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La rivière Lympne



page ouverte le 28.11.2007         dernière mise à jour 28/11/2007 13:30:55

Définition : rivière de Grande Bretagne,



* M.N Bouillet (1863) : 


* Rivet & Smith (1979-1982) : 


- Ravenna, 108,39 : LEMANA

DERIVATION. The next name (Portus) Lemanis, is based on this river-name. Very numerous names either related to this or similar to it in form are listed and discussed by the Celtic philologists, notably Jackson LHEB 282, 486, 630, 672-73, and Britannia, I (1970), 78; Hubschmid ELH1. 490; Whatmough DAG x-xi. In ancient times the only other British name recorded and related to this is Lemannonius Sinus, but modem derivatives related to the name, now Lympne [lim] (Kent), are listed by Jackson, Ekwall, etc.: the rivers Leam (Northants), Lemon (Devon), Lymn (Lancs), Leven (in Gaelic Leamhain : Scotland), Laune (Ireland). Another interesting example is the Lyvennet Beck of Cumbria, Llwyfenydd in the poems of Taliesin, for which Förster FT 682 postulated British *Lemineta; this name and Yorkshire Leeming are discussed by A. H. A. Hogg in Antiquity, xx (1946), 210-11, and Ifor Williams in The Poems of Taliesin (Dublin, 1968), xliv-v. Abroad were Lemannus Lacus (Lake Geneva), Limonum (Poitiers: Vienne, France), Lemausum > Limours (Seine-et-Oise, France), river Lemane or Limeme > Limagne (Puy-de-Dôme and Allier, France), Lemovices tribe > Limoges (Haute-Vienne, France) ; and a wide variety of names such as Limia, Limana, Limonia, extending from Portugal across France and Italy to Serbia and Russia, collected by Hubschmid ELH I. 490.

Whatmough attempts to distinguish three possible roots which had sometimes been confused in the past :

(i) *lem- 'stag', which he hardly follows up except for the possibility that the ethnicon Lemovices contains an emblematic animal-name 'stag-fîghters', on the analogy of Branovices, etc., and that Limomum may be the 'source du cerf;

(2) * lem-* lim- 'elm' (Welsh llwyf; Old Irish lem, Irish leamh; cognate with Latin ulmus) ;

(3) *lim- 'marsh', from a root *lei- 'to pour, flow', cf. Welsh llif stream, flood from *limo-, and Greek Limen). Like other British authorities, Jackson unhesitatingly assigns the present name to a British *Leman(n)a 'river in the elm-wood', that is *lemo- ' elm ' with *-an(n)- suffix, citing Derventio 'river in the oakwood' as a parallel. Whatmough equally, after long discussion, appears eventually to conclude that two of his possible roots may be dismissed, and ail names assigned to his (2), *lem- 'elm'; in his view Lim- is for Lem- in such names as Limonum, lem- lim- being dialectal variations, allophones of a phonème /i/ which was often written as e. L.-F. Flutre in RIO, ix (1957), 36-37, reaches the same conclusion about the Lemovices as 'combattants de l'orme'. Hubschrnid's numerous names ail have Lim-, so that his distinct etymology, (3)
*lim- 'marsh', could well hold for them. 

The above is reasonable. However, it must be doubted whether the elm has ever been sufficiently common, or has ever formed large enough woods, for so many ancient places and especially rivers to be named from it. In this it is surely distinct from the oak (Derventio, etc.). This ecological point occurred to A. G. C. Turner in BBCS, xxn (1966- 68), 116-19, who was not satisfied with the accepted origin of the West Pennine name Lyme in *lem- 'elm': 'The elm does not seem to have been a particularly common tree in the north of England in early times (any more than it is today). . . ' Hence 'formally ME Lime, OE *Lim are more easily derived from British *Lim- identical with Welsh llif "strearn, flood", found in Dorset R. Lyme; also found as a stream-name in Wales.' But after proposing this interesting idea, Turner appears to settle for the accepted 'elm' meaning or alternatively for 'bare place' (Celtic *lummo-), which can hardly be a possibility here. If the elm was not common enough to give rise to place-names, the possibility is that a single sacred elm could be a reason for naming; but Alqvist in Arctos, vii (1972), 12, discussing Ptolemy's Limois alsos  in Silesia (II,I,13), remarks that 'Although tree-worship is well attested among the Celts, I have found no specifie instance of elms for cuit purposes', and the tree does not seem to have the magical or folkloric associations that the oak, for example, still has.

Apart from the Lemovices with their emblematic name, all the other names listed could readily — and from a semantic point of view, much more easily — be from *lim- 3), yet another water-name of the kind so often encountered, with senses 'marsh, flooded area, marshy river', etc. This is the view of Flutre (see above) : ' II est plus probable que ces deux derniers noms [Limagne, Limagnole, river-names of Lozère], comme celui de la Limagne, région du Puy-de-Dôme, dérivent du radical *lim-/*lem- "boue, limon ", lequel, suivant Dauzat, était latin (et aussi germanique), et a du être aussi gaulois, italo-celtique, sinon celtique, comme l'indique, en face de Limagne (évidemment "le bas pays marécageux") le nom Lemannus qu'on ne peut expliquer par "lac des ormes". Le radical *lim- est grec également: Limen "marais"...' And Flutre cites British Lemana as a further case in the same category of  'marsh ' names. Given Whatmough's discussion of e / i as allophones, and of phoneme /i/ often written e (with e > i in French names of Gaulish origin, Lemovices > Limoges, Lemausum > Limours, etc. ; see further E. Jung in REL, XLVII (1969), 451), there seems to be no difficulty about deriving the pr
esent name and many related to it from *lim- ' marsh ' (and similar senses). See also Pokorny in ZCP, XXI (1940), 119-20.

IDENTIFICATION : The river East Rother (formely Lympne) of east Sussex and Kent - in preference to other possibilities because it immediatly follows Durbis in the Ravenna list.


Bibliographie :

* M.N Bouillet : Dictionnaire Universel d'histoire et de géographie. Hachette. 1863.

* A.L.F Rivet & Colin Smith : The Place-Names of Roman Britain. B.T Batsford Ltd. London. 1979. Edition 1982.

Autres liens traitant de la Lympne / Lemana :

 hast buan, ma mignonig vas vite, mon petit ami

go fast, my little friend

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