Ladoga and Perm revisited icon

Ladoga and Perm revisited


Ladoga and Perm revisited

Eugene Helimski (Hamburg)

1. Old Icelandic Aldeigjuborg, Aldeigja, Old Norse *Aldauga ‘Ladoga’:

The Old Open-Sea-Like-Source of the New River

A recent paper by Vyačeslav Kulešov (2003) bears the title “Neva” and contains a beautiful and convincing substantiation of such an etymology of this river name which gives historical priority to its Germanic forms – Old Norse [ON] Nyia, MLG [Middle Low German] , Nyu, Swedish Ny, all with the literal meaning ‘New (River)’ – in comparison to BF [Baltic Finnic] Neva(-joki)) and Russ. Нева. The nowadays rare polyhistoric education and qualification of the young author from St. Petersburg permits him to provide this etymology with equally sound proofs from natural history, ethnopolitical history, Indo-European linguistics, and Finno-Ugric linguistics. According to Kulešov, the ancient Indo-European (IE) dwellers of the Eastern Baltic – not necessarily the direct ancestors of the Germanic branch, but obviously a population which contributed to the formation of this branch – directly witnessed “the birth of the Neva” due to a gigantic breach of waters from Ladoga – which remains the biggest freshwater lake of Europe but was then still bigger – through the broad isthmus separating it from the Baltic Sea. This astonishing spectacle on the geographic scene could be observed, according to the most reliable palaeogeological dating, in the second half (or, rather, at the end) of the 2nd mill. B.C. (Op. cit. 30). The cultural memory of these Indo-Europeans preserved the impressing image of the “New River” (IE *neuā ‘new’), possibly reflected even by the description of this region in Iordanis’ Getica (about 550)1, On the contrary, the Baltic Finns – the migration of their ancestors from the Upper Volga region westward and north-westward, which brought them to the Baltic area, cannot probably be dated with an earlier time than the beginning of the 1st mill. B.C.2 (Napol’skix 1990: 48-51; Helimski 2006: 112) – must have found Neva and its basin in its transformed state – and to have borrowed its already existing IE name *neuā. Later this name was either re-interpreted in connection with Finnic-Lapp *ńewa (> Finn neva ‘marsh, bog, marshy terrain’, in other BF idioms also ‘water body, waters; a part of a river with especially strong current; riverbed; rapids’, etc., Lapp *n’eÇ ‘a part of a river or a brook with strong current’), or – which is much more probable – served itself as a source for the deonymic creation of the latter stem which has no counterparts in other Finno-Ugric languages: the river basin of Neva, well known to the speakers of Proto-Finnic-Lapp and abounding at this time both in marshy terrains and in marked differences in current strength – all due to the instability of the riverbed – could be taken for “prototypical” in the description of other marshy regions and streams. In this point – as in most others – I completely support V. Kulešov’s critical treatment of the absolute majority of sources on Finno-Ugric, Finnish, and toponymical etymology which usually postulate the opposite, that is, the de-appellative BF origin of the river name Neva. It is only the Russian form Нева that really goes back to BF sources.3

The etymological considerations based on the homonymy – or identity – of Scandinavian words for ‘Neva’ and for ‘new’ are not so new themselves (see e.g. Mikkola 1906: 9, Toporov 1988: 92). However, it is only due to Kulešov that the linguistic and historical foundations of this etymology are brought into complete harmony. The alternative interpretation, according to which the Germanic appellations of Neva as of a “new“ river belong to the domain of folk etymology (e.g. Džakson 2003: 38, in the same collection of papers as Kulešov’s article), can be finally discharged. ON Nyia and its cognates must be regarded if not as direct continuation of the original river name *neuā (see also below $$$) than as its etymologically and semantically exact translation.

This introduction with reference to Kulešov’s results creates all prerequisites for reconsidering the etymology of the geographical name ^ Ladoga which obviously can – or even must – be treated against the same historical and ethnolinguistic background as the name Neva. To be more exact, this refers to the toponymic pair consisting of the name of the lake, Russ. Лáдога or Лáдожское óзеро, and of the oldest Russian city and the first capital of Russia4, Ladoga, Лáдога (now the “museum city” and archaeological site Стáрая Лáдога and the city Нóвая Лáдога, where the the inhabitants of Staraja Ladoge were moved in 1704), located in several miles from the southern coast of the lake, along the low reaches of the river Volxov (which connects Ladoga with the Il’men’ Lake and with Novgorod).

The historical role of the city of Ladoga was determined by its key position on the turning point of the famous way “from Varangians to Greeks”. This way led the Northmen (Vikings, Varangians) first almost directly eastward via the Baltic Sea, the Finnish Bay and the Neva River to Ladoga. The city of Ladoga, with its, archaeologically very clear, Scandinavian origin and Scandinavian character preserved over centuries, was their last permanent stronghold on this way; from here on they continued the travel southward along the Volxow river and the Il’men’ Lake to Novgorod, along the Lovat’ river to a short watershed pass to the Dnieper river basin, and then to Kiev and, across the Black Sea, to Constantinople.

Numerous ON sources mention the city as Aldeigjuborg ~ Aldeigiuborg, very seldom with further spelling variants5 (Mel’nikova 1986: 36, 1, 46, 48-50; Glazyrina & Džakson 1987: passim; Glazyrina 1996: passim; Džakson 2000, 2001: passim; Strumiński 1996: 89-92; Sitzmann 2003: 37-39, 91) or as Aldeigja (aldeigio brauzt ‘you made war against Aldeigja’ – the first mention of the name in the skaldic poem Bandadrápa by Eyjólfr, ca. 1010, describing the events of 997 – see Strumiński 1996: 89; gaf þa borgina Aldeigjo ‘gave the city of Aldeigja’ – Glazyrina 1996: 170). One can safely start with the form Aldeigja, since Aldeigjuborg denotes ‘the borg (borough, stronghold, fortified town, city) of Aldeigja’, see Zoёga 1910: 63, 537. There exists a possibility that Aldeigja is an Old Icelandic (OI) dialectal variant of the non-attested ON *Aldeygja (< *Aldøygja < *Aldaugja)6, see Strumiński 1996: 90. A. Sitzmann (2003: 38-39) expresses doubts concerning this phonetic derivation, indicating that the merger of ey with ei in Icelandic is a relatively recent process (starting only about 1600), and the etymological distinction between them is still preserved in orthographic spellings – while Aldeigjuborg is never written with ey. But this presentation of the problem is simplified and incorrect: The phonetic (non-orthographic) change of ey to ei affected only the stressed syllables, while in unstressed syllable these two diphthongs were always neutralized, also in spelling, already in OI (Noreen 1923: 75, § 77.15, 78). As long as both the reading tradition and the Russ. Лáдога (not Ладóга) suggest that Aldeigjuborg, Aldeigja had the first syllable stressed, Strumiński’s reconstruction (*Aldaugja) is completely plausible.

In Hanseatic times, the city and the lake were known under their MLG / Old Swedish names ^ Aldagen, written also Aldachen (second half of the 13th cent.; probably with the typical Low German place name suffix -n, as in Bremen = Lat. Brema), Oldagische ze (1311) (Strumiński 1996: 90; Sitzmann 2003: 37), Aldoga (Kert & Mamontova 1976: 62).

Ca. 20 sources, that I have presently at my disposal and that deal, in more or less detail, with the etymology of ^ LadogaAldeigjuborg7, are practically unanimous, and doubtless right, in stating that the Russ. form Ladoga arose due to the metathesis of liquids from *Āldăgā / *Ăldăgā (= *Aldoga / *Oldoga in traditional Slavistic notation) and is either a direct loan from Germanic or reflects, together with Germanic forms, the same BF source. Most of them, and especially the newer publications, convincingly argue that the place name Ladoga must be older then the lake name and must have served as its source: the oldest parts in Nestor’s Primary Chronicle call the city Ладога, but the lake Нево – and it is only in 1228 that its name Ладозьское (Ладожское, in adjectival form) is also attested.

All further etymological research was concentrated on the search for a passing BF source, and resulted in at least eight different solutions, none of which (as it often happens in such situations) can be considered satisfactory. First of all, none of the assumed BF prototypes is attested in BF itself as the name of Ladoga (or of the city of Ladoga), or has any other dpecial connection to it. Finn. Laatokka (and its BF counterparts) can only be a late borrowing from Russian; besides, Ladoga is or was known to Baltic Finns as Venenmeri (“The Russian Sea’), Nevaja, Nevajärvi, Nevo (derivatives of the river name Neva; cf. also Old Russ. Нево = Ладога).

In the absence of any real prototypes, the list of possible BF “candidates” (possibly incomplete...) includes:

  1. Finn. aallokas (< aaldokas) ‘wavy, with (strong) waves’ (< aalto ‘wave’) – Sjögren 1861: 585, Thomsen 1879: 84, Vasmer II: 448. Many authors dismiss this etymology with reference to the priority of the place name (while it is the lake that is really often stormy).

  2. Finn. alode-joki ‘lowland-river’ (< alode, aloe ‘low grown, depression’), which? according to this etymology, originally must have then been the name of a small tributary of Lower Volxov, now Лáдожка – Mikkola 1906, Vasmer II: 448, Popov 1981: 55-56, 90-91. This version enjoys perhaps more popularity than the others.

  3. BF. dial. (e.g. Vepsian, Livvik Karelian) ala-d’ogi ‘low(er) river’ – Egli 1893: 520, Šilov 1996: 21. The etymology (or, rather, a variant of (2)) creates insoluble phonetic problems (BF d’ vs. Russ. d).

  4. Finn. Olhava ‘the Volxov river’ (Schramm 1986: 369-370). The reasons and the phonetic aspects of the assumed split in Russian (Olhava > 1. Volxov, 2. Ladoga) remain completely obscure.

  5. Finn. laatikko ‘something flat’ – Šilov 1996: 26. This etymology – or rather a guess based on partial phonetic similarity – is regarded by its author, together with (6) and (7), “not as a final solution, but, together with the critics of Mikkola’s version, as posing the question anew” (Op. cit. 30).

  6. Lapp *aldajogk, *aldte-jogk ‘(place) near a river, riverside’ – Šilov 1996: 26, Pospelov 1998: 294.

  7. Lapp (Kildin) vuolldagk ‘river mouth, lower stretches of a rear close to its flowing into a lake’ – Šilov 1996: 26.

  8. Late BF = Early Vote *al-tauko (weak grade *al-tauGo-) ‘low end of stoppage’, “i.e., a place in the lower reaches of the Volxov (cf. Finnish alajouksu ‘lower reaches of a river’) where Vodian boatsmen could have made a last, convenient stop in a natural harbor in the mouth of a small tributary before entering the big lake” – Strumiński 1996: 91-92 (see also Sitzmann 2003: 38 and my comments below).

Note that all these etymological versions – with the exception of (8), possibly also of (6) and (7) – are aimed at explaining the Russian name ^ Ladoga, leaving the Scandinavian Aldeigja, Aldeigjuborg (which must be at least as old as the Russian form) aside. On the other side, the complicated – and nevertheless remarkably stable (see above) – phonetic shape of the ON name, which – with its -eigj- – certainly does not look very much Slavic or Finno-Ugric, can be explained only in the assumption that it renders most exactly the borrowed source form, or that this borrowed source underwent a stable ON folk etymological adaptation influence. None of the sources assumed in (1)-(7) – and not even their conceivable historical or dialectal variants – could have ever produced Aldeigja by way of regular phonetic substitution (and the investigation of the second, folk etymological, option is practically equal to the search for a genuine ON source of Aldeigja, see below).

The only author, for whom the necessity to concentrate the attention on the phonetic shape of the ON form was clear, was Bohdan Strumiński. Otherwise, however, his etymological construction vacillates between helplessness and absurdity. His Pseudo-Late-BF (or Pseudo-Early-Vote) *al-tauko- consists of al- which is the stem of the postposition (!) ‘under, below’ (the meaning ‘lower’ in composita can be rendered only with *ala, as in correctly quoted alajouksu) and Finn. tauko ‘pause’ which is a Finnish neologism (!) coined by the composer A. O. Väisänen in 1915 (SKES IV 1247, SSA III 276) and derived from the genuine verb tauota (stem taukot-) ‘to cease’ (~ Vote taugeÇta ‘to die, to be utterly exhausted’). Another pearl of this etymological attempt is the quoted comment to it, from which we learn, that the Varangian name for their last eastern stronghold turns out to be given by Vote (= Vodian) (!) boatsmen tired after rowing from Novgorod (!) down (!) the Volxov river. Why was coming to Aldeigjuborg again, on the return way from Gardariki, so important for naming this place? And what about direct travels between Scandinavian mainland and Aldeigjuborg in sea ships – without visiting Novgorod at all? (I am afraid, however, that Strumiński never read or forgot the description of the way from Varangians to Greeks, and believes therefore that the Varangians first went to Novgorod, perhaps via Riga, Narva, or Koporje, and only then continued their way to the city of Ladoga and to the Ladoga lake: Only such route gives any sense to the picture drawn in his comment.)

This article has obviously reached the point where it would be better to stop discussing fruitless attempts of deriving Aldeigja (together with Ladoga) from a Finno-Ugric source and to investigate the possibility of treating this name as genuinely Germanic (or Indo-European – but not Slavic) – an option which, as it seems, has been completely disregarded by specialists on etymology and toponymy, including also Germanists: de Vries (1977: s. v. Aldeigja) assumed that the Northmen had borrowed the name from Russian Ladoga (!) and distorted (!) it (explanation quoted after Strumiński 1996: 91).

The only interesting and important exception is an idea which stems from the distant past (so that by now it is forgotten and disregarded) and belongs to a prominent historian who never was an expert on etymology: N. M. Karamzin treated Aldejgjuborg as ‘the old ... borough (city)’, constructed of Germanic elements according to the same model as the Slavic Novgorod ‘the new city’ – though he did not go so far as to explain the part of the name between Ald- and -borg (Kert & Mamontova 1976: 63).

But it is exactly the equation ^ Ald- = ‘old’ that opens way to a sensible interpretation of Aldejgja (probably from *Aldaugja, see above) as a compound consisting of genuine Germanic elements – or, to be more exact, of Icelandized Old Eastern Norse (or maybe Gothic/East Germanic) elements. And, what is especially indicative, this interpretation leads to understanding it as a correlative name to the Old Norse name of the Neva river.

^ Ald- is the expected counterpart of Germ. *ald-a ‘old’, IE *altós. This adjective was ousted in (Classical) Gothic by its derivative alþeis, but preserved in Crimean Gothic alt as well as in numerous derivatives (Feist 1939: 40, Kluge 1999: 30-31). Also in Old Icelandic this adjective has been replaced by gamall id., but preserved in the formation of degrees of comparison: ellri ‘older’, ellztr ‘oldest’, as well as in some compounds: alda-vìnr ‘old, true friend’ (Zoёga 1910: 8, 112, 158).

The second part -eigja is essentially identical to Germ. *augias ‘with ... eyes, -eyed’ (ON eygr, cf. also Gothic andaugjô ‘offenbar’), an adjective derived from Germ. *augan (Gothic augo, ON auga) ‘eye’; a similar i/j-enlargement of this stem is present e. g. in Germ. *augian (Gothic at-augjan, ON eygja, Old Saxon ôgan) ‘to show’ (Fick & Torp 1909: 11-12, Zoёga 1910: 26, 120, Feist 1939: 64). This identification needs, however, additional comments:

(a) An obvious peculiarity of -eigia was determined by its position in the second part of a compound word – hence the unstressed character of the stem diphthong and its change to OI -ei- instead of -ey- (see above).

(b) Much more peculiar is the fact that the effects of the j-umlaut and of further vocalic developments leading from -au- via -øy- and -ey- to -ei- are characteristic of Old Norse and, more specifically, of Old Icelandic (which corresponds to the origin of the geographical sources in which the name Aldeigja occurs) – but not of Gothic or other older Germanic languages. At the same time it contains the archaic form of the feminine ending of ja-adjectives characteristic of Proto-Germanic or of Gothic, but phonetically transformed in Old Norse (cf. Goth. midjis m., midja f., midjata n. ‘middle’, but ON miđr m., miđ f., mitt n., cf. Braune & Helm 1952: 72 and Zoёga 1910: 296). In particular, the feminine form to the above mentioned ON eygr m. ‘-eyed’ is eyg, not *eigia.

(c) And, besides, the simple adding of the meanings of the above mentioned presumable components of Aldeigja results in something like ‘old-eyed, with old eyes’ – a more than strange name for a city.

However, the problems indicated under (b) and (c) can be simply solved if we start not with the strange *ald-augja, but with a compound *ald-auga in Old Norse (or, to be more exact, in its eastern variety which was not completely identical to Old Western Norse ≈ OI), or *ald-augo in Gothic, or their direct counterpart in some other Early Germanic language (or even in an Indo-European language which did not belong to the Germanic group but stood close to it). The combination of this compound with the feminine adjectival ending *-ja (*-ia) gives the word aldaug-ja ‘related to / connected with *ald-auga/o’ – a more than plausible designation (*Aldaugja) for a stronghold, fortified town etc. (Gothic baúrgs f., ON borg f.) located in the vicinity of *ald-auga/o. Borrowed into OI (or rather getting known in Iceland) already as a geographical name rather than an adjective, *Aldaugja underwent the vocalic changes leading from -au- to -ei- (because they were phonetically automatic, or rather because they were already present in the immediate Old Eastern Norse source) but was not affected by the Proto-Norse syncope processes which led to the (surface-level) disappearance of the ending -ja in Nom. Sg. f. (*augja > OI eyg, see above) and which are dated with ca. 450-900 (Noreen 1923: 132 ff., § 53). Therefore it acquired the OI form Aldeigja (while a compound *ald-augja ‘old-eyed’, if such a compound ever existed, would have given OI *ald-eyg or *aldeig).

Needless to say, the non-attested *ald-auga/o, in the vicinity of which Aldeigja/*Aldaugja was located, could hardly be anything else but the Ladoga lake.

As far as the possible semantics of this compound is concerned, I’d draw attention to several Icelandic phraseological units in which the word auga ‘eye’ is combined with the words for ‘sea’ or ‘water’ to produce a designation of deep waters or of a water source: hafsauga (lit. ‘sea eye’) in fiska út í hafsauga ‘weit draußen im Meer fischen’, fara út í hafsauga ‘weit draußen ins Meer fahren’; vatnsauga (lit. ‘water eye’) ‘ein kleines Loch im Moor, aus dem Wasser sickert’8. Perhaps a thorough search may confirm the presence of the secondary (metaphoric) meaning ‘deep waters, water mass’ and/or ‘source, spring’ also in other continuants or derivatives of Germ. *augan. From the viewpoint of semantic typology, the development ‘eye’ > ‘source, spring (or other water bodies)’ is very typical. Along with the well-known ‘ain “eye; source, spring’ in Arabic and in Hebrew (cf. the innumerable names of Near Eastern and North African oases in ‘Ain-), many examples can be quoted from Finno-Ugric languages: Estonian (after Wiedemann) silm ‘Auge’, also ‘Meeresarm, schmale Meerenge und die tiefste Stelle darin, Seemündung’, hal’l’ika silm ‘Ursprung einer Quelle’ (hal’l’ikas ‘Quelle’), sil’miline mā ‘Land mit quelligen Stellen’ (lit. ‘land abounding in eyes’); Komi mu śin ‘окно на болоте, трясина; родник, ключ’ (lit. ‘earth eye’), śin ‘eye’, dial. also ‘окно (в болоте, трясине)’; Eastern Cheremis (after Paasonen) pamaš-šinča ‘Quelle’ (pamaš ‘Brunnen, Quelle’, šinča ‘Auge’). The compounds resembling the above quoted Icelandic vatnsauga in their structure and semantics – ‘marsh eye’, ‘bog eye’, ‘water eye’, ‘spring eye’, etc. as designations of deep places in bogs/marshes with relatively clear water on the surface – can be found in Finnish (suonsilmä), Karelian, Vepsian, as well as in several Slavic languages (where such a place is usually called *okъno ‘window’, the latter word being a derivative from *oko ‘eye’). However, also among the direct continuants of Slavic *oko one comes also across Slovene dial. oko ‘затон (backwater)’, Ukrainian dial. вóко ‘углубление в скале, из которого течет вода’ (ESSJa 32: 41).

This list of semantic parallels can probably be continued almost ad infinitum. But even in its present state it makes the interpretation of the compound *ald-auga/o ‘old eye’ as ‘old source’, ‘old water mass’, or even ‘old open-sea-like-waters’ (this last version is strongly oriented on Icelandic hafsauga ‘open sea’) very probable.

Each variant of the interpretation appears to be completely compatible with the history and properties of *Aldauga/o, a gigantic and deep (up to 230 m) lake which existed (and was still bigger) before it gave rise to the New River = Neva. As in the case of Neva, the name can either directly result from the Old Norse / Old Germanic name giving, or (if we do not want to shift the chronology of Proto-Germanic presence in the Eastern Baltic area back into mid-2nd mill. B.C.) be an exact translation of the corresponding name from the same old Indo-European language the speakers of which witnessed the birth of Neva.

As far as Russ. Лáдога is concerned, this name could be borrowed from an ON dialectal (and, most certainly, not Old Icelandic!) form that continued *Aldauga/o – in this case, the dialectal development *au (unstressed) > a (ă) gives the best account for -o- (rather than -y- < Slav. *ou < ON *au) in Лáдога (cf. Sitzmann 2003: 38). However, a borrowing from a form continuing *Aldaugja (but not *Aldøygja ~ *Aldeigja) is equally possible – in this latter case, one has to reckon additionally with a dialectal change *gj > g in the ON source dialect or with a zero substitute for j in the Russian adaptation9. In view of everything said above, the following formal (and chronological) relationship between the names discussed above appears to be the most probable:

ON *Aldauga ‘the Old Open-Sea-Like-Source = Ladoga (lake)’

↓ (denominal derivation)

ON *Aldaugja ‘connected with *Aldauga = Ladoga (town)’ → OI Aldeigja ‘Ladoga (town)’

↓ (borrowing) ↓ (compounding)

Russ. Лáдога ‘Ladoga (town)’ OI Aldeigjuborg

↓ (metonymy)

Russ. Лáдога ‘Ladoga (lake)’

↓ (borrowing)

Finn. Laatokka ‘Ladoga (lake)’

2. Пермь < *Pĕrĭm(ĭ) < BF*perim > Finn. perin and the dating of the BF change *-m > -n

It belongs to the standard information in toponymic dictionaries as well as in numerous handbooks of Uralic studies that the Old Russian – occurring already in Nestor’s Primary Chronicle – name пермь, перемь ‘Permians; the lands settled by Permians’10, which refers to common (then not yet separated) ancestors of Komi and Udmurts, goes back to BF / Finn. perä maa ‘hinder land’ (perä ‘back part, backside, end; ground’ + maa ‘earth, land’). The motivation of the name-giving is transparent: the name locates пермь “behind” Baltic Finns and their closest Northwestern Finno-Ugric (see Helimski 2006: 110) relatives, at the end of the fir trade route (and other economically and militarily important routes) leading from Russia – first of all, from Novgorod – through their territories.

Bjarmaland and Bjarmar, the Old Norse name of the lands lying eastward from Fennoscandia – especially around the White Sea – and of its population11, together with Old English ^ Beormas id., is viewed as another (and independent of пермь) borrowed continuation of perä maa. Its usage with reference to a region which lies far to the northwest from Permia (and, accordongly, to a non-Permian population) perfectly corresponds to the historical realities. The Scandinavian travellers and merchants going eastward through the BF lands or by the sea route around Scandinavia usually were not heading to the land of Permians (as, several centuries later, did Novgorodians) – for them, the Northern part of the oekumena “behind” the Baltic Finns mostly ended with the river basin of the Northern Dvina.

However, the well known etymological explanation of пермь (its earliest form was перьмь) suffers from a common fault of so many toponymic etymologies – that is, from disregarding phonetic details and using data of contemporary languages rather than their predecessors from the time when the toponyms could be created. In our case, it can be firmly stated that the compound *perä-maa (its BF form hardly differed from the contemporary Finnish one) could have produced Old Russ. *перема (and later possibly перёма), but not the actually attested form.

This circumstance led Max Vasmer so far as to label the standard etymology of ^ Пермь as unsatisfactory, and even to spread his doubts on Bjarma- (Vasmer III: 242-243). In fact, however, only a relatively small correction is needed to bring the phonetic aspects of this etymology into order – without changing the essence of the explanation. Taking into consideration the usual Old Russian rule of adding yers to foreign stems ending in a consonant, Old Russ. перьмь (phonetically pĕrĭmĭ) is the exact counterpart of BF *perim (> Finn. perin), the superlative to perä12, with the appellative meaning ‘the farmost (most distant) part, the utmost periphery; the most profound ground’. Hence, *perä maa has to be replaced with *perim as the BF source form.

According to L. Posti’s opinion, the BF change *-m > -n took place already in the Proto-Finnic period (Posti 1953: 32-35) – which would suggest that, by the time of the earliest contacts with Slavs/Russians, the form *perim did not exist any more, being changed into perin. However, Posti presented no real arguments in favour of yhis early dating, referring only to the main hypothesis of his paper (according to it, all major phonetic changes in BF were triggered by its contacts with Proto-Germanic and Proto-Baltic and took place during the first centuries after the beginning of such contacts) – and, as far as I know, such arguments (e.g., early borrowings from BF with -m already replaced by -n) do not exist. On the contrary, *perim as the historical source of пер(ь)мь is by itself a very strong argument in favour of the late preservation of *-m in at least some BF idioms. It finds further support in the following loan etymology:

Russ. dial. (Olonets) ýдим ‘полог (bed-curtain, canopy)’ < OF *ūdim id.: Finn. uudin (Gen. uutimen), Livvik (Olonets Karelian) uudin (Gen. uudimen), Vepsian ūďin (Gen. ūďḿen), see Kalima 1919: 230-231, Vasmer IV: 149. Kalima’s ad hoc assumption that ýдим reflects an oblique case form with -m- (as in genitive, etc.) rather then the normally borrowed quoting form = nominative (Kalima 1919: 75) is unnecessary13.

This means, that, though common to all BF languages, the change *-m > -n was not yet accomplished by the 7th-8th cent. (at the time of the earliest contact with Slavs/Russians), probably not even several centuries later (Russ. dial. ýдим hardly belongs to the oldest layer of borrowings). Such dating does not, however, contradict the concept of Baltic Finnic as a group of closely related language with a long history of slow divergent evolution superimposed by parallel and even convergent developments.

As far as ^ Bjarma- is concerned, the phonetic aspects of its derivation from Perämaa (perä maa) raise no problems (b- as a substitute of the BF non-aspirated p-; ON vowel syncope in the unstressed paenultima, see Noreen 1923: 136-137, § 156; ON a-breaking giving e > ea > ia (ja) before a syllable with a, see Op. cit.. 86-87, § 87). However, exactly the same developments (and, additionally, the substitution mm > m) could have produced Bjarma- also from Perimmaa (perim maa) ‘the most distant land’ – and, in view of the previous discussion, this compound containing the superlative degree perim appears to be an even more plausible source form for Bjarma.


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1 “Haec [Scandz(i)a] ergo habet ab oriente vastissimum lacum in orbis terrae gremio, unde Vagi fluvius velut quadam ventrae generatus in Oceanum undosus evolvitur” (Iord., 17 = Iorden 2001: 125). – The river name ^ Vagi (or Vagus m., Vagum n. in Nom.?) must be another name of the Neva river (in the beginning of the 1st mill. its riverbed did not yet reach its contemporary relative stability of course and shape, being locally up to 10 km – today only up to 1 km – broad), – not attested from other sources, though a distortion of the Iordanis’ text at this place is also possible (Šilov 1999: 4-6; Iordan 2001: 183-184).

2 In accordance with the traditional viewpoint and contrary to what is often written on this subject by many Finnish and Estonian colleague who, regretfully, fail to distinguish between the genetic (and cultural) and the linguistic retrospection.

3 See also my footnote comments in Mačinskij & Kulešov 2004: 51 (NB: These comments refer only to Kulešov 2004 (the interpretations of the data from Iordanis’ and the identifications of many ethnonyms in Mačinskij & Kulešov 2004 are disappointingly voluntary).

4 See the title of the collection of papers which includes Kulešov 2003.

5 Aldegioborg, Aldeyioborg, Aldeigioborg (Sitzmann 2003: 91), Alþekjuborg (Strumiński 1996: 89).

6 With the j-Umlaut of *au to ON *øy (OI ey), see Noreen 1923: 64, § 68. Theoretically thinkable (but irrelevant for the further discussion) were also *Aldougja which was to undergo the same development as *Aldaugja.

7 Among them, a paper be A. L. Šilov (1996) contains a comprehensive review, in which the discussion of existing etymologies is intermingled with a number of the author’s own, tempting but risky, conjectures.

8 The author is deeply indebted to Prof. Magnus Pétursson (Hamburg) for providing him with these Icelandic data.

9 A partly similar development is attested by Иньгельдъ (the name of one of Oleg’s envoys “from the stock of Rus”, 911), corresponding to OI proper name Ingjaldr (Strumiński 1996: 164, Sitzmann 2003: 59): in any case, this example demonstrates that a change of *Aldaugja into *Ладожа or *Ладужа was not to be expected.

10 Later also Пермь – name of the city, etc.

11 See e.g. Mel’nikova 1986: 197-200 on the notion of Bjamaland in Old Norse geographical writing.

12 ^ Perä (: perempi : perin) belongs to a group of Finnish (resp. BF) substantives – many of them with local semantics – which, similar to adjectives, form degrees of comparison (which function syntactically as substantives, adjectives, or adverbs). In modern Finn. perin is almost completely ousted by its adjectival derivative perimmäinen (se on perimmäisessä laatikossa ‘it is in the backmost drawer’, etc.) – but cf. also its preservation in stable constructions like perin erilainen ‘basically different’, etc. – My most sincere thanks are due to Paula Jääsalmi-Krüger (Hamburg) for supplying me with vast information on Finnish perä and its derivatives. I use this opportunity to express my gratitude also to Marek Stachowski (Kraków) and Anna Widmer (Hamburg) with whom several important points of this article have been discussed and who helped me to get access to some titles.

13 The situation is essentially the same as with J. Kalima’s another assumption. Namely, he attempted to explain the differences in BF reflexes of Slavic/Russian masculine nouns – some of them are reflected as BF u-/ü-stems, the others as BF a-/ä-stems – by their being arbitrarily borrowed from either nominatives or genitives in the source language (Kalima 1955: 57-61). S. Nikolaev and the present author have shown, however, that the observed differences find their explanation in phonetic history (and not in morphology or syntax) and corresponds to the distinction between primary u-stems and o-stems in Slavic (Helimski 2000: 331-332).

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