Spooksoliy and spokānda in a new etymology
article from Lāngār+Tibān 7-1 (1993)
In relation to the article below, see also A new etymology for Spooksoliy and spokānda.
Spooksoliy and spokānda in a new etymology
Up to now, neither linguists nor historians have been able to find a satisfactory explanation for the origin of the words Spooksoliy and spokānda. It is remarkable that there is no evidence anywhere in the old documents, traditions and sagas for the introduction of these two names. Usually we settle for the theory that the root spok is related to, if not directly derived from, the Old Norse spakr which should be translated as "quiet/gentle" or "wise".
According to tradition, the first Vikings who landed on our shores round about the year 1000 A.D. were surprised about the gentleness/quietness and dignity with which the local population received them. Due to this, one of the Vikings allegedly exclaimed something like spakir lżšir! ("[these are] wise people!"), and the coast-dwellers took this to be the (perhaps new?) name given them as a tribe. This Old Norse phrase was corrupted by the population to Spooksoliy. Naturally, the foreign intruders did not understand our forefathers' attitude of rapprochement, being unaware that the Spocanians regarded them as Erget's vassals, sent to report on the ways of the world. And the locals will have been unaware that they stood face to face with fierce pillagers who certainly did not have the task to passively observe the indigenous people's conduct. Alas, the tradition does not mention any violent confrontation between Vikings and local coast-dwellers, and therefore the etymology of our country's designation seems to have been laid down definitively in this lore.
The contact between the Vikings and our ancestors still lives on in a number of loan words of typical Old Norse origin, like klimmā (< glķma "to wrestle"), knōr (< knörr "ship"), wik (< vķk "small bay") of lo’-buti (< log "flame").
That Spooksoliy does not belong in this list of loan words, and that the accepted etymology of this name should be reconsidered, will, I hope, become clear from the rest of this article. I will refer to the prevalent notion that Spooksoliy derives from the phrase spakir lżšir, as the spakr theory, and will start with two of my objections against it.
First, the spakr theory is unable to explain in what way our country's name Spooksoliy and the name of our language spokānda are related, for, if we suppose that the element spok- in the name of our language is identical to Spook- in the name of our country, where does the affix -ānda stem from? And why is the vowel doubled in our country's name (double oo in the first syllable), while this is not the case in the name of our language?
Secondly, it is remarkable that most linguists and historians dealing with the problematic origin of these two words have ignored the fact that, halfway the 18th century, there was a strong romanticising tendency declaring Viking culture to have been of enormous influence on Spocanian culture. Many elements from our culture were no longer regarded as authentic Atlantic phenomena, but as something that had crossed the ocean from the Far North. This romanticizing can clearly be detected in the Spocanian sagas, written down in the (late) 18th century, in which authors and editors did not hesitate to incorporate Old Norse elements. A theory stating that Spooksoliy and spokānda are Old Norse words fitted in fine with the idolizing of Vikings.
One of the first to cast doubt on the spakr etymology of Spooksoliy (and perhaps also of spokānda) was Olyva Koles. In 1911, she suggested in the journal Cūltura that both names might perhaps be based on the Indo-Germanic root sprek-, from which also the German sprechen, the Dutch spreken and the English speak arise. Note that the r was still present in the Anglo-Saxon sprecan. According to Koles, the deletion of the r was not only carried through in English, but in Spocanian as well, and this at such an early date that the old forms Sprooksoliy and sprokānda are not recorded anywhere. 
At that time, her hypothesis may certainly have been called daring, but as she started out from the in my view faulty assumption that the name of our language was derived from our country's name (and not the other way round), she was unfortunately unable to discern a semantic link between "to speak" and our country's name Spooksoliy. She did not get any further than the following suggestion:
"[..] and that is why I tentatively have to assume that our compatriots referred to their nation as Spooksoliy or "Land of Speech", for they were keenly aware of their ability, given by Erget, to 'speak' or to 'narrate'."Here, I think Olyva Koles herself is unable to get away from the romantic-religious train of thought in which the verb "narrate" refers to the oral tradition of saga telling. It is the question in how far the population of these islands were aware of this specific ability, let alone whether this oral saga tradition was so significantly present at that time. Koles seems to be a late victim of this 18th century romanticizing of Vikings.
Nevertheless, I do not wish to brush aside the link she propounds between the Indo-Germanic sprek and our country's and language's name - on the contrary. I suggest that our ancestors selected a name for our language that can be paraphrased as "spirit of speech", compounded of the Germanic roots sprek for "to speak" and ānda for "spirit" (cognate with the Old Norse andi, and meaning the same), that is to say: spokānda. In this respect, we should realize that, at that time (10th century, or perhaps earlier), spokānda did not yet refer to a single "standard language", to be regarded as the precursor of modern Spocanian, but that spokānda rather denoted something like "the power of speech". This power of speech is what a "language" expresses (for if there is no language available, speech is impossible ), and therefore it is feasible that, with spokānda, a semantic shift took place in the direction of "language". But one should bring to mind that each inhabitant of our archipelago using the word spokānda in his own dialect, refers by it to his own dialect, and not to the standard language which allegedly ranks above its dialects.
If we are thus able to explain the name of our language - and it falls outside the scope of this article to substantiate this explanation exhaustively - the following step is that the derivation spokānda > Spooksoliy will have to be explained. In doing so, two questions press themselves upon one: first, how can doubling the vowel from spok to spook be explained, and secondly how do we deal with the element -soliy?
As regards doubling the vowel in spook, I refer to Quly Quzoji-Tōss' paper (Vokels fes Spokānda; Hirdo 1987), in which such a doubling is explained in view of words like mataaré "oil-lamp", toopp "sand bank" of Aagee (toponym). In view of such double-vowel words, Quzoji-Tōss states that doubling the vowel should be regarded as a variant of vowel lengthening. She indicates places in old texts where variants like matarré, topp en Aggee are found (or at least where such forms are intended, for it is mainly a question here of texts in the Pegrevian script dating from before approx. 1600, in which vowel lengthening was certainly not always expressed orthographically).
It would be taking things too far to explain why such words have any vowel extension at all. Quzoji-Tōss does not enlarge upon this either. As regards this problem, she refers to Pelcer Kolra's study Vowel length in Spocanian (Hirdo 1970)), but I will confine myself to Spooksoliy. If also in this word doubling the vowel can be regarded as a variant of vowel lengthening, then accordingly the subsidiary form [spo:ksolī] would hold true, possibly written as Spokksoliy. As the word stress must always be on the lengthened vowel, this subsidiary form therefore has the stress on the first syllable (the o). That such a form existed at a certain time, or in any case has to be present in the underlying structure, seems to be demonstrated by the pronunciation variant [spowoksolī] which exists alongside of [spwoksolī]. The variant with the stress on the second o (and not on the third) is found in large parts of our country, even though this variant is not considered "correct". Now, we are still left with the question why the o of the first element spok in spokānda is lengthened in the name of our country. This question will be automatically answered once the second part of Spooksoliy is explained. It seems natural to assume a suffix in the form of -soliy (Spo(o)k + soliy, as Quzoji-Tōss also does), but my hypothesis is that the suffix is -ksoliy. This suffix can be regarded as etymologically related to xole "to stretch out" (of a demarcated stretch of land). In short, it is possible to analyse the name of our country as Spok + ksoliy, in which the fusion of the final [k] in Spok and the initial [k] of ksoliy result in a single lengthened [k:]-sound. In the course of the centuries, the lengthening aspect of this consonant has shifted to the left into the domain of the preceding vowel under the influence of Freegh-Fisater's Law , as this is generally the case in the standard language, like for instance in wekke "to croak" which was formerly pronounced as [wek:e] and nowadays as [we:ke].
My tentative conclusion is that Spooksoliy is not compounded of the elements spok and -soliy, but of spok and -ksoliy. Therefore two prevailing theories will have to be rejected. The first stating that the name of our language is derived from our country's name (I think it is the other way round), and the second starting out from the derivation Spooksōl + -iy, in which the country is derived from the population's name by way of the "universal suffix" -iy.
My further research will concentrate on the etymology of Spooksōl and Spooksōli, that is the population's name, which as a result of my previously expounded hypothesis must be derived from the name of our country.
© translation: Joost den Haan
20 Nov 2000