Toponymic -az in France

Margrave

Member
English-UK
Hi! There are many placenames in France with the suffix -az, mainly in the Rhône-Alpes. Does anybody knows the meaning of this suffix?

Any advice is welcome. :)
 
  • AndrasBP

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    Hi!

    It seems that the endings -az or -oz are not actual suffixes, but merely spelling peculiarities of the local Franco-Provençal (Arpitan) language.

    Here's what I've found:

    "- Concernant La terminaison en -oz :
    J.-B. Martin consacre un chapitre aux toponymes rhônalpins en -(I)AC ou -IEU(X), en -AZ et -OZ dans l’ouvrage Inventer le monde : les Rhônalpins et leurs langages :
    "Toponymes en -az et -oz : une caractéristique du centre et de l’est du francoprovençal
    Les terminaisons -oz et -az de la plupart des toponymes recensés continuent les désinences du francoprovençal -o du masculin et -a du féminin singulier. (…) En francoprovençal, les désinences -o et -a, comme les voyelles latines qui leur ont donné naissance, étaient prononcées plus faiblement que la voyelle tonique qui se trouvait dans la syllabe précédente. Pour signaler dans l’écriture ces voyelles dont la prononciation n’avait pas d’équivalent en français, les scribes ont pris l’habitude de les faire suivre d’un z dans un espace qui s’étend de Lyon au Valais et à la vallée d’Aoste. Ce signe n’avait donc à l’origine aucune valeur phonique pour lui-même puisqu’il ne servait qu’à indiquer la prononciation affaiblie de la voyelle précédente. (…) Dans la logique du français, ces finales -az et -oz auraient dû être remplacées par -e lors de la francisation des noms locaux.
    » Exemples : la Clusaz- La Cluse, Portaz-Porte, Combaz-Combe…
    L’auteur indique que ces terminaisons -az et -oz se retrouvent aussi dans de nombreux anthroponymes."
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    I am here replying you from memory here, so take it with a grain of salt: In French transcriptions of Francoprovencal words, the Z is added words with penultimate stress. So, Vésenaz was originally pronounced Vésenaz and not Vésnaz as people pronounce it today. Names ending with a vowel and with ultimate stress usually get an -x at the end, like Charmonix. These added -z and -x often don't occur in Francoprovencal spellings (historical and modern).
     

    Margrave

    Member
    English-UK
    @AndrasBP @berndf Thank you! Though it seems that the -z particle is not pronounced presently, we have this town name evolution (attested): Viries (1250), Viria (1272), Viria (1417), Viriaz, Viriatz (1563) and finally Viriat. In the transition from -z to -tz in 1563, seems like the -z particle had formerly a fonetic function "tz". The "t" was incorporated at the root veria in viriat.

    This seems contrary to what the book "Toponymes en -az et -oz : une caractéristique du centre et de l’est du francoprovençal" states, that the particle -z has no fonetic function. Did you perhaps know of other transitions like this one from -s > -z > -tz > -t in words at the Rhône-Alpes region?
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    In the transition from -z to -tz in 1563, seems like the -z particle had formerly a fonetic function "tz". The "t" was incorporated at the root veria in viriat.
    No, I am pretty sure the -z is a scribal invention without any etymological background. There is at times an elided t but not at the end. E.g. Sarraz (canton de Vaud) is from the past participle serrata (corresponding to French serrée).
    Did you perhaps know of other transitions like this one from -s > -z > -tz > -t in words at the Rhône-Alpes region?
    This is about Francoprovencal in general and not just the Rhône-Alpes. It includes Suisse Romande, parts of Franche-Comté and the Aosta Valley
     

    Margrave

    Member
    English-UK
    @berndf thank you. This means that the name of the city Viriaz or Viriatz would be originally pronounced as ria or riat with emphasis on the first syllable?

    Very interesting. In French the emphasis is opposite in the last syllable Viriát as you know. Is this accent on the first syllable a characteristic for all words in Francoprovençal?
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Well, the main difference is that Francoprovencal has phonemic stress at all. French has lost it completely. There is a tendency to stress the final syllables and that is what we non-French speakers hear. But it has become phonologically irrelevant. If you ask a French speaker whether he says Montána or Montaná (as in the ski resort of Crans-Montana) he will answer "neither" insisting that he doesn't stress anything.
    Is this accent on the first syllable a characteristic for all words in Francoprovençal?
    As I said in my first post, what I have learned is that there is ultimate and penultimate stress in Francoprovencal. I have been living in the area for 30 years but so far I haven't met a single person who would qualify as a native speaker or even near-native speaker. I find it very difficult to get any information about the old language, which they simply call patois (dialect). There is unfortunately very little awareness that there might be something worth preserving.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    I spent yesterday at the Lac d'Annecy in Haute-Savoie and had to think of your question when driving over the Col de la Forclaz. This is a very typical example. Forclaz is derived from Latin furcam (fork). The French cognate is fourche. It is hard to think of any other reason for the -z than to indicate an unstressed ending.
    IMG_2101Small.jpg
     

    Margrave

    Member
    English-UK
    Beautiful place! :) Even if at the beginning centuries ago the -z intended to stress a weak ending and was not spelled out, how is the pronunciation now? Local people pronounce the -z or not?
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Beautiful place! :) Even if at the beginning centuries ago the -z intended to stress a weak ending and was not spelled out, how is the pronunciation now? Local people pronounce the -z or not?
    No, the -z and -x endings are mute. Non local French speakers sometimes pronounce the -x in names like Chamonix, though never locals. But I have never heard a final -z being pronounced; not even by non-locals.
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top