Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Names of Cities in Different Languages

I decided to compare the names of twenty well-known European cities in ten different languages. The languages I chose were four Germanic, four Romance and two Uralic. They were English, German, Dutch, Swedish, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, Hungarian and Finnish. In the list below, I provide the names of the cities in their respective languages. The order is the same as in this paragraph.

Paris, Paris, Parijs, Paris, Pari’s, Paris, Paris, Parigi, Pa’rizs, Pariisi

London, London, Londen, London, Londres, Londres, Londres, Londra, London, Lontoo

Stockholm, Stockholm, Stockholm, Stockholm, Estocolmo, Estocolmo, Stockholm, Stoccolma, Stockholm, Tukholma

Milan, Meiland, Milaan, Milano, Mila’n, Mila~o, Milan, Milano, Mila’no’, Milano

Rome, Rom, Rome, Rom, Roma, Roma, Rome, Roma, Ro’ma, Rooma

Vienna, Wien, Wenen, Wien, Viena, Viena, Vienne, Vienna, Be’cs, Wien

Florence, Florenz, Florence, Florens, Florencia, Florenc,a, Florence, Firenze, Firenze, Firenze

Naples, Neapel, Napels, Neapel, Na’poles, Na’poles, Naples, Napoli, Na’poly, Napoli

Warsaw, Warschau, Warschau, Warszawa, Varsovia, Varso’via, Varsovie, Varsavia, Varso’, Varsova

Munich, Mu:nchen, Mu:nchen, Mu:nchen, Mu’nich, Munique, Munich, Monaco, Mu:nchen, Mu:nchen

Lisbon, Lissabon, Lissabon, Lissabon, Lisboa, Lisboa, Lisbonne, Lisbona, Lisszabon, Lissabon

Berlin, Berlin, Berlijn, Berlin, Berli’n, Berlim, Berlin, Berlino, Berlin, Berliini

Brussels, Bru:ssel, Brussel, Bryssel, Bruselas, Bruxelas, Bruxelles, Bruxelles, Bru:sszel, Bryssel

Prague, Prag, Praag, Prag, Praga, Praga,Prague, Praga, Pra’ga, Praha

Hamburg, Hamburg, Hamburg, Hamburg, Hamburgo, Hamburgo, Hambourg, Amburgo, Hamburg, Hampuri

Moscow, Moskau, Moskou, Moskva, Moscu’, Moscovo/Moscou, Moscou, Mosca, Moszkva, Moskova

Venice, Venedig, Venetie:, Venedig, Venecia, Veneza, Venise, Venezia, Velence, Venetsia

Athens, Athen, Athene, Aten, Atenas, Atenas, Athe`nes, Atene, Athe’n, Ateena

Geneva, Genf, Geneve, Geneve, Ginebra, Genebra, Gene`ve, Ginevra, Geneva, Geneve

Belgrade, Belgrad, Belgrado, Belgrad, Belgrado, Belgrado, Belgrade, Belgrado, Belgra’d, Belgrad

Moscow has two forms in Portuguese. Moscovo is European and Moscou is Brazilian. The cities with the most variants are Moscow (ten variants if we include European Portuguese and nine with Brazilian) and Athens, Venice and Warsaw with nine variants each. Stockholm has the fewest variants at four. The name "Stockholm" in used in six languages: English, German, Dutch, Swedish, French and Hungarian. Two languages, Spanish and Portuguese, use "Estocolmo".

The list shows that the names of many European cities can vary significantly from one language to another. This is often not the case for cities of other continents. The reason for this variation is probably due to the history and importance of these cities in the languages discussed here.


Maggie said...

This is interesting!

Les Zsoldos said...

Thanks for reading.

Featured Post

Finding the Proto-Form

Related languages have a number of words which are similar to one another. In the branch of linguistics known as historical linguistics, the...