertile ground)
Alma (Pozeska Gora) < *h2elm (fertile)
Almissia (Omis) < *h2elm-yess (on a fertile ground)
Andautonia (Zagreb) < *h2en-dheh2-ont-om (near that which flows)
Arsia (Rasa river) < *h3rews (to flow fast)
Balissa (Daruvar) < *boll-yos-eh2 (where a lot of health-giving boiling springs are)
Baranja < some sort of derivation from *mory (marsh), compare also Greek "borboros"
Bosut < *bel-sewh1-nt (strong waterer)
Cersia (Cres) < *(s)kwer (cliff)
Certissia (Dakovo) < *(s)ker-yess (on a sharp, infertile ground)
Cibalae (Vinkovci) < *kjey-bel (strong house)
Colapis (Kupa) < *kwol-h2ep ("wondering water", river with many meanders)
Dalj < *dhel (milkmen)
Daljok < *dhel (milkmen)
Dilj < *delh1 (wide)
Dindaria (Dinara mountain) < *dent (tooth)
Drava < *drew (to pour)
Dunav (Danube) < *danu (river, It's unknown what was the first vowel in Illyrian, because both nasalized 'a', nasalized 'o' and nasalized 'u' turn into 'u' in Croatian)
Ervenica (a stream in Slavonia) < *h3rews (to flow fast)
Esseg (Osijek) < *h1es-seg (healthy field)
Hrvat (Croat) < *ser-h2ekw-ot (one who lives near a stream), from some language related to Armenian (where PIE *s gives 'h')
Incerum (Pozega) < *h1eyn-kjer (the heart of the valley)
Iasa (Varazdinske Toplice) < *yos-eh2 (where a lot of health-giving springs are)
Iovalum (Valpovo) < *yow-h2elom (magical, health-giving herb)
Issa (Vis) < *yos-eh2 (where a lot of health-giving springs are)
Kalnik < *kelh3 (high)
Karasica < from a verb *ker meaning "to flow", perhaps of Pre-Indo-European origin
Kentina (Sinjsko Polje) < *kjem-t-h1eyn (the valley of horses)
Klek (the mountain) < *kelh3 (high, the change from *kelk to *klek would be regular in Croatian)
Korana < from a verb *ker meaning "to flow", perhaps of Pre-Indo-European origin
Krapina < from a verb *ker meaning "to flow", perhaps of Pre-Indo-European origin
Krbava (likely originally a hydronym) < from a verb *ker meaning "to flow", perhaps of Pre-Indo-European origin
Krka < from a verb *ker meaning "to flow", perhaps of Pre-Indo-European origin
Krndija < *(s)ker-nt (cutting, steep)
Lika (likely originally a hydronym) < *lewk (clear)
Mariniana (Donji Miholjac) < *mory-h1eyn (marshy valley)
Marsonia (Slavonski Brod) < *mory-h2en (a town on a marsh)
Mursa (Osijek) < *mory (marsh)
Neretva < *ner (canyon)
Orljava < *h1or (spring)
Osseratis (unidentified city near the confluence of the river Vrbas into Sava) < *h1en-ser-ot (where one [river] flows into [the other])
Padoma (an ancient place in the highlands on Vis) < *bheh2gjmos (beech tree)
Paklenica < *pikj (resin, the change from short 'i' to short 'a' is regular in Croatian)
Pannonia < *pen (marshland)
Papuk (originally a hydronym spelled "Papugh") < *bhogj (to flow)
Parentium (Porec) < *por-h1ey-nt-y-om ("around that which flows", river bank)
Pazin < *ph2senti (pasture)
Permodios (Premuda) < The supperlative form of Proto-Indo-European preposition *per (in front of), so that it means "the first island in the archipelago".
Pisunus (Psunj) < *peyH (resin), compare Greek "pissa" and Latin "pinus"
Plitvice < *plew (to flow)
Sava < *sewh1 (to water)
Scardona (Skradin) < *(s)kwor-dhos (big cliff)
Scitarjevo < *skewH (shield), in the sense "embankment"
Serapia (unidentified river in northern Croatia, perhaps Bednja) < *ser-h2ep (flowing water)
Siscia (Sisak) < *sek (to cut), in the sense "where Romans have cut the forest".
Sopje (perhaps from an ancient name *salapia) < *seh2l-h2ep (salt lake), so that it's an eponym of the near-by town Slatina (Croatian for "salt lake")
Sunja < *suh1-nt (that which waters the ground)
Sutla < *suh1-nt (that which waters the ground)
Tarda (Darda) < *ters (dry land)
Ulciria (Ucka mountain) < *wolkwos (wolf)
Una (the river) < *unt (wave)
Valeriana (Baranja) < *wel-h1er (wet valley)
Vuka (the river) < *welk (moisture, the change from syllabic 'l' to 'u' is regular in Croatian)
So, assuming those etymologies are true, it is, of course, possible to deduce quite a few things about the Illyrian grammar (show/hide details).
Here is what Dubravka Ivsic told me about some other toponyms I've attempted to interpret on this web-page: Poštovani g. Samaržija,
hvala Vam na mailu. Otvorila sam Vašu stranicu, no nažalost sada nisam u mogućnosti detaljno se baviti time. Ipak, nekoliko usputnih napomena. Toponimi poput Kalnik, Paklenica, Plitvice ipak jesu slavenskoga podrijetla (za korijene usp. kal, paklina, plit-ak), Essek je jednostavno mađarski izgovor hrvatskoga Osijek, a toponim Jozinci puno je vjerojatnije izvoditi od osobnog imena Jozo nego pretpostavljati "ilirski" *Iasona. Toponim Mariniana sasvim se lijepo da izvesti kao predijalni toponim, (rimskoga podrijetla), od osobnog imena Marinius. Problem s pojmom "ilirski" je taj što se u njega trpaju svi predslavenski toponimi na našem tlu koji nisu latinskog i grčkog podrijetla, a mogu se izvesti od nekih praindoeuropskih korijena. No, većina tih etimologija je "ad hoc", t.j. nema se s čime usporediti. Osim toga, "ilirski" toponimi su k nama dospjeli kroz latinski ili grčki filtar, pa mi zapravo ne znamo koji je bio njihov izvorni lik. Zbog toga ne možemo biti sigurni niti kako treba analizirati toponime, npr. Vaša analiza An-da-ut-on- ili ipak An-daut-on-ia. Zato u istraživanju toponima predslavenskoga podrijetla treba biti iznimno oprezan, a metodološki ispravan početak svakako je analiza povijesnih potvrda toponima. O mnogima od tih problema pisala sam u svojoj disertaciji, a upućujem Vas i na stariju literaturu o ilirskom (Krahe i Mayer).
Dubravka Ivšić Majić Here are the sound changes I propose happened from Proto-Indo-European to Illyrian:
C[l]C>il (perhaps not between all consonants)
So, because of the epenthetic vowel 'e' appearing only in the first syllable (Ervenica), I suggest that the stress was always on the first syllable. I also have a temptation to think that the nominative singular actually ended in -i in Illyrian. The suffix -i- is seen in, for instance, Serapia, Krndija, Colapis, and possibly also in Andautonia. I believe that the primary ablaut changed from e/o in PIE to a/u in Illyrian, for instance, in the toponyms such as Mursa, Marsonia and Mariniana. The geminates in the toponyms such as Issa and Pannonia are probably explicable by some consonants being doubled after a short vowel, like in Middle English more or less. It's not quite clear what sound changes the Proto-Indo-European syllabic 'l' (and therefore probably other syllabic consonants) had undergone. It appears to have been retained after a 'w' (Vuka, Ulciria), but not after a 'd' (Dilj), where it appears to have been turned into 'il'.
So, here is what I think Pater Noster might have sounded like in Illyrian:
Patir nos, kis divi esi!
Kekluit ennomin tepi!
Puind ki tu vessi
Ki nos ne essenti dogi toimi, dodi!
Pagdike likona nos,
kom vike pagmos likettirmos nos.
Sentme ne dirtomos,
solaske inzme tirnomos.
The Roman Thermae
in Issa (Vis)
were getting the water
from a mineral spring
that doesn't exist
However, it's possible
that Issa was
named after it,
from the Indo-European
root *yos (spring).