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ICOS 2008 Conference Abstract

Historical Multilingualism of Street Names in Estonia

Author(s):
P Päll
Institute of the Estonian Language, Estonia

The earliest recordings of street names in Estonia have been preserved since the 14th century; names in Tallinn were written in Latin and Low German. Later, in the 16th and 17th century, in northern Estonia (Tallinn) names were used additionally in Swedish and in southern Estonia (Tartu) in Polish. Low German variants changed into High German during the 16th century. Since the second half of the 18th century, Russian name variants were added. Estonian-language names were undoubtedly there since the beginning but the first detailed lists date only from 1732.
While the status of languages changed over time, some sort of multilingualism in street names was maintained until the 1930’s. Co-existence of names came in different forms: conceptual translations, independent naming, hybrid names and (later) direct transfers of names. The period till 1918 is characterized by mostly descriptive names in Russian, German and Estonian. Particularly in Tallinn there was evidence of independent naming (Новая улица ’new street’ – Schmiedestraße ’smith street’ – Harju uulits ’Harju county street’). Since 1918, the names were officially monolingual Estonian but Russian and German names were kept unofficially until the 1930’s. During the Soviet period the names continued to be in Estonian but for Russian-language texts, these were phonetically transcribed into Cyrillic. The period since 1987 is characterized by the restitution of old names but linguistic status of the names has remained unchanged.
The paper aims at analyzing the types of relationship of names in different languages and observing the use of historical names in modern contexts.

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