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Original scientific paper

Žarko Muljačić



In the majority of European languages, including Croatian, there are only indirect Arabic loanwords (etymologia remota), that is, pseudo–Arabic loanwords. In the old age, before the first great invasions of the Ottoman army (after the year 1450), the Croatian lexicon contained almost no Turkish loanwords of the Arabic origin.
This paper will deal with the Romance loanwords of Arabic origin, which have been imported into Croatian through the Arabic loanwords from the colonial Venetian, or Southern Italian Arabic loanwords. The possibility of Arabic loanwords being imported via two languages (e. g. Greek loanwords of Arabic origin in Venetian) is left for further investigation. The only thing that we can be sure about is that Venetian, being the language of the most powerful maritime force in the Eastern Mediterranean (and the adjoining seas), which reached the curve connecting Constantinople, Crete, Alexandria, Palestine and Cyprus, had many contacts with speakers of Greek and Arabic.
As for some of the dialects of Southern Italy (and entire Sicily), they had for long been under Arab government, of which they freed themselves (as well as linguistically Arabic Malta) in the secondhalf of the 11th century. A proof of the Venetian strength in Constantinople and Levant after 1204 is the title given to the Venetian Doge: dominator quartae et dimidae partis totius Imperii Romaniae (statistically, 37,5% of the former Byzantine Empire; and the Muslim Seljuqs had dominated a big continental part of the Central Anatolia even before 1204).
The author has adhered to the principle melius abundare, especially in the second chapter, in order to deal with the problem as a part of the issue of linguistic contact and conflict between the three continents. The final chapter contains the analysis of two representative pseudo–Arabic loanwords in Croatian: orsani (“arsenal”) and Marulić’s hapax sapran (“šafran”) – the unexpected phonetic change is probably due to a conscious alliteration. In the conclusion, the author has tried to answer the question of the reasons for the great success of some pseudo–Arabic loanwords in a number of Romance languages, even though these lexemes were not necessary, because there were adequate lexemes for certain “things” in Latin as well. This was due to the prestige of Arabic and other Eastern products (not only luxury goods). Therefore, the reason is comparable to the one that has nowadays to the predominance of the neologism “hit” over “šlager” (of the season).



pseudo–Arabic loanwords; etymologia remota; loanwords; history of language; Croatian


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