Thursday, November 27, 2014

York is not a Norse name, it was called Eboricum


York comes from Norse Jorvik? I thought it came from the Latin, "Eboricum", and before that, from a Celtic place name. York is most definitely not a Norse placename, it is a Norse pronunciation of a much older placename, Eboricum, founded in 71 AD, the Roman legionary fortress and capital of Brittania Inferior, when the Ninth Legion conquered the Brigantes. During Anglo-Saxon times, it was known as the trading port of Eoforwic.
The word York (from Old Danish Jórvík 9th century AD) derives from the Latinised name for the city, variously rendered as Eboracum, Eburacum or Eburaci. The first mention of York by this name is dated to circa 95–104 AD as an address on a wooden stylus tablet from the Roman fortress of Vindolanda in Northumberland. —Wiki
The old Brittonic name was probably Eburacon which was Latinized as Eburacum (with the same vowel quantities and stress sounds as the Brittonic pronunciation).
It is thought that Eboracum is derived from the Brythonic word Eborakon, a combination of eburos "yew-tree" (cf. Old Irish ibar "yew-tree", Welsh efwr "alder buckthorn", Breton evor "alder buckthorn") and suffix *-āko(n) "place" (cf. Welsh -og) meaning either "place of the yew trees" (cf. efrog in Welsh, eabhrac in Irish Gaelic and eabhraig in Scottish Gaelic, by which names the city is known in those languages); or less probably, Eburos, 'property', which is a personal Celtic name mentioned in different documents as Eβουρος, Eburus and Eburius, and which, combined with the same suffix *-āko(n), could denote a property. —Wiki
The Classical Latin spelling was Eburacum; the alternate spelling Eboracum reflects the Vulgar Latin change of u to o; but the stress remained on the sound. Some of the earlier instances of Eboracum mentioned in Ptolemy may be 'corrections' by later copyists, reflecting a shift in language sounds. Bede, writing in the 8th century, used both spellings. Besides, exact spelling was a relative concept even during Shakespeare's time.

That Norse J in Jorvik is trying to simulate a Celtic eu sound (as in ewe tree)—there was no y letter. In Irish orthography, the pronunciation and written Irish are not identical, nor do the sounds correlate with English pronunciation rules. They are closest to Latin, with their own peculiar twists of lenited vs long sounds. For example, the letters b and v within a word in Irish tend to gather a swallowed ya sound, or sometimes a w sound, like Samhain (Sowen). But there was no Y or W in the Irish alphabet.

What I found on the internet:

Yew in Old Irish is written as ibar/ibhar and (edad, edhadh), from Old Irish é(o). meaning either the tree or the weapon. Another Irish word for yew, is eo.

"W" is unknown to Latin or Greek writing. Old Irish, the language of the earliest sources in the Latin alphabet, takes place during the 6th century. Long before the Vikings came to York, I might add.

The morpheme aco /a:ko/ denoting a "place" still survives in modern Welsh as -og (earlier -awg).

There is debate as to the meaning of the root ebur(o)-. Some people insist that it is an old root meaning "yew" (Old Irish ibhar is glossed as 'taxus'), and thus Eburacum is "place of yews".

But Ebruros is also attested as a personal name in Gaul, so some think it meant: "Eburos' estate". On the balance the evidence seems to favor "place of yews", but it is not certain.

If the Romano-British name had been taken over by the English, then the modern English (after Norman spelling 'deforms') would be something like: Everock. And certainly not Jorvik.

See Theiling Online Conlang: From Eburacon to York (Most of my linguistic bits came from this list-serve post by Ray Brown.

And I used:
The Irish Archaeological and Celtic Society: Irish Glosses, 1860
York - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

I found the PDF edition of the Celtic Guide magazine that spawned this mini rant. It's the November 2013 issue (vol 2, Issue 11; Celtic York, p. 12. It's a painfully slow-loading page.

CELTIC YORK  Author/editor is Jim McQuiston

Back in 1999, on my very first trip to Scotland, I sat with my son in an Irish pub in the middle of the town of York, England. As if that wee bit ‘o juxtaposition wasn’t enough, the duo that was performing was playing American folk rock type music. I remember, in the middle of their take on the Eagle’s ‘Desparado” how my son commented on the strangeness of it all. The crowd, however, was enthusiastically singing “You better let somebody love you,” as we snickered at the sight . . . and sound.

The York street, shown above, is known as Shambles Street and that is not an optical illusion. The buildings were built to lean inward, supposedly to block the hot sun from ruining butcher’s meat hanging along the walkway. During that period there were no hygiene laws as exist today, and so guts and the like were thrown into a gutter in the middle of the street. Today, any scene of total disorganization and mess is thus referred to as being “in shambles”.

I suspect many an Irish or Scottish person has sat and listened to Americanized versions of their music somewhere in the ‘states’ and thought, “Ach, this is not how it’s supposed to sound! These crazy Americans.”

Yorkshire was populated by Celts pre- and post-Roman invasion. The same thing happened again during the Anglo-Saxon invasion.

York is not far from the ‘Scottish’ border and it now seems more obvious to me that there should be a large amount of Celtic influence in that region. In fact, there was!

An army of Vikings invaded the Yorkshire area, in 866 AD. The Vikings conquered what is now modern day York and renamed it Jórvík, from where the modern name comes.

It seems, in fact, Yorkshire has seen as much Celtic and Viking influence as just about any part of Scotland or Ireland.

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