SFHS Topmenu: Finlander | SFHS | Repository | Talko | DEE |

Names

From SFHS

Jump to: navigation, search

PLACE NAMES: It is estimated that in the 20th century at least 3 million place names have been in use among Finland's Finnish-speaking population. They have come into being in rural culture, and a considerable proportion of them have been in use among small communities. The number of these traditional place names in different provinces and parts of the country fluctuates. Many names are required where settlement is dense and old. Thus the largest number of names is found in the southwestern and southern parts of the country, to an average maximum of around 30 names per square kilometer. In the sparsely populated regions of eastern and northern Finland, the proportion is only a few per square kilometer.

The most common place names are bipartite in structure. The generic at the end of the name is usually a topographical word expressing place-type. It is preceded by a specifier, which expresses the special feature that distinguishes the place from other adjacent places situated nearby. The name's generic may be a suffix, e.g. Valkea/järvi (valkea = white + järvi = lake); Valkeinen (valkea + inen), Uusi/talo (uusi = new + talo = house); Uutela (uusi + la). Names may also be formed by adding a new qualifier to an existing place name, e.g. Valkeinen > Iso-Valkeinen (iso = big) and Pieni-Valkeinen (pieni = small) as the names of lakes situated close together.

The most common basis of Finnish place names is the site of the place, usually expressed by means of another place name. E.g. Oulujärvi (-järvi = lake) > Oulujoki (-joki = river). The next most common basis is the naming of a place after its owner or something in the place (e.g. a building, flora or fauna). A less common basis for names is represented by the properties of the place (for example its size, form or color - Valkeajärvi), its use or the events that have happened at it.

The country's oldest place names are probably those of important natural features, for example large lakes. The oldest strata of settlement names probably date from prehistoric times. On average the youngest and most variable names are those of arable lands.

Finnish place names have two clearly distinct sediments. From northernmost Finland to the country's central regions there are place names with Sami derivation, for example the parish name Posio and the town name Lieksa. On the coasts of Uusimaa and Ostrobothnia, and also in the southwestern archipelago and Åland the place names are mostly Swedish in origin. Among those medieval Swedish names are the town names Helsingfors and the Finnish Helsinki that is formed from it, and Esbo - Espoo.

PERSONAL NAMES: The arrival of Christianity in Finland during the Middle Ages completely revolutionized Finnish forenames. Over a few centuries the old, original Finnish names disappeared from use and forenames began to be taken from the saints of the church. In later times, too. foreign forenames were taken, in particular from Scandinavia.

A special feature of Finnish forename usage is the name-day calendar, which is based on the saints' day calendars of the Roman Catholic Church. A large proportion of the old calendar names are international names widely used in Europe. The forms of the names are Fennicized, e.g. Lauri = Laurentius, Esko (= scand. Eskil), Liisa, Elsa = Elisabet), Ni(i)na = R. Nina). The first Finnish-language-names appeared in the almanacs that were published at the end of the 19th century. The name-day calendar is revised from time to time, the most recent being in 1995. The real-time element is important, as the celebration of name-days is a custom of the entire nation. In the new name-day calendar there are 752 forenames, half women's and half men's; 95% of Finns have names that can be found in the calendar.

The influence of fashion on forenames is significant. In accordance with the fashion elsewhere in Europe, in the early 19th century two or three forenames began to be given, instead of one. In Finland, the use of forenames and surnames was made the subject of legislation, in the form of the name law, which came into force in 1991. According to this law, no child may be given more than three forenames.

While Finnish forenames contain much foreign material, surnames are for the most part linguistically Finnish. The Finnishness of surnames is largely authentic, but is also in part the result of conscious Fennicization implemented in the 19th century under the influence of the national awakening. The pioneers of this movement were writers who began to use Finnish pseudonyms, such as Alexis Stenvall's Kivi = Stone. Non-Finnish surnames were changed into Finnish ones in two mass alterations effected in consecutive waves: in 1906, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the birth of J. V. Snellman, who fought on behalf of Finnish language rights, and in 1935-37, in connection with the 100th anniversary of the first publication of the Kalevala. Fennicized names taken at these times include e.g. Passikivi = Hellsten and Virkkunen = Snellman.

Presently approximately 85% of Finnish citizens have Finnish surnames. Around 79,000 surnames are in use among Finns. A considerable number of the most common surnames are formed with the -nen suffix, for example Virtanen (virta = river + -nen), Heikkinen (forename Heikki + -nen). Names containing the house-name suffix -la/lä, such as Mäkelä (mäki = hill + -lä), Heikkilä are also common. Other frequently encoun-tered surname-types are prefixed names containing only the appellative, such as Laine = wave, Niemi and surnames resembling place names, such as Kiviniemi (kivi = stone + niemi = headland).

Finnish surnames do not necessarily indicate whether the bearer of the name is Finnish or Swedish-speaking. Finnish-speakers may have Swedish surnames, and vice versa. The most common Swedish surnames are Lindholm, Johansson and Nyman.

The name law contains regulations governing the determination and alteration of surnames. For example, people who marry are allowed to keep their own surname. (Liisa Laine and Lauri Virtanen), or adopt the same name as either spouse (Liisa and Lauri Virtanen; Liisa and Lauri Laine). One spouse may use the shared name in addition to his or her own surname (Liisa Laine-Virtanen and Lauri Virtanen; Liisa Laine and Lauri Virtanen-Laine). The official body in charge of surnames is the country's administrative board. The Name Board (nimilautakunta), appointed by the Ministry of Justice, functions as an expert body dealing with questions concerning the application of the law.



Ritva Liisa Pitkänen, The Research Institute for the Languages of Finland (from Finland, a cultural encyclopedia)

June Pelo


Back | To the beginning | till början | alkuun | Finlander

Personal tools
blog comments powered by Disqus