Surnames of Foreign Origin in a Language Contact Situation. The Reasons and Ways of Their Changes and Their Influence on the Surname Stock in Hungary
In historical Hungary the use of inheritable family names developed in a natural way among the Hungarian, German, Slovakian and Croatian population, while decrees prescribed the use of permanent family names for the still surnameless Gipsy, Jewish and Greek Orthodox (mainly Serbian) minorities later. Many names of foreign origin were changed spontaneously in language contact situations, according to the name stock of the dominant community throughout the centuries, while in the 19th and 20th centuries mainly by the means of official surname changes. As names could have become ethnic symbols, this process was influenced also by social, ideological and political factors. This paper is a study of the use and the value of foreign surnames of minorities in a dominant linguistic and cultural context, as well as the process of the assimilation of these names and their bearers. It analyzes the different reasons for these surname changes, as well as the ways of spontaneous and conscious changes. It gives special attention to the question of how the linguistic characteristics of original foreign surnames and the existing Hungarian surname stock could influence the new surnames coined by the official surname changes in Hungarian history. The paper finally concludes that the foreign surnames and their changes also modified the structure of the surname system in Hungary, which needs further studies concerning this aspect as well.