Zwischen Mündlichkeit und Schriftlichkeit: lettische Rufnamen in der Revision von 1638

  • Renāte Siliņa-Piņķe


In the course of several centuries, Latvian personal names were recorded only in foreign-language texts and their spelling was adapted to the languages of these sources – namely, it did not reflect Latvian pronunciation. Nevertheless, it is known that since the 13th century the increasingly widespread Christian personal names (just like lexical borrowings) were adapted to the Latvian language and pronunciation.

This article is looking at the Latvian personal names recorded in the substantial 1638 revision of manors in the so-called Swedish Livonia, and in the first German-Latvian dictionary published in the same year. On the basis of the limited material of personal names in the dictionary and on the usual patterns of loanword adaptation, we are trying to identify or reconstruct the Latvian personal names of the 17th century.

According to the rules, the auditors carrying out the revision had to swear in the peasants they were questioning to obtain information, thus the procedure certainly involved spoken communication. Meanwhile, the text of the revision is written in Early New High German, and the personal names are also „translated“. For instance, the name Šķērsts (< Middle Low German Kersten < Christian) in the revision appears as Skärst(h), Skerst(e) and Skierst (namely, transcriptions of the Latvianized version) as well as Kerste and Kersten (replaced by its German equivalent). In most cases, the names subjected to this treatment are the most widespread ones and those acquired via the German language. Meanwhile, some lesser-used names (probably borrowed from or via other languages) cannot be deciphered – e. g., Bhegke, Sunze or Tursche.

Siliņa-Piņķe, R. (2023). Zwischen Mündlichkeit und Schriftlichkeit: lettische Rufnamen in der Revision von 1638. Linguistik Online, 121(3), 13–26.