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ICOS 2008 Conference Abstract

Old Hungarian Hydronyms in the Multilingual Carpathian Basin

E Győrffy
University of Debrecen, Hungary

When analysing the etymological layers of Hungarian river names, it soon becomes clear that loan names make up a much larger group than in the group of settlement names, for instance. This fact can be due to the phenomenon that in the case of hydronyms, name-giving and name-usage is driven mainly by communicative needs, while other (e.g., socio-cultural or political) factors only rarely influence name-giving.
In my paper, it is my aim to provide an etymological typology of Hungarian hydronyms from the Árpád-era, for this is the group among Hungarian hydronyms which can be dated the most precisely. The Árpád-era is a period stretching from the Hungarian conquest (896) to the end of the reign of the Árpád-dynasty (1301). From a linguistic point of view, this period, somewhat extended, is termed the era of Old Hungarian. It seems to be justified to choose the Hungarian hydronyms of the Árpád-era as the corpus of my investigation, for the country was strongly multilingual and multiethnic at this period (Hungarian, Slavic, German, Turkish), which also has an effect on the system of water names.
I explore the panchronic characteristics of name-giving by looking at elements of the Hungarian hydronymic system which comes from different languages. Thus, it is the semantic content expressed in the individual names which is my focus, as they are based on human cognitive processes and as such are more or less universal. At the same time, I place a smaller emphasis on the description of language-specific name-formation processes.

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