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Onomasiological categories of attribute and substance and their reflection in the grammar of place names // Jazykovedné štúdie XXIX. Život medzi apelatívami a propriami. Ed. M.Majtán. – Bratislava: Veda. – P. 127–132.


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Cognitive and onomasiological properties of place names are considered in the article. Names of small-scale objects are taken as examples. They are regarded against a background of toponymy of the USA, Slovakia, and Belarus. Special attention is given to the onomasiological structure of toponyms. Onomasiological categories (attribute and substance) that influence the appearance and functioning of natural objects’ names as well as subcategories (quality, relation, belonging) caused by the peculiarities of their percepting and naming in toponymic subsystems are singled out. A cognitive status of word-building in place name studies is proved. Three cognitive models are given on the basis of correlation of the extralinguistic character of the objects and the grammatical properties of the names that designate these objects.

Man thinks by categories. Experience in cognizing the world, a special way of dealing with any object for applying human activity has developed in his thinking during the time of man’s existence on the Earth. This experience makes him act stereotypically in most situations, by patterns fixed in his memory, which have become an integral part of his view of the world. For appellatives, the confirmation of this fact lies in the existence of parts of speech and the positions their representatives take up in the sentence. When defining the place of an object in his cognitive activity, the name-giver relies on principles that have been applied with respect to the same realities before. The result of applying these principles is an opportunity to talk about systematic character in naming, including place naming.

The issue of motivation comes to the forefront in studying the results of onym-making process, since we have already noted that proper names are secondary in origin. The dependent status of onyms is reflected in the fact that they use the stems and toponymic morphemes which have already been worked out in the cognitive experience of native speakers. The process of connecting ready elements of the language system to create an individualizing sign can only be recognized as toponymic proper. Hence, the subject uses named features of the object, for the second time he uses the category which has been formed while naming individual topoobjects at earlier stages of development: Svk. čierny ‘black’ > Čierna skala, name Magdaléna > Magdalénsky potok, Majerská dolina (valley) > Majerská dolina (river); Blr. belaja ‘white’ > Belaja (river), name Kuz’ma / surname Kuz’min > Kuz’mino (lake), zialiony lies ‘green forest’ > Zialiony lies (swamp); AmE. a big river > Big River, Adams > Adams Swamp, Bachman Lake (Lake) > Bachman Lake (swamp).

The process of creating linguistic signs to designate the majority of single objects in historical and ontological terms can be characterized as a movement from attribution to substantiality. According to Y.A. Karpenko, «the appearance of the suffix -ka ... is associated with the process of developing noun characteristics of Slavic place names previously known as adjective-based» [2, p. 15]: Svk. Krokavka, Lúčka; Blr. Žurynka, Machavatka. The universal tendency of onyms to substantiality is reflected in lexico-grammatical classifications where the opposition «common name – proper name» is one of the antinomies of lexico-grammatical classes of nouns. But such an interpretation of place names ignores an onomasiological aspect implying the necessity of both the differentiator and the classifier to be taken into account in overall research. The latter is restored through correlating it to a kind of object designated: Blr. Vysokaje (Balota) ‘High (Swamp)’. Y.A.Karpenko emphasized the specificity of place names which «have formerly been adjectives and understood as attributes for geographical appellatives» [2, p. 15], i.e., in terms of a functional approach attributive elements are more important for onyms then their modern substantive status.

The results of structural-and-semantic classifications of names of different areas can be the evidence of the leading status of the category of attribute in natural place naming. In Slavic proprial lexis the superiority of attributive relations between the main and the dependent word in multicomponent units is undeniable: Svk. Kocizský potok, Katínsky kanál, Čakanský jarok; Blr. Vialikaja rečka (river), Jamnaje voziera (lake), Čorny Moch (swamp). This superiority is noted in the names of smaller objects where explicit assignment to a particular onymic field is necessary for efficient orientation in space. Therefore, «the original efficiency and permeability of all three structures: a word combination, an adjective as an elliptic phrase, a substantivized adjective or noun as a result of the phased place naming process often remain in Slavic microtoponyms» which is observed by I. S. Prosvirnina [9, p. 9]: Svk. Diakovo, Lipovský potok; Blr. Ramžyna, Starachrakavickaje, Kurjanava Balota. The overwhelming advantage of attributive combinations can also be seen in American helonyms: AmE. Big Cypress, Alligator Swamp. One-component names of Slavic onymic space also serve as an example of frequent use of the category of attribute: substantivized adjectives occupy a significant place in the names of rivers and especially lakes: Blr. Bajarskaja (river), Paddvornaje, Lievanova (lake).

The onomasiological structure of names keeps the features typical of adjectival common vocabulary. The peculiar features typical of adjectives are present even in the classical characteristics of naming activities, i.e. the principles of naming. Those principles – (1) according to the properties and qualities of the object, (2) according to the ties with the subject, (3) according to the ties with another object – only ascertain the originality of expressing the categories of quality, belonging, and relation in onymic lexis. The categories are usually inherent to adjectives and are reflected in this class of lexis in the forms of qualitative, relative, and possessive adjectives. «The atavism» of adjectival names is perceptible while using onyms in offers. We can use a place name as a whole – with a geographical appellative that refers a name to the considered field: Blr. Pajšli na balota Hal’Let's go to the swamp Hal’’. The proper name here is the determining component Hal’ for the wordform (na) balota, which plays the syntactic role of an adverbial modifier. The ellipsis of a word indicating the type of object moves the place name Hal’ to substantiality. In other words, giving an individual name to an object is associated with the abstraction of an individualizing sign from a classifying one. In general, names remain under the rule of the attributes that caused the names, i.e., quality, relation, belonging [1, p. 7].

In a formal-and-historical aspect, the description of names’ movement from adjectivity to substantiality does not explain the existence of those names that have been and are still substantives both in origin and functioning: Svk. Potok, Dolina, AmE. the Bog, the Marshes, Blr. Balota, Moch, etc. These examples demonstrate the ability for onymic vocabulary to do without a feature abstract from a subject for giving a name to an individual object. The group of units which has an indication of the type of object in its name is small, but the words like AmE. marsh, swamp, Blr. balota, moch are registered in the majority of attributive combinations (e.g., 54% in the USA, 64% in Belarus) and are kept as geographical appellatives. This fact lets us attribute these words to the kernel elements of toposystems.

The availability of genetically heterogeneous units among the names of swamps corresponds to the logic of comprehending the world by the subject. At first people recorded the objects of the world in language units, yet unaware of the many-sided character of each of them. Only after that he began looking at these objects and distinguishing their peculiarities abstracting them from a specific carrier. Being the ready units of vocabulary, the characteristics were transferred to new objects. In adjectives the given features were actualized if used with substantives, with the carriers of features. Each onym points to an object by selecting sporadical features of it, so a proper name has to contain both adjectival and substantive features of an object. In concrete helonymic forms the change is reflected in the interaction of individualizing and classifying parts of naming units.

Now let us apply to the grammatical peculiarities of the two parts (adjectival and substantive) of helonyms and their cognitive grounds. Word formation, according to E.S. Kubryakova belongs «by the form of creation and methods of expressing a special formative meaning in derivatives to the level of grammar» [3, p. 236]. In a common name, formants in this sense are adjacent to a group of indicators of grammatical gender and number. Proper names are notable for the fact that grammatical structuring is exercised, in fact, only by derivative morphemes. The gender of a place name does not necessarily correlate with the gender of a geographical appellative, and the plural form is usually not a sign of real multiplicity of objects. These morphological parameters of the noun are often used as derivational morphemes which serve for delimitation of onyms and appellatives. This fact is evidenced by such popular ways of onym-making in Belarusian as pluralization [7, p. 46] (most ‘a bridge’> sw. Masty ‘bridges’) and inflection fixed in some Slavic names (str. Волга (Volga) > lk. Волго (Volgo) [10, p. 99]. The derivational status of flexions in many onyms allows N.V.Podolskaya to note that «singularity, individuality of a proper name refers to its extralinguistic side, to the object named by it rather than to its linguistic form» [8, p. 95]. Thus, a formative element, in general, is the only grammatical indicator of a proper name, which is sure to be present in it.

As is noted in linguistic literature, regardless of the trend of studying the semantics of words (either from form or from meaning) researchers start from a materially explicit form, not from a formless and diffuse sense. According to V.M.Nikitevich, «first and foremost, it would be natural if we select a linguistic form proper as a unity of linguistic meaning and its mode of expression» [6, p. 39]. Despite a high degree of formality compared with lexical forms grammatical markers perform cognitive structuring in general» [11, p. 101].

Apparently, the features of the formal side of onyms are due to changes that occur in human consciousness while his acquaintance with objects: «Different meanings are indicated with one form not by chance, but by intuitively obvious semantic relations» [4, p. 170].

Here we shall take the names of one element of reality – a swamp – as examples. They are called helonyms in specialized literature. The same naming process is observed in any other subsystem of a hydronymic system of a certain region. The Belarusian names describe the peculiarities of place naming in a synthetic language while the American ones give a sketch of analytic creating place names. Units of different simplicity or complexity may be subject to helonymization (transferring from any common or proper word to the name of swamp), but all the detected units can at the first stage of analysis be subdivided into the following groups:

1) units in which belonging of onyms to the system of proper names of swamps is not expressed by language means: the Marsh, Flynns Lake and similar names. In the former example the unit of the helonymic subsystem is structurally the same as the English appellative a marsh. The definite article indicates the acquaintance of the name-giver with the object, though it can appear in preposition to the noun not only among the names of swamps, but in the context of any utterance. It means that the determinative cannot be considered a means of transforming appellatives into onyms. A latter example can be a model for naming the proper name of the lake: the geographical appellative a lake has no «swamp-oriented» semantics. If you use this name in helonyms, the semantics of a geographical appellative is not correlated with the nature of the object, and the name becomes a toponymic «idiom». Obviously, in this group of names waterlogged objects are not perceived fully as accurate benchmarks: their names indicate the type of objects only without any individualizing signs or duplicate in helonyms the names of other objects;

2) units where the indication of the nature of an object that has undergone language naming is found – either direct (English), or indirect (Slavic languages). It means that in this group of names belonging to the proper names of swamps is expressed through derivative words-morphemes: AmE. Big Lagoon Marsh, Vestals Swamp, Blr. Vithienštejnaûskaje balota, etc., or by using ambiguous Slavic formants: Blr. Bielica, Biarozavik, etc. The fact of appearance of a new morpheme (in all cases of a substantive nature) when creating a helonym shows the attention of a name-giver to a swamp as an object of reality and a benchmark;

3) units in which the names of two or more contiguous objects have a common part equal to one of the two above mentioned groups and differ only in a morpheme-differentiator. Clarification of information can occur only in an intrahelonymic interaction when the morphemic composition of the names is identical: AmE. Dover Swamp> Great Dover Swamp, Blr. Kupje> Vialikaje Kupje.

So, being much poorer than appellative vocabulary, the system of grammatical means [5, p. 5] of proper names reveals the most common types of structure. This is especially noticeable when comparing two morphologically different languages: a synthetic fusional Belarusian / Slovak, on the one hand, and analytic English on the other hand. When comparing names systematically, the most common differences between the groups of place names give grounds for extralinguistic conclusions.
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