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The noun vas in the old Slavic toponymy

Stanko Andrić ; Hrvatski institut za povijest, Podružnica za povijest Slavonije, Srijema i Baranje - Slavonski Brod

Puni tekst: hrvatski pdf 283 Kb

str. 73-129

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The noun vas is a Croatian form (along with its Kajkavian dialect version ves) of the Common Slavic word which shares its Proto-Indo-European origin with the Latin noun vicus. Vicus basically means ‘group of houses’ or ‘village’, and it retained this general meaning throughout the Middle Ages. In the Latinity of Croatia, Hungary, and the Kingdom of Hungary-Croatia, until the 13th century the term vicus was mostly used to denote separate settlements, i. e. villages; while from the 13th century onwards it usually meant distinct parts of larger (urban) settlements, i. e. streets or quarters. In the Late Middle Ages it gradually faded from usage, being replaced by the word platea ‘street, square’, especially in charters and deeds. At the same time, the meaning ‘village’ was taken over by the word villa (originally meaning ‘country house, rural dwelling, farmstead’, and later also ‘landed estate’), which became the standard term for ‘rural settlement’ in the late medieval Latinity of Hungary-Croatia. Under the influence of Humanism and its effort to reclassicise the current use of Latin language, the word pagus was reintroduced after being largely neglected for some time. During the High Middle Ages the term still meant ‘country district, county’, similarly to what the Romans understood by it, but from the end of the 15th century pagus was taken to mean ‘village’, and such usage gradually prevailed in later centuries, as it is reflected by the works of Croatian lexicographers (Faust Vrančić -Verantius, Ritter-Vitezović, Belostenec, Sušnik-Jambrešić) and by official Latin documents (e. g. the early Habsburg land and settlement surveys of the “Neo-acquisita” after the reconquest). When the meaning of villa shifted towards ‘village, rural settlement’, the notion of ‘landed estate, manor’ was expressed by other words, one of them being praedium. In the late medieval Latinity of Hungary-Croatia, praedium also came to designate ‘empty, deserted land’, and this on two levels: i. e. both the land formerly occupied and used by a single peasant household as well as the lands once inhabited by and belonging to a deserted village. In the early post-Ottoman settlement registers, the terms praedium and pagus desertus were still used as synonyms. The land estates, each normally corresponding to a single village, were usually called possessio in the late medieval period, while their basic constituents, i. e. individual peasant homesteads, were termed sessio (iobagionalis). Older terms, such as mansio and, less frequently, mansus, were also occasionally used to designate this basic manorial unit -complex of land plots inside and outside of the village which normally korresponded to a single peasant household. The Latin vicus had its precise equivalent in Croatian vas, which meant ‘village’ as well as ‘town quarter or street’. In the early modern period, during the peak of the Ottoman expansion, the word vas only survived in those north-western Croatian- Slavonian lands which remained unconquered, while in the other areas between the Drava and the Adriatic it was only preserved in toponymy, and not for long. This means that, in the course of time, Croatian vas also became semantically equivalent to Latin villa on one hand and platea on the other. By the 15th century, if not even earlier, another Croatian word, selo, started to be used to designate ‘village’, thereby becoming a partial synonym of vas. Originally, selo had meant ‘homestead, household with its land plots’, thus being equivalent to Latin mansus/mansio and sessio. Although selo continued to be used in this sense in western parts of Croatia even in modern centuries, its more recent meaning (‘village’) became prevalent; moreover, selo gradually appropriated this meaning for itself, displacing the ancient word vas and finally pushing it into disuse and near-oblivion. The word selo being semantically ambivalent from the end of the Middle Ages onwards, other words appeared to designate ‘peasant plot (as a manorial unit)’: primarily selište (derived from selo), and later also sesion and sesija (adapted from Latin). The word baπtina was used in the same sense in the Ottoman Slavonia, where it was reserved for plots owned by Christian peasants; those belonging to Muslims were termed çiftlik (Turkish word) in the Ottoman tax registers. On the other hand, seliπte could also mean ‘deserted peasant plot’ (sessio deserta in Latin); this notion was expressed by the now obsolete word pušća, too. In post-Ottoman Slavonia we come upon the etymologically related word pustoselina, meaning ‘deserted village’. Along with Slavs, the territory of modern Slavonia (the area between the lower Drava and Sava rivers) was quite equally inhabited by Hungarians in the Middle Ages, as it is reflected by the toponymy of the period. Unlike in Croatian, the notion of ‘village’ was always expressed in Hungarian by one and the same word, falu. It was frequently used in the formation of place names. In contrast, neither vas nor selo are frequent elements of (composite) toponyms in Croatian, where a large majority of village names are formed with the help of suffixes and not as nominal compounds. Thus Hungarian names Balázsfalva, Bekefalva, Bogdánfalva etc. have their documented pairs in Croatian names Blaževci, Beketinci, Bogdanovci etc. (examples from the medieval county of Vukovo/Valkó). The notion of ‘peasant homestead/plot’, expressed in Latin by the words mansus/mansio and sessio, was best conveyed by the word ülés in medieval Hungarian. Another important term, telek (originally meaning ‘piece of arable land’), also acquired this same technical meaning in the course of the 14th century, and it was also frequently used in place name formation. Hungarian telek was, on the other hand, equally used to refer to ‘deserted peasant plot’ (sessio deserta, sessio antiqua, locus sessionis in Latin sources). When used in this latter specific sense, telek was often translated in Latin as praedium. In this usage, telek had a synonym in the word puszta (of Slavic origin). In the medieval toponymy of modern Slavonia, we know of only a few places whose names comprise the Croatian word vas. They include Nova Vas in the Vukovo county and Dolnja Vas in the Poæega county; situated in a bilingual area, these villages also bore Hungarian names, Újfalu and Alsófalu respectively, which are precise semantic equivalents of the Croatian names. Much more place names containing the word vas are known from the sixteenth-century Ottoman tax registers; the 1579 register of the Požega Sanjak (whose territory covered much of modern Slavonia) lists 36 places bearing such names. In same cases, it can be shown that Croatian names from the Ottoman period correspond both semantically and topographically to medieval Hungarian names, making up bilingual pairs of equivalent names that belonged to the same villages. Thus Velika Vas from the Ottoman sources refers to the same village which was called Nagyfalu in the Middle Ages; the same goes for Slobodna Vas and Szabadfalu, Gospođina Vas and Asszonyfalva, Mala Vas and Kisfalud, etc. It appears that demographic changes which followed in the 17th century and especially during the Great Turkish War created a new linguistic situation in which the word vas became virtually unknown. It was so completely forgotten that it could not even survive in toponymy; thus, for example, the name Slobodna Vas (‘Free Village’), known from the 16th century, became “meaningless” to the new population and was renamed Slobodna Vlast (‘Free Rule’) starting from the end of the 17th century. Probably the only case of survival of the word vas in present-day toponymy of Slavonia and Srijem is Vašica (near Žid), a diminutive of vas which preserves, in a “fossilized” form, the old Croatian noun meaning ‘village’. Besides this rare case of material survival, it is possible that place names of a certain type preserve an indirect trace of the now extinct word. As Vladimir Mažuranić proposed a century ago, place names such as Velika, Jastrebarska, Kravarska (which are, gramatically, feminine possessive adjectives that have become nominalized) could have been originally conceived as Velika (Vas), Jastrebarska (Vas), etc. There is a number of place names in Slavonia that appear as good candidates for such an interpretation: especially Bapska, Koška, Poljanska, perhaps also Velika, Kutjeva (now Kutjevo), Hruševa (now Ruševo), Subocka, etc. The author of this paper also argues that the so-far puzzling village name Strizivojna could be best explained in this way: Strizivojna < *Strizivojina (Vas) ‘village of Strizivoj’. It is indicative of this hypothetical evolution that in some cases these names tended to change gender from feminine (gender of the noun vas) to neuter (gender of the noun selo).

Ključne riječi

Slavonia, toponymy, vicus, pagus, villa, sessio, vas, selo, selište, falu, telek, Middle Ages, early modern period

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