Name Change Over Time
I am trying to develop a world with a deep history, focusing on two time periods, a Bronze Age/Early Iron Age era and a High Medieval era approximately 1000 years later. I want to have a level of verisimilitude, so I am trying to have place names change in realistic ways between the two eras.
I have a very good idea of what each culture in the world is based on. The dominant empire, which has spread over the last several centuries has place names drawn from Greek and Latin, very much based on Late Antiquity. There is also a culture with names drawn from Akkadian and other ancient Semitic languages with influences from Ancient Egypt and maybe Turkish.
Does anyone have any good ideas or resources to help me have names change in a linguistically believable way between the two eras? For example, an encampment called Vitriax's Oasis in the Bronze Age by the desert dwellers in their own language has grown into a large city and been conquered by the empire is now called Tsaren Vitracis, reflecting the transcription of the original name from the Akkadian-like language to the Greek and Latin-like language.
What you want is historical linguistics. This should start you off: Wikipedia!. Basically, language change follows certain "rules" - speech and phonemes tend to change in certain set ways, towards easier-to-pronounce forms. However, since changing phonemes sets of chain reactions, you keep getting forms that are hard to pronounce, so it keeps changing around and around.
Lukc is correct. Are you into Linguistics, or conlanging? If not and you want to reproduce that effect still, I can link you to some amazing sites that's easy to understand. I would suggest learning what IPA is, phones&phonemes, allophones and some other morphology terms first etc etc before going into the rest. :)
It reminds me of Sound Change, but (I am still new to it of course) the example you gave is two separate languages, so I am unsure if "Sound change" is the correct term I'm looking for....hmm.
In the case of a borrowing, languages often end up producing a foreign word with native phonology which can lead to all sorts of changes in how a word is pronounced. For example, take the English word 'baseball' , this word has been borrowed into Japanese but owing to the constraints on Japanese sound structure (the language does not like consonant clusters or for syllables to end on anything but a vowel or a nasal sound like n, m, etc) the actual word ends up being pronounced something like baseboru or "bahsayboru". So, this sort of thing might well account for what happened in your example.
For internal change in languages, there are all sorts of possibilities for what might happen. Taking the Germanic languages as a whole there's the whole concept of Grimm's Law which accounts for, among other things, for why the English word for 'paternal parent' is 'father' while the in many of the related Indo-European languages the word is something like 'pater'.
In a more generic example, let us say I had an invented proto-language with a word *hanta meaning "house" and I wanted to derive some possible forms for daughter languages. One common kind of sound change is for voiceless sounds like [t] to become voiced when they appear between voiced sounds. So, our original *hanta might have a descendant word in pronounced something like "handa". In this case the voiceless [t] became a voiced sound,[d], when it appeared between the voiced sounds [n] and [a].
Now, taking that same original word *hanta we can imagine a number of other possible changes that might occur.
The consonant cluster 'nt' might become disallowed in a daughter language and the cluster reduced to just a [t] sound, giving us "hata". However, the loss of that original [n] might also trigger something called compensatory lengthening in which some lost sound is compensated for by the lengthening of one of the preserved sounds. So, *hanta loses its [n] but let us imagine that the the [t] becomes lengthened to compensate giving us the daughter word "hatta". The [t] is not the only sound that could have lengthened in this case. It might well have been become "haata" instead.
Another thing that might well happen with the loss of the [n] sound is that some nasalization might yet remain even though the [n] is gone. French is famous for its lost of final n-like sounds but the preservation of the nasalization on the remaining vowels. Hence the French word "bon" is pronouced as something like [bõ]. The same sort of thing might have happened to the example word I invented. Original *hanta might lose that n but the preceding vowel still carry some nasalization, thus giving us the possible daughter word that might even be spelled the same but pronounced [hãta].
Sound changes like these tend to affect the whole lexicon and can bring about fairly radical changes in a fairly short span of time. That said, changes like these aren't in effect for ever. Once the change is complete the langauge might well preserve the new forms for a long time and, moreover, if that change alters words enough to put new sounds in environments that triggered changes before, it does not mean the change will happen again.
@ Sular- very helpful post
I come form a country where some towns have been around for 1500+ years. in that time theyve been under carthaginian, punic, roman, arab, local, italian, english and again local. some places have undergone quite a few name changes, mostly just changing name based on the dominant language at the time (think germany vs deuchland for instance).
the old capital (first settled maybe 2,500-years ago) is currently called Mdina, which is a phonetic evolution/corruption of themuch older Phoenician, name Melita - meaning honey. no prizes for guessing what the place was (and still is, all these years later) known for :)
my own conworld spans a greater time so many cities which 'died' sacked, abandoned, razed, due to any number of causes, both man-made and natural, are often resettled years/centuries later, as tended to happen int he real world, the original name often forgotten, replaced by whichever language the extant populace is using.
If you're still looking for information, you could pay www.zompist.com as visit. It has the "Language Construction Kit", a very good introduction to conlanging and has some things to say about linguistic change as well.
If you like something a bit more exhaustive (well, a lot more, to be honest. You need at least a working knowledge of phonological features), I'd recommend H.H. Hock's "Principles of historical linguistics". It's dry material, unless you're a total geek like me ;)
Also: I found a torrent with a ton of books on linguistics a while back, some of which are relevant to your question. They're on my old laptop however, and can't look it up for you at the moment (can't seen to find the torrent on the internet, for some reason). But I'll take a look if you're interested.
As for pure sound change, it isn't always a matter of sounds becoming easier to pronounce. If that were the case, every word in our lexicon would be reduced to something like baby-talk. There's always a tension between ease of pronunciation and perception/distinctive quality. In fact, some sounds may change back into the sound they used to be (example: dutch <ei> /ɛi/ comes from older /ai/, but in some regions/social groups in the Netherlands, people are starting to pronounce it as /ai/ once more. And this isn't a case of a chain reaction of vowel shifts like Lukc mentioned. Also, many sound changes are triggered by contact with other languages. A historic example of that would be the sound changes that resulted in Middle Welsh after the Roman legions had left Britain to its own devices. Basically, the Romanised Celts, who had grown up speaking some kind of Latin, now started speaking Celtic, because Latin was no longer as prestigious as it used to be. But they did so with a decidedly Latin accent. This caused the sounds of OW to change quite a lot.
I'd be interested, if no-one else is. My university library, though extensive on other linguistics fields, seems to have relatively little on historical linguistics, which is ironic since that's a large part of what drove me to take a degree in the subject in the first place. One day I'll hopefully get an MA in historical linguistics, if I can raise the capitol. But in the mean time, resources like this would be great reading.
Originally Posted by Blaidd Drwg
Okay, I'll take a look at it this weekend :)
I'm sorry, I can't find the blasted thing anywhere :(