Friday, March 30, 2012

"Halfway up the mountain"

Two interesting surnames from the Val Camonica are "Mitterpergher" and "Mittempergher." Some months ago I tried using Yahoo Answers to find out what they might mean. They are very likely of Langobard origin, so I correctly assumed that the modern German language would be the closest fit. Two of the replies were interesting.

From Yahoo user "amphitryon":

A very interesting question: the Germanic sounding name is however not often found today in Northern Europe and seems to be centered in the area of Brescia (Italy) and more specific in the Valle Camonica. It dates back to the 6th century and the invasion of the Lombards.

now to the name itself: Mezzomonte would be the Italian version, both meaning ''middle of the mountain'' (pergh = Berg = mountain in German. ''Mitte'' = middle in German. Mittempergher = ''mitten am Berg'' = at the middle of the mountain; the ''m'' after ''mitte'' coming from the German ''am'' - as in ''mitten am Berg''. The ''am'' is a form of ''auf dem'' - again the ending ''m''.

Mitterpergher = the ''r'' after ''mitte'' gives it the meaning ''one living halfway up the mountain''. I assume it means that the original family/clan lived halfway up the mountain.

I would join this club:
and pursue my inquiries through them.

Good luck

Of course, they ended up looking at our own blog for much of that information. The meaning here is "one living in the middle of the mountain." The "er" personalizes it in German, as opposed to merely pointing out the geography of the mid-mountain point. In modern German it would be "Mitterberger." The "pergher," especially with that "gh," sounds very old. Although there is no way to know for certain, I wonder if the surname was from before the Langobards reached the Camunian Valley, of which the Camuni were basically "mitterperghers" by definition, or if that surname was a family name from some earlier period.

From Yahoo user "chrusotoxos":

The name seems indeed old, possibly Cimbrian in origin, and it is typical of some areas of the Eastern Italian Alps.

It means 'half-mountain', probably in the sense that the people with this name lived halfway up a mountain. The Cimbrian word 'pergh' is equivalent to the German 'berg', and they both mean 'mountain'. Most linguists today don't see a link between Langobards and Cimbrian, which is a bavarian language, but the issue is not settled. It is obviously an old name, so well done for researching your family over so many generations!

Another variation of the surname in the area is Laitempergher, meaning 'from the Latiem mountain', modern Scanuppia.

In German speaking countries there are a lot of variations, though, such as Leuenberger, Guggisberg, Von bergen...mountain life has been an important part of European life, and the Alps in particular are in the middle of it all and were very difficult to cross before roads, so I guess it's normal that many surnames remain from the time where mountain people were essential for travelers. :)

This is probably closer to the real meaning of the surname. "One living halfway up the mountain." I was not familiar with the Cimbrian language. For example, the word "pergh" for mountain. Scanuppia is in Trento. The Cimbrian language was not from the South Tyrol, which is essentially German. As to whether or not it was a Langobard survival, or from a particular migration from Bavaria to Verona, Trento, and Vicenza eight hundred to a thousand years ago, is in question.

Another question is whether or not the Camunian surname "Mitterpergher" is of Langobard or Cimbrian origin? The Langobards took the Cisalpine region, and occupied the major cities and the surrounding farmland, and it's highly unlikely that a lone Langobard would climb up into the Camunian Valley to settle there. Of course, at a later time, a Mitterpergher may have migrated there.

Although the Cimbrian language didn't exist specifically in the Val Camonica, the same theory could apply. A Mitterpergher may have made their way there at some later point. After all, "pergh" is a Cimbrian word. It may have been a Langobard word as well.


No comments:

Post a Comment