[DWJ] In which I satisfy the curious (I hope!)

Colin Fine colin at kindness.demon.co.uk
Thu Sep 21 16:41:59 EDT 2006


deborah.dwj at suberic.net wrote:
> On Wed, 20 Sep 2006, Belben, Philip (Energy Wholesale) wrote:
> |More DWJ girls' names to choose from:
> ...
> |There are a lot ending in a, aren't there!
>
> My friend the linguist has a nacsent theory about why fantasyland
> girls' names tend to end with "a" out of all proportion to girls'
> names in the cultures that fantasyland emulates.  Perhaps it
> deserves and entry in the Tough Guide. :)
>
> -deborah
> --
> I don't suppose that I have ever been so happy.  No; was it happiness?
> Something wider and darker, more like knowledge, more like the night: joy.
> 				- Ursula Le Guin, "The New Atlantis"
>
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>   
It's something to do with the fact the Indo-European -a declension was 
mostly feminine. This means that many feminine nouns in Latin (and 
nearly all in Romance languages, apart from French), many in Greek, and 
nearly all in Slavonic languages, end in -a.
Furthermore, the proto-Afro-Asiatic feminine ending -t appears in Hebrew 
and Arabic as -at- medially, but -ah finally.

Hence, unsurprisingly, the majority of female names that come from any 
these languages end in -a (or -ah).

It's noticeable that some Welsh and Gaelic female names seem harsh and 
unfeminine to people who are not familiar with them: Angharad, Morag, 
Sinead.

Colin





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