My Interpretation of the Croatian Toponyms
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 spas 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 Varazdin was Iasa. There we have it: *issa~iasa meant "spas". 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 (that it means "springs").
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, water with meanders)
Dalj < *dhel (milkmen)
Daljok < *dhel (milkmen)
Dilj < *delh1 (wide)
Drava < *drew (to pour)
Dunav (Danube) < *danu (river)
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)
Karasica < from a verb *ker meaning "to flow", perhaps of Pre-Indo-European origin
Kentina (Sinjsko Polje) < *kjem-t-h1eyn (the valley of horses)
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])
Pannonia < *pen (marshland)
Papuk (originally a hydronym spelled "Papugh") < *bhogj (to flow)
Parentium (Porec) < *por-h1ey-nt-y-om (river bank)
Pazin < *ph2senti (pasture)
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)
Ulcaria (Ucka mountain) < *wolkwos (wolf)
Una (the river) < *unt (wave)
Valeriana (Baranja) < *wel-h1er (wet valley)
Vuka (the river) < *welk (moisture)
Here are the sound changes I propose happened from Proto-Indo-European to Illyrian:
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.