Belgian Beer, Belgian toponyms and Belgian i-umlaut

The Belgians make some fine beers…whatever side of the planet you´re
from, it is very likely that you have heard this or experienced this yourself.
If not, go to a pub and get hammered right now! One of these fine beers is
Leffe blond, a soft fruity beer with a bitter aftertase. However, I am not here
to advertise beer brands, I am hear to talk about the name Leffe and its
toponymics. When I was grabbing a beer this week with one of my friends I thought
that the name Leffe, named after the 12th century Belgian abbey
where the beer was originally brewed, contained the toponymical element –effe­,
­
going back to Pgmc *-aχwjō. Unfortunately, a quick peek in Maurits
Gysseling’s “Toponymisch Woordenboek” proved me wrong by showing the first
attestation of the name as leffle in 1152 AD. This name is probably to
be connected with a proper name Leffo and a toponymical element *-lauha
meaning “woodland”. However, the foundation of the abbey was carried out by
monks from a place called Floreffe, which does contain the element –effe. In
this post I want to explore the specifics concerning the historical development
of this element.

                The toponyms named
by Gysseling as containing this element are the following, given with the
proposed etymology.

 

placename

First attestation

Date

Etymology

Boneffe

boneffia

1149

< Ofrnk *bōn[1]-aχwjō

Floreffe

florechia

ca 700

< Ofrnk *flōr-aχwjō

Haneffe

honaui[2]

911

< Ofrnk *hunu-aχwjō

Laneffe

lenaiffe

1070

< Ofrnk *leni?-aχwjō

Marneffe

marneffia

1137

< Ofrnk *marna?[3]-aχwjō

Seneffe

soneffia

ca 900

< Ofrnk *soni-aχwjō

Sombreffe

sombreffia

ca 1070

< Ofrnk *sumbro?[4]-aχwjō

Waleffe

uualauia

ca 1050

< Ofrnk *walha- aχwjō

 

The first remarkable thing that springs to mind is that the Old Frankish
fricative /h/ or /χ/ is represented as /f/ in the attestation,
with the exception of the eighth century[5]
attestation florechia for Floreffe. This, however, is a very common
soundchange seen in numerous branches of language families (e.g. Latin, where
PIE */gwh/ turns Italic */χw/ before yielding /f/ in
Sabellian and Latin) and is the regular Romance soundsubstitution of Germanic
*/χ/ in the combinations Old Frankish */χr-/[6]
and */χl-/. Wordinternally, Old Frankish */-χw-/ was replaced
by Pre-French /-ff-/ as shown in the Pre-French latinization of Old Frankish *skōhwāri
as Mlat scoffarius. Wordinternal /-χχj-/ is romanized distinctly as
shown by Old French gehir from Old Frankish *jeχχjan. Consider
the following etymologies.

 

French

translation

Frankish

compare

flanc

side

< *hlanka

MHG lenken

floovant

descendant of Clovis

< *hlodowing

 

flou

fuzzy

< *hlāwa-

Dutch lauw

froc

skirt

< *hrok

Dutch rok

froncir

to wrinkle

< *hrunkjan

ON hrukka

frapper

to hit

< *hrappjan

ON hrappr

gehir (OFr)

to confess

< *jeχχjan

Dutch biecht < *bi-jeχti

scoffarius (Mlat)

cobbler

< *skōhwāri

Germ Schuster

 

The development which eventually yielded –effe is best
illustrated by the early attestations of Floreffe, both dating to the eighth
century, although their copies are centuries younger, preserved in eleventh
century manuscripts containing the eighth century Vita Sancti Bertuini.

 

 

Attestation

Date

development

florechia

8th c. 11th
c. Copy

form already underwent
i-mutation, Gmc fricative intact

flerechia

8th c. 11th
c. Copy

Romance development of Lat
/ō/ > */eu/ reflected in spelling?

florefia

1134

Romance substitution of
Germanic */-χw-/ for /-ff-/

floreffia

1149

first geminate spelling

In the case of Floreffe, the first attestation shows the fricative /χ/
in the spelling /ch/[7],
herein being the only attestation of the toponymical element showing such an
archaic state of affairs. The first vowel of the second element is ostensibly
umlauted under influence of the yod in the following syllable. This umlaut is
evidently of Germanic origin for several reasons. Firstly, Pre-French metaphony
would not have been active in clusters other than /ry/ and /sy/ (e.g.
Vulg.Lat. area > Mod.Fr. aire [ɛr], Vulg.Lat. basiare
> Mod.Fr. baiser [beze]). Secondly, the closed syllable of the
element would have preserved the /a/ if the element was accented
independently (compare Pgmc *þwaχhlja > Mod.Fr. touaille [twajə]).
Finally, a Pre-French soundchange in the second toponymic element would be
highly unlikely since the vowel in the first toponymic element remains
unaffected by Pre-French diphtongization of old /ō/ to */eu/
<e>? (this */eu/ presumably develops to */œu/
before being simplified to /œ/ <eu> of Modern French) in
most of the attestations. Therefore it seems very likely that the first
attestation of the toponym as florechia reflects a development stage
before romanization of the toponym and possibly before romanization of the
place Floreffe itself.

 The fact that it already underwent i-mutation would
point to a early completion of the process since the early eighth century
versions of the abrogans-list still show largely unmutated vowels.  The Germanic umlaut also tells us that the
Germanic language that was spoken in that area was part of the Frankish dialect
continuum, since in other dialects of Old High German the cluster would have
prevented umlaut from taking place. (e.g. compare the usual OHG sahhis,
sahhit
to the Frankish of the OHG Tatian, sehhis, sehhit), a feature
that Frankish shares with Old English, e.g. OE hliehhan < *χlaχχjan).
 A final remark is warranted by the
historical and modern geminate spelling /-ff-/. Is this a West-Germanic
gemination before yod? It may be that the form Old Frankish *aχwjō already
underwent gemination before yod, thus yielding *aχχwjō, then i-mutation
took place and subsequently the geminate got romanized as [f:]
<ff>, thus *-eχχwja > *-effia. However, MLat scoffarius shows that the cluster /
χw/yielded a geminate anyway.

 

Bibliography

 

    Bourciez,
Edouard, précis historique de phonetique française nouvelle collection a
l’usage

Gamillscheg, Ernst, Romania germanica. (Berlin:1970).

Gaston Zink, phonétique
historique du français
(Paris, 1986).

Kr. Nyrop, Grammaire
historique de la langue française
, tome deuxième (Copenhagen, 1960).

Ti Alkire and Carol
Rosen, Romance languages; a historical introduction (Cambridge, 2010).

A. J. Greimas, Dictionnaire
de l’ancien français; jusqu’au milieu du XIVe siècle
(Larousse, 1989).

Wilhelm Braune, Althochdeutsche Grammatik (12th edition 1967: Tübingen
1868).

 

 


[1] Gysseling reconstructs Old
Frankish *bōn in the meaning of “roseau” (reed), however, strictly
speaking also the element *bauna is eligible for consideration, for Old
Frankish /au/ was already monophtongized in the 10th century, as
evidenced in the Wachtendonckse Psalmen.

[2] But hunafie is attestated in
a diploma from 1034, although preserved in a 17th century copy it
clearly shows a more archaic form.

[3] A suffix *-na to Pgmc *maraz
“bog”?

[4] a proper name Sumbro is
suggested by the toponym Sombrin which is first attested as sumbring, showing
a patronymic suffix.

[5] However, the surviving copy date
back to the 11th century.

[6] The Romanisation of Old Frankish */χr-/
however is not unproblematic, where some dialects do substitute /fr-/ and some
/r-/, these differences may reflect a chronological distribution.

[7] a spelling also encountered
in the 6th century Salic law and Merovingian chronicals and
diploma’s

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