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Created by Administrator Account in 5/12/2010 9:47:24 AM


...I am attached to the Dictionary Research Centre at Macquarie University in Sydney Australia. I am writing a book on The Multicultural Names of Australia. At the moment I am struggling through Polish names, with the help of your marvelous book.

They do present a bit of a challenge, don't they?

...As a fellow Onomastician I thought you might appreciate what has happened in Australia from the point of view of surnames. Since the end of WWII and the opening of Australia to European Immigration, the ratio of Anglo-Saxon the "foreign" names has changed from 10% to almost 50-50, especialy now that Asian immigration has increased so dramatically. It has all happened so quickly that "older" Australians find the plethora of new names bewildering. Hence my book.

I had no idea immigration to Australia had been so heavy -- although now, considering the matter, it certainly should come as no surprise! And I can well believe "older" Australians with Anglo roots would find it confusing and intimidating to have all these new ethnic elements to deal with.

...You explain everything so well that I have hesitated for many weeks to ask such a trivial question, but!! on page 24 of your second edition, you talk about Dorociak (Dorota + iak) which I assume means Dorota's daughter but I cannot find anywhere in the book which explains 'iak'. How it came about and why etc. I have the name Jakubiak to explain and I have said that it means Jacob's daughter, (you list it under Jakob on page 274) but I like to explain more about the etymology of the words etc. Would you mind very much letting me know more about -iak?

So much of my correspondence is with people who need to have the basic concepts explained to them, it will be a pleasure discussing this with an onomastician!

Essentially, the suffix -iak is the same thing as -ak; both are diminutive suffixes, but -iak differs only in that it involves softening or palatalization of the root's final consonant. Thus in some names we see -ak added directly to a root with no palatalization, e. g., Nowak, Pawlak; and in others we see the palatalization, e. g., Dorota + -iak = Dorociak, Jakub + -iak = Jakubiak, Szymon + -iak = Szymoniak.

The basic meaning of -ak/-iak is diminutive, but especially when applied to first names, it tends to have a patronymic significance. Thus "Jakubiak" means "little Jakub," but much the same way as if someone saw me walk by and said "There's Fred" (Fred's my middle name and it's the one I go by, I hope this isn't too confusing!) and then a moment later my son toddled along and he said "There goes little Fred," i. e., "Fred's son." So in most cases where -ak/-iak is appended to the root of a first name we can translate it as "son of." However, it's not used exclusively in that way, for instance there is a noun "Krakowiak" which means "one from Krakow." Polish suffixes rarely have one and only one meaning (unfortunately; life would be much easier if they did!).

I'm not sure why sometimes the suffix is added with palatalization and why it's not. No doubt Polish linguists have addressed this very question, and somewhere in my sources there is probably a learned article on this very subject. But I can't find it at the moment -- and besides, to make sense of it one would probably need a Ph.D. in Slavic historical linguistics. I think it suffices for our purposes to say that the suffix can be added either way, without palatalization (Pawel + -ak = Pawlak) or with it; and if it's added with palatalization, that is indicated either by interposing an -i- (Jakub + -i- + ak) or by modifying the root's final consonant (Dorota + -ak to Doroti- + -ak to Doroci- + -ak = Dorociak). There are ways to tell which final root consonants add -i- and which change the letter, but again, this is probably more information than you want!

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.



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