A Minor Foray into Ukrainian Naming

By Sofya la Rus, mka Lisa Kies
Originally published in Slovo April 2013

A few years ago, I was asked to help with a Ukrainian name. This is more difficult than one might think. Our period sources don't come conveniently labeled "Ukrainian" since the separation of the Ukrainian and Russian languages was a gradual process through the Middle Ages, and Russian scholars of the 19th century and the Soviet era tended to lump them together as a matter of official state policy. Native Ukrainian scholarship is starting to correct this cultural chauvinism, but we still have to use a bit of detective work in order to use the older sources.

Case Study: Vovkivna
The name Vovkivna was submitted for registration as a Ukrainian name in 2010. Commentators asked if Vovk- was a period stem and if -ivna was a period suffix.

According to the on-line Encyclopedia of Ukraine, among the many change that occurred in the Early Middle Ukrainian period (late 14th to late 16th cent.) was the alteration of l to w before a consonant when the l came after an o that was originally a ъ. The article conveniently uses vovk as the example: vъlkъ -> vo[w]k and "now spelled vovk".

Further confirmation of Vovk as an alternate stem to Volk in period come from Wickenden's 3rd edition where we find Vouk' (1476), Vovak/Wowak (1421), Vovchkevich (15th cent.), and Vovchok (1552). Wickenden doesn't specify that the names are related to Volk, but Vovchok and Vovchkevich come from Tupikov's Slovar' drevne-russkikh lichnykh sobstevennykh imen where they are listed as variants of Volk.

In addition, Paul Wickenden provided me with page 120 of Pavlo Chuchka's Prizvishcha Zakarpats'kikh Ukraintsiv Istoriko-Etimologichnij Slovnik. Lviv, 2005, where under the header Вовк (Vovk) we find Тимкови Вовкови (Timkovi Vovkovi) dated to 1606 which is “grey period” and therefore acceptable documentation for registering SCA names.

As for the –ivna suffix, judging by the way Russian names such as Lvov are Lviv in Ukrainian (both are patronymic/genitive forms of the name Lev indicating "city of Lev"), it seems obvious that the -ivna ending would be equivalent to the -ovna/evna patronymic ending. I have not yet found any examples of -ivna in Wickenden's Dictionary or in the discussion of West Russian feminine names in Appendix A of his 3rd edition, although the name Mitkiewicza (from Zophiey Szymonowny Mitkiewicza Poszuszwienskiey, 1589) and Stasiowa (from Catrina Stasiowa, 1585) are temptingly close.

According to the on-line Encyclopedia of Ukraine, one result of the loss of the jers in the 12th century was a change in the pronunciation of o and e before syllables in which a jer was lost. In the south, the e and o were "narrowed", eventually being written as i in modern Ukrainian. The final stage of this occurred before 1653 when we have the earliest example of a word written with the i. So pronouncing -ivna instead of ovna/evna originated as early as the 12th century and certainly happened before the end of the SCA "gray period" when we know the spelling had already changed to match.

Modern Ukrainian Alphabet (with Ukrainian names, transliteration, IPA) from Omniglot:

The Evolution of Ukrainian

Old Ukrainian (mid-11th to late 14th century). The period of Old Ukrainian includes the oldest extant Rus’ texts and coincides with the rise and fall of Kyivan Rus’. The year 1387, when Polish supremacy over Galicia and Lithuanian supremacy over most of Ukraine were firmly established, can be considered a conventional cutoff date.

Many of the phonetic changes during this period are too subtle for English speakers to notice, but the ones we might notice in names include:

    (1) change of g > h (eg, noga > noha ‘foot’), ca 1200.
    (2) beginning of change of i into a vowel between i and y ca 1260, in modern Ukrainian as the letter и.
    (3) the loss of the jers (ъ and ь) in the mid 1100s. The “weak” jers simply disappeared. The “strong” jers coalesced with either e (ь) or o (ъ). Among the many consequences:

      (a) appearance of new consonant clusters, gradually simplified over time;
      (b) alternation of v- with u- (eg, vnuk : unuk ‘grandson’);
      (c) change -e > -a in the sequence -ьje (eg, zelьje ‘grass’ > zilja, Standard Ukrainian zillja);
      (d) change of o and e before a syllable in which a jer was lost (in words like stolъ ‘table’ and pečь ‘stove’).

In the south, e and o in that position were narrowed, and so began an evolution that resulted in i in modern Ukrainian and the alternation of i with e and o (eg, stil : stola gen sing, pič : peči). In the north, e and o in this position, when stressed, were diphthongized into ie and uo respectively and later were further modified; e changed before ъ only if ъ was originally stressed (eg, néslъ' ‘carried’ vs médъ ‘honey’, modern northern Ukrainian n’uos, med). In Old Ukrainian manuscripts the new e coalesced with ě (jat’), and from 1161 they were often spelled as ě (the ь with crossed stem). This so-called new jat’ became the earmark of Ukrainian manuscripts. The new o was unable to be shown in the traditional alphabet, and this change remained unmarked until the 14th century, when some scribes began using the letter omega (ω) for that purpose.

Early Middle Ukrainian. (conventional dates, 1387 to 1575)
The period from the late 14th to the third quarter of the 16th century coincided with the consolidation of the Lithuanian-Ruthenian state in most of Ukraine, except in Polish-ruled Galicia and Hungarian-ruled Transcarpathia, and with the rise of the Cossacks. Regular incursions by the Crimean Tatars forced the Ukrainian population to migrate. The shift of most of the Ukrainian-speaking population into a relatively small territory and their subsequent return as Cossack settlers to central Ukraine and expansion into the southern and eastern regions left a lasting imprint on the Ukrainian language.

The most important changes were:

    (1) l > w before a consonant after an o that originated from ъ (eg, vъlkъ > vo[w]k, now vovk ‘wolf’); This arose in northern Ukraine and it spread south and west only in the 17th century.
    (2) complete merging of the older i and y in a middle sound;
    (3) change of ě into i,
    (4) continuation of e/o > i after the loss of the jers – in this period the [O] changes into u and further into ü (eg, kotъ > kOt > kut > küt, later kit ‘cat’);
    (5) o > a before a syllable with a stressed a (eg, bohátyj > bahátyj ‘rich’)
    (6) pronouncing unstressed o as u before a stressed u (eg, zozúlja ‘cuckoo’, pronounced [zuzúl'a] in some dialects)

Middle Ukrainian. (conventional cutoff dates, 1575 to 1720).
This period begins with the consolidation of Polish rule throughout Ukraine after the Union of Lublin (1569), except in Transcarpathia and a small Muscovite-ruled northeastern region, and includes the Cossack rebellions, the Cossack-Polish War of 1648–57, the rise and decline of the Cossack Hetman state, and the curtailment of Ukrainian autonomy under Russian rule.

The major development was the final change of certain e/o > i as sources change ü into i that was started in Old Ukrainian times with the loss of the jers (eg, Old Ukrainian kotъ > kOt > küt > kit : kota gen sing ‘cat’). This is one of the most striking features of modern Ukrainian (the earliest documentation of it dates from 1653). The consonants /g/, /z/, and / ž/ were introduced and/or stabilized to a certain degree during this period. (Remember, the old g had become h in Old Ukrainian.)

Finding possible Ukrainian Names:
Early period texts (Kiean Rus) in the lands that became Ukraine were written in Old East Slavic or Old Church Slavonic. Old Church Slavonic was the language of the Orthodox religious texts brought from Bulgaria, where important church texts were first translated into a Slavic language. Old East Slavic was the language of all of Kievan Rus and the written form was strongly influenced by the Old Church Slavonic.

So when you’re looking at Paul Wickenden’s Dictionary of Period Russian Names, the “Russian” names documented before c. 1200 should also be considered “Ukrainian”, because the split between Old Russian and Old Ukrainian hadn’t fully started yet.

Soon after the Mongols conquered the Eastern Rus, the Poles conquered the Western Rus. From then on, the Polish was the language of many of the primary sources from what is now Ukraine, with a mix of Latin and both Cyrillic and Latinized “West Russian”.

For names between the 13th and 16th centuries, you can use the information about the evolution of Ukrainian to pick out the “Russian” names in Wickenden that might actually be “Ukrainian”.

For 16th century names, Wickenden’s 3rd Edition has a discussion of “Russian Feminine Names on the Western Borderlands” in Appendix A based on the Akty istoricheskie, Vol XIV: Inventari imenii XVI-go stoletiia. In the body of the Dictionary, names from this West Russian source are marked as [Inv] and provide us with 16th century Ukrainian and Belarussian names.

Ager, Simon. "Omniglot - writing systems and languages of the world". 2012-02-30. www.omniglot.com

The Internet Encyclopedia of Ukraine. http://www.encyclopediaofukraine.com/pages/U/K/Ukrainianlanguage.htm

Goldschmidt, Paul (Paul Wickenden of Thanet). A Dictionary of Period Russian Names, 2nd and 3rd Editions. 2nd edition at http://heraldry.sca.org/paul/

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