Proper name

History means people
Pavel Stetsko — professor, head of department at philology college of Yanka Kupala Grodno State University. He has published over 450 works during his 45 years in science. His capability is just tremendous: a dozen publications each year! Articles, reviews and books by this prominent Belarusian linguist from Grodno are widely acknowledged in Belarus and abroad. Not long ago the scientist was decorated Francisk Skorina medal for his contribution to Belarusian science.

Today the unresting professor is in more new projects together with his colleagues. Soon we shall see a dictionary of placenames of Grodno region, based on materials collected throughout several years. Additionally, the book will be supplemented with so-called micro-toponyms — names of creeks, fields, meadows etc. — all currently kept in folk memory but may be lost forever.

The research team is also finishing the “Russian — Belarusian — German — English dictionary of physics” of 80 thousand entries. It will come off the press in Grodno University publishing house next year. “Dictionary of last names of Grodno region” is being prepared, too. This one is unparalleled in our country. However, the project started several years ago when Prof. Stetsko’s work was published; it focused on last names spread in one district of the region.

According to specialists, dictionary of last names of Grodno region residents being developed now, is of great applied relevance. This book is demand even today and has been long awaited in passport/visa and civil registry offices and educational institutions.

The dictionary will be issued in three languages: Belarusian, Russian and English. The new book will give transliterations of Belarusian last names into English. This will help personnel of visa authorities, civil registry offices, schools and higher education institutions, who prepare various documents: birth and marriage certificates, passports and diplomas. Such official papers should contain no mistakes or inaccuracies.

Besides, Prof. Stetsko and his co-workers from Grodno University plan to compile identical dictionaries for other regions of Belarus. They already possess necessary experience and methods. Only one thing is up to regions: interest in the project.

Pavel Vladimirovich told us that first surnames appeared in Belarus in the 18th century, based on Christian names and nicknames. In due time only the noble were honored with surnames. And when common people were issued passports to, executives of that time had to invent last names. This was a conveyor flow process. For example, about 150 various last names were derived from name Ivan. Those were created (based on nicknames) with consideration of origin, profession and personal characteristics as well as names of plants, animals and housewares…

Today it is hardly disputable that last names are really of great interest to historians, archaeologists, ethnographers and linguists. Last names bear information, which tell s much to an inquisitive researcher. For instance, it is known that last names with suffixes –ov and –in are frequent in Vitebsk and Mogilev regions, whereas –ovich and –ich are characteristic of Grodno and Minsk regions. However, last names that end with –sky, are widely spread in most regions of our country.

Surnames are inherited across the generations. And they are a real worth that should be valued. “Thus it is important to address correct spelling deliberately,” — thinks Pavel Stetsko. And phonetics and orthography should be kept together with correct sounding.

Professor Stetsko gave us following example: Belarusian surnames Pchala and Valodzka should be spelled the same in Russian, instead of Pchela and Volod’ko, which is common practice today. That’s because Belarusian language has one peculiarity: we spell what we hear. This rule should be observed while making transliterations of Belarusian surnames into Russian and English languages.

Even Professor himself was put in his passport as Staetzko! And he managed to correct this inaccuracy only when he became a university tutor.

by Mikhail Dubravin
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