{1-344.} Place-names and Ethnicity

Anonymus's chronicle thus offers no reliable information regarding the people encountered in Transylvania by the Hungarians who (as is proven by archaeological evidence) belonged to the first generation of conquerors. The presence of Slavs is confirmed by modern archaeology, but no distinctive trace of Romanians had been found in the region. The presence of Bulgars, who had taken possession of Transylvanian salt mines, is attested by the source, dating from 892, that was noted earlier, as well as by archaeological finds. Partly because of the scarcity of early documentary sources, nothing more can be said about the ethnic situation in Transylvania prior to the Hungarian Conquest.

Of the known Hungarian documents drafted before 1200, only twenty-seven bear some reference to Transylvania; two date from the 11th, the rest from the 12th century. Of the latter, sixteen reveal only the name of some Transylvanian, religious or lay dignitary, such as a bishop, a dean, a voivode, or a count. In the 13th century, and particularly after 1250, the number of documents touching on Transylvania grows rapidly and reaches over four hundred. Even this is only a small fraction of the documents dealing with other parts of Hungary. As will be discussed later, Transylvania was hit particularly hard by the invasion of Mongols in 1241–42, but the major reason for the paucity of documents lies elsewhere. Transylvania was a frontier zone, and autonomous freemen made up a larger proportion of its population than that of the rest of the Hungarian Kingdom; feudal property relations were implanted rather later and less evenly than in other regions, and thus the attendant documentary records of ownership were also scarcer.

The paucity and often contradictory nature of documentary and archaeological sources compels the historian to draw complementary information from toponymy. Fortunately, the names of places and waterways reveal much that is relevant to the period of the Hungarian Conquest.

{1-345.} Although the historical study of place-names is not practised to the same extent in all countries, it is a recognized branch of historiography. It encompasses the etymology of geographical names as well as cultural and chronological variations in the naming of places. To facilitate their study of Hungarian place-names, István Kniezsa and Géza Bárczi developed an analytical framework that blends etymology, typology, and chronology. The validity of this triple approach has been amply demonstrated, thanks not only to the expertise of the two scholars but also to the peculiarity of Hungarian toponymy, which is readily distinguishable from that of any other culture. Most of the early Hungarian toponyms are derived from the names of people, clans, and ethnic groups, or from occupations, and used in the nominative case singular (e.g. Árpád, Megyer, Cseh [Czech], Ács [carpenter]). This type of toponymy appears in the earliest documents, dating from around 1000 AD. The pattern holds well into the 13th century — until the 1220s in western Hungary, and the 1270s in the eastern parts, including Transylvania — when it gives way to compound toponyms, most commonly the combination of a proper name and 'falva', meaning village (e.g. Péterfalva = Peter's village). The earliest compounds, first appearing in the 12th century, are formed with the endings 'laka', 'soka', 'népe', 'telke' (the possessive case of 'home', 'many', 'people', and 'plot'). The endings 'háza' and 'falva' (possessive case of 'house' and 'village'), which appear after 1200, eventually supplant the nominative type as well as two early variants, endings '-i' and '-d' (e.g. Petri, Peterd), which enjoyed a brief popularity from around 1100 to 1250. The pattern evolved at different rates, depending on the region, but after 1270, new place-names came in only two forms: compound toponyms, and toponyms that reflected the natural environment (e.g. Nádas, meaning reeds). Among compound toponyms, the one ending in 'telke' (possessive case of 'plot') is particularly noteworthy. 'Telek' originally signified a place suitable for animal husbandry, and this {1-346.} meaning survived for a long time in Transylvania, but from the 14th century onwards the word came to denote an abandoned village on the plains; in some cases, the site retained the name even after it was repopulated.

Of the peoples who cohabited with the Hungarians, the Cumanians and Pechenegs had similar toponymic customs, but the Germans, Slavs, and Romanians followed fundamentally different customs. None of the latter used proper names in the nominative singular; apart from the Slavic 'grad', endings that indicated the type of settlement occurred only in German (e.g. Kronstadt, Grabendorf, Leschkirch). Slavic and Romanian toponyms are typologically related but, as a rule, can be readily distinguished from each other. Some types of endings are common to Slavic and Romanian place-names: those that evoke ancestry or place of origin (e.g. the Slavic 'inci', 'jane', the Romanian 'eşti', 'eni'); diminutive suffixes (the Slavic 'ica', 'ka'; the Romanian 'ut', 'el', 'şor'); and those indicating the location or abundance of something (e.g. the Slavic 'ište', 'vec', the Romanian 'et', 'iş'). The main difference is that possessive endings, common in Slavic place names (e.g. 'ov', 'ovci', 'in', 'ici'), were not adopted in Romanian (the Romanian place-names ending in 'ăuţi', 'ov', and 'inţi' were originally Slavic). On the other hand, Romanians have made use of the Slavic diminutive suffix 'iţa' and location-indicator 'işte'.

A distinctive feature of Romanian toponyms is the incidence a nominative case without suffix, which originally was employed only with the masculine or feminine definite article, sometimes in the singular, but mostly in the plural (e.g. 'ul', 'ii', 'a', 'ele', 'oaia', 'oaiele'). This form was applied equally to the proper names, ethnic designations, and the names of plants, animals, waterways, and minerals, and the suffix did not have to accord with the gender of the basic noun (e.g. Fărcaşul — Fărcăşa — Fărcăşele, Ursul — Ursa — Ursoaia, Grecul — Greaca — Greci, Armaşul — Armăşoaia, Alunul — Aluna — Alunele, Bourul — Boura, Stînca — Stîncul, and one that {1-347.} has almost all possible variants, Găvanul, Găvani, Găvana, Găvănele, Găvăneşti). There are a few exceptions, found in Moldavia and Oltenia, where personal names have been applied to places in their nominative singular form, both with and without a definite article (e.g. Ghidion, Ghidionul). In this connection, Iorgu Iordan, the author of the classic work on Romanian toponyms observes: 'Place-names that I regard as having been formed from personal names in the original manner [...] could only have a plural form, ending either in 'i' or, more commonly, in 'eşti' (and later 'eni').'[3]3. Iorgu Iordan, Toponimia romînească (Bucharest, 1963), p. 176. In his opinion, toponyms in the plural form or in the nominative without suffix were of more recent vintage and attributable mostly to foreign influence.

Unfortunately, the chronology of different types of Romanian toponyms has yet to be worked out. Part of the problem is that Romanian place-names from north of the Danube appear only rarely in pre-1300 documents. Nevertheless, some indications of chronology can be found in Serb royal documents dating from 1198–1450, in which many Romanian settlements are noted, as well as in Balkan regions that are now inhabited by Serbs and Bulgars, but where — despite the disappearance of the Romanians — some Romanian toponyms dating from this period have survived. First, it can be observed that the Romanians who lived in Serbia and Bulgaria spoke the same dialect as today's Romanians north of the Danube, and they used the same types of toponym. There occur, both in Serbia and in Bulgaria, toponyms based on personal names and natural features, and bearing the definite article (e.g. Piscul, Ursul, Cîrnul, Creţul, Corbul, Surdul); place-names formed with the diminutive suffixes 'şor' and 'el' (e.g. Cernişor, Negrişor, Banişor, Stănişor, Nişor, Văcărel, Păsărel, Cercel — north of the Danube, such names generally have the suffix 'ul' as well); and names with the suffix 'et' (e.g. Rugulet, Cornet). The striking difference, however, is that while the suffixes 'eşti' and 'eni' became prevalent north of the Danube after the mid-1300s, they are absent {1-348.} from Romanian toponyms, dating from the Middle Ages, in the Balkans. On the other hand, of the forms still prevalent in the Balkans, the masculine singular with definite article ('ul') is found only in Wallachia and Moldavia. In the case of Romanian toponyms that can be traced back to the 14th century in Transylvania, it is the feminine form that first became prevalent (the earliest documented instances, dating from 1360, are Tuştea and Peşteana, in the Hátszeg region). The masculine form was reduced to the suffix 'u' or disappeared, but the 'u' was often added to adaptations of Hungarian toponyms (e.g. Törpény > Tărpiu), and the same was done with the feminine form (e.g. Tóti > Toltia). In contrast, the suffixes 'şor', 'el' and 'et' were generally used throughout the Romanian language areas, in the Balkans as well as farther north; in Transylvania, these are among the earliest toponyms found mentioned in documents — e.g. Nucşoara (1359); Rîuşor (1377), a river in the Hátszeg region; Săscior (1464) in Alsó-Fehér county; Rîuşor (1473), Copăcel (1473), and Ludişor (1476) in the Fogarasföld; Ostrovel (1439) and Frăsinet (1482) in the Hátszeg. One of the rarer diminutive suffixes in toponyms, 'şa', was the first to occur in Transylvania, in Lupşa (1366).

Although toponyms in the Romanian-language area are fundamentally similar, it is possible to distinguish three zones. In the Balkans, the masculine and feminine singular nominative forms prevail, while the suffixes 'eni' and 'esti' are absent. In Wallachia and Moldavia, both patterns are present. In Transylvania, the dominant suffixes are 'eşti' and 'eni'. The earliest documented examples are Toteşti (1438), Luteşti (1439), Gureni (1415), and Petreni (1425) in the Hátszeg region, Mărgineni (1437) in the Fogarasföld, and Chiuleşti (1467) in Belső-Szolnok county; the masculine forms became less, and the feminine more frequent. Since Romanians largely disappeared from Serbia and Bulgaria in the 15th century, their toponyms must have dated from earlier times; however, it is hardly conceivable that the Romanians of Wallachia and Moldavia {1-349.} disseminated one toponymic pattern (the suffixes 'eşti' and 'eni') in the north, and another (the singular form with the definite article) in the south. It is more likely that the basic form, the nominative with the article, was initially shared by all three zones, then gradually fell into disuse or, in the north, was limited to the feminine variant; and meanwhile the new forms, 'eşti' and 'eni' made their appearance. A similar evolutionary pattern can be detected in the case of Hungarian toponyms: the nominative form, without suffix, was an early and — according to some scholars — 'nomadic' phenomenon, for it identified a person rather than a site, much like the Romanian nominative with article; the subsequent, compound forms (with endings like 'falva') indicate the consolidation of settlement, which in Romanian is indicated by the suffixes 'eşti' (e.g. Bucureşti [Bucharest] = 'people of Bucur') and 'eni' (e.g. Văleni = 'people of the valley'). At any rate, the suffixes 'eşti' and 'eni' show up relatively late in the history of Romanian toponyms, at a time when the links between the Carpathian and Balkan language territories are becoming weaker. This is confirmed by the fact that the Romanian toponyms of the nominative-with-article type have no Slavic equivalent, while the suffixes 'eşti' and 'eni' do. It is possible that the latter reappeared due to Slavic influence, for some other Romanian suffixes (e.g. 'iţa' and 'işte') were clearly derived from Slavic forms.