THE EFFECT OF DOCUMENT-WRITING TECHNIQUES ON THE EMERGENCE OF SURNAMES IN THE 14TH CENTURY
The claim that document-writing techniques had a major influence on the emergence of family names is a commonplace in onomatology. But what exactly does this mean? What was the nature and extent of that influence? These questions make further research necessary; the aim of the present paper is merely to contribute a few observations. The data have been collected from documents written in the first one-third of the fourteenth century and have been restricted to noblemen's or noblewomen's names. In the period under study, the use of distinctive names can be said to have been general. However, the name of a particular person occurred in widely different versions. The reason may have been that the person had acquired a new property or been awarded a new position or dignity. Also, the 'explicitness' of the name may have depended on the person's social status, gender, and role in the affair recorded in the document, as well as what image he/she wanted to project of himself/herself. These facts allow us to conclude that, a few exceptions apart, we cannot speak of inherited surnames in this period, even with respect to the nobility. The intention to achieve precision and invariability of reference is more appropriate to consider as a factor facilitating the stabilization of two-element names with respect to commoners, especially servants and serfs. The detailing circumscriptions occurring in nobles' names were a retarding, rather than facilitating, factor in the stabilization of two-element personal names.
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