Latgalian surnames as a source of research in dialectology and language contact studies

Anna Stafecka 1
  • 1 Latvian Language Institute of the University of Latvia, Riga, Latvia
Anna Stafecka

Abstract

This article is focused on the analysis of surnames used in the eastern part of Latvia, i.e., Latgale, the history of which to a certain extent differs from other regions of Latvia. This is due to almost 300 years (1629–1917) of isolation from the territory inhabited by other ethnic Latvians, during which this region was under Polish and later Russian rule. During this 300-year-long separation, Latgale developed its own culture, a written tradition based on the local Latvian dialect, etc. The introduction of surnames for the Latvians of Latgale also differed from other regions. As Latgale is a multi-ethnic region, the system of surnames used there reflects not only the peculiarities of the local sub-dialects in vocabulary and semantics, but also contacts with other languages – Lithuanian, Estonian, Polish, Russian, Belarusian.

This article is based on research results acquired within the framework of the project “Latvian surnames in archival materials. Latgale” directed by the Latvian Language Agency. Its main objective was to systematise Latgalian surnames registered in the 1935 census. The research data were summarised in a book “Latvian surnames in archival materials. Latgale”, compiled by historian Ilmārs Mežs. This book comprises about 4000 Latvian surnames from Latgale. Each surname is provided with statistical information and a description of its historical place of origin (sometimes even a particular village). Whenever possible, one or several versions of the meaning of each surname are given.

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Dialectologia et Geolinguistica publishes contributions on the variation of languages world-wide, systematic and inherent, diachronic and synchronic, regional and social, based on either oral or written data. It is open to all theoretical and methodological approaches. The journal is the official journal of the International Society for Dialectology and Geolinguistics (ISDG/SIDG).

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