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On the systematic classification of geographical names in Iran

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American Journal of Linguistics 2017, 5(3): 51-56 DOI: 10.5923/j.linguistics.20170503.01 On the Systematic Classification of Iranian Toponyms Alice Assadorian Islamic Azad University, Tehran North Branch, Iran Abstract The article first presents a brief explanation of the different classifications that the writer applied on the toponymical system of Iran in a comprehensive study as of 2008. A database of 12,000 Iranian place names was collected mainly from the series of volumes of “Farhang-e joγrāfyāyīī-e Īrān1, (Iranian Geographical Encyclopedia), published by the Persian Army Survey (1949-53), several locally published sources from local private libraries, and scattered articles from patriotic scholars like Ahmad Kasravi2. Moreover, finding the published sources still inadequate, due to the socio-political developments affecting the toponymy of the country after 1953, several field studies were also done in various provinces of Iran like Azarbaijan, Kurdistan, Gilan, Mazandaran and Khorasan to update the corpus. The collected data were categorized from different aspects regarding the origin of the toponyms, their meanings, and their word formation. The article ends with a particular look at the tentative etymology of a place name of the Iranian origin (Šām- aspī), attested in Ardabīl district. Keywords Toponymy, Topoformants, Iranian Place Names 1. Introduction The world famous Orientalist Vladimir Minorsky once mentioned in his article, “Mongol place names in Mukri Kurdistan” (1957), that unlike Iranian personal names widely investigated by Justi, though quite old now (1895), there has been no systematic study regarding the Iranian toponyms. Apart from a few “partial, scattered” investigations, according to him, few studies like that of Hoffman’s painstaking analysis of Aramaic place names in “Ausziige aus syrischen Akten persischer Martyrer” (1880), or H. Hübschmann’s “Die altarmenischen Ortsnamen” were done in the field of Iranian toponymy; thus, a prompt desideratum was felt for the apparent lack of a systematic classification in the field. It has been with this presupposition that the author started a thorough research on the Iranian toponmy as of 2008. Using the series of volumes entitled Farhang-e joγrāfyāyīī-e Īrān (Iranian Geographical Encyclopedia), published by the Persian Army Survey (1949-53), and several locally published sources from local private libraries, articles from patriotic scholars like Ahmad Kasravi, etc. a database of over 12,000 Iranian place names was prepared. A field study, including the Iranian provinces of Azarbaijan, Kurdistan, Gilan, Mazandaran and Khorasan were also added to enrich and update the corpus. The collected data was classified in different categories: The first classification, regarding the origin of toponyms, included pre-Iranian substrate forms, Iranian forms, Mongolian and early Turkic toponyms, and late toponyms. Meaning was the basis upon which the second classification was made, and included toponyms derived from specific characteristics of the region and peoples’ businesses, hydronyms, ethnonyms, eponyms, and religious names. Finally, the last categorization was based on the word-formation, and separated simple, compound, and complex toponyms as well as those which contained topoformants. 2. Toponymy of Iran * Corresponding author: (Alice Assadorian) Published online at Copyright © 2017 Scientific & Academic Publishing. All Rights Reserved 1 Cf. Farhang-e joγrāfyāyīī-e Īrān (ābādīhā-ye kešvar-e Jomhūrī-ye Eslāmī Īrān), v. 1-138, Tehran, entešār-e setād-e kol-ee arteš, 1949-1982. Farhang-e ǰoγrafyāyī-ye ābādīhā-ye kešvar-e ǰomhūrī-ye eslāmī-ye Īrān, Ardabīl, vol. 8, Tehran, 1371/1992: 111. 2 Kasravi, A. Nāmhā-ye šahrhā va dehhā-ye Īrān, I, II. Tehran, entešārāt-e mouqūfāt-e Mahmūd Afšār Yazdī, (1918-1919). 52 Alice Assadorian: On the Systematic Classification of Iranian Toponyms Toponyms are those linguistic elements that reflect the ethnographic picture of a given area, and reveal the linguistic identity of its primary dwellers and later occupants and invaders. As an ancient country, Iran enjoys a wealthy toponymical heritage. During the centuries-old history, multiple ethnic groups and religions were created in the region, geographical changes took place, and wars and natural disasters annihilated one group of people and replaced them by others. Residential areas, mountains, and rivers were recurrently named and renamed by dwellers. However, an in-depth analysis of the present place names, together with the genealogical and etymological analysis of the available names allows to determine that, though tarnished by multilingual images, original Iranian toponyms are dominant in the territory. Turkic, Mongolian, or even Arabian penetration into Iran's toponymical system happened only through random historical events. 3. Toponyms Based on the Origins From the view point of the origins, the toponymy of Iran can be divided into four conventional groups: 3.1. Pre-Iranian Substrate Forms To the first group of place-names belong, for instance, the district name of Xalxāl, south of Ardabīl; Karkar, a small village near Zunnūz.3 Uskū (Oskū in modern pronunciation), a township to the south-east from Tabrīz (cf. Ašqai̯a-, Aškai̯a-, Uškai̯a-of the Urartian inscriptions)4, as well as, Tabrīz5, Qazvīn (cf. Κισβίνα in Ptolemy, 6.2.17), Urmiya, Ušnuh6, Hīrīs ( š-, as in Sogdian šāw “blak”, at- tested also in Arm. Šawasp (

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