Linguistic Contact in Prehistoric Italy: At the Origins of the Placename 'Imola'


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This paper explores possible connections between the Indo-European roots *yem-/*jem- and *am- (*me-) and the Etruscan stem am- through the analysis and reconstruction of the pre-Latin etymology of the Italian placename 'Imola' (Bologna, Emilia-Romagna). The evaluation of plausible links between Indo-European (Italic and, especially, Celtic) and Etruscan in this area, in the specific field of historical toponomastics, could allow relevant considerations inherently in the notions of reuse and refunctionalization of roots pertaining to different languages and linguistic families in the (mainly Prehistoric or Proto-historic) toponymy of border areas. The placename 'Imola' is, therefore, reconstructed through a 'convergent' methodology that takes into account the possibility of different and heterogeneous influences in the naming process. The work starts from the analysis of the Indo-European root *yem-/*jem- inferring the possibility of contacts between Indo-Europeans and Etruscans in the area of the inhabited center. The proposal of possible linguistic interexchange envisages the hypothesis of a semantic alignment between the Indo-European root *yem-/*jem- and the Etruscan stem am- or an analogy between the two bases and the Indo-European theme *am- (*me-). The conclusions (a plausible contact and alignment between Indo-European and Etruscan in a border area) of this paper could be relevant also in the field of historical semantics and in the re-interpretation of Etruscan stem am-. The study, therefore, highlights the possibility of contacts and interexchange, in border areas, between different languages and linguistic families.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)158-170
Number of pages13
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Celtic
  • Etruscan Stem *am-
  • Imola
  • Indo-European
  • Italic
  • Linguistic Contact and Alignment
  • Reuse and Refunctionalization of Word-roots and (Loan)-words


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