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ICOS 2008 Conference Abstract

Livonian - The Less Spoken Indigenous Language in Latvia and its Toponymical Heritage

Author(s):
L Balode
Latvian Language Institute, Latvia

Linguists usually speak about a strong Finno-Ugric substratum in the Latvian language. The Finno-Ugric people, particularly the Finns of the Baltic Sea, have lived alongside the speakers of Indo-European, particularly Baltic languages, in the territory of the present Latvia from the 1st half of the 2nd millennium BC. Although during the following centuries the ethnic area of the Livonian people diminished (nowadays it exists only symbolically), place names of Finno-Ugric origin still constitute a significant portion of the system of Latvian toponyms. Finno-Ugrisms can be found among the place names which denominate different types of geographical objects in Latvia. There are about 45 /105 with variants/ limnonyms (lake names) and even more potamonyms (river names) of Finno-Ugric origin in Latvia. They are located mostly in Vidzeme (middle part of Latvia) and Kurzeme (Western part of Latvia): 'Aga' river, 'Agas valks' rivulet, 'Agas upe' < Liv. 'agùD' needles, Est. 'hagu' brushwood; 'Emeru valks' < Liv. 'ämàr' dark; twilight (cf. Finn. 'hämärä' idem); several river names 'Jogla' and 'Jugla' < Liv. 'jog, joig, jok' brook, rivulet.
Also surviving are oikonyms (names of inhabited places) of Livonian origin ('Abragciems' village, 'Ābragi' home-stead) and microtoponyms in the region of the Livonians ('Piški sīlda kangers' hill, 'Piedāgs-viga' valley, 'Pitama' meadow). Almost all of them are adopted into the Latvian language.

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