The “Azerbaijan Onomatology” scientific school and Afad Gurbanov’s Role in the Formation and Development of Azerbaijani Onomatology

There are few linguists who have established a scientific school in the history of Azerbaijani linguistics. The second half of the XX century is considered a special phase in the development of Azerbaijani linguistics, and the formation of Azerbaijani onomatology as an independent branch of theoretical linguistics – a scientific school - in this phase is directly connected with the name and activity of Academician Afad Gurbanov.


The modern Azerbaijani literary language is a developed language with a rich vocabulary. Onomastic vocabulary – the series of personel names - comprises a large layer in the vocabulary of this language. Word groups included in onomastic vocabulary are the product of specific social and historical development and represent an irreplaceable wealth of words reflecting the life style of the people it belongs to. Comprehensive research into onomastic vocabulary is of great importance for studying the modern language, dialectology, history of language and other areas.


In Azerbaijani linguistics research into onomastic vocabulary, which for a long period of time had remained outside the scope of research, commenced in around the 1950s. But this research was conducted from a narrow perspective, any trend towards a comprehensive investigation of a group of proper names from a linguistic standpoint was purely accidental; the study of onomastic vocabulary was characterized by a lack of system and incompleteness; no fundamental research was conducted and only etymological suppositions were put forward. This was due above all to the absence of any works reflecting theoretical and practical problems in this scientific area.


Professor Afad Gurbanov, who is the author of fundamental scientific-research works and textbooks dedicated to various problems of general linguistics and Azerbaijani linguistics, and one of our most productive scientists engaging in the area of theoretical and practical issues, dedicated his research primarily to the less studied areas of our linguistics.


For many years the scientist was primarily interested in issues of onomastics, conducting research and achieving increasingly innovative results. Professor Gurbanov’s first scientific work related to onomatology was his article “Azerbaijani Personal Names and their Characteristics” published in Tbilisi in 1956. Later on the researcher published his books “Modern Azerbaijani Literary Language” (1985, “Onomatology” section), “Azerbaijani Onomastics” (1986), “Issues of Azerbaijani Onomastics” (1986), “Poetic Onomastics” (1988), ”Scientific and Methodic Instructions about Onomatology”, and other similar books, providing a correct scientific direction for the study of this area of our language and laid the foundation of the formation of Azerbaijani onomatology as an independent branch of linguistics.


Professor Gurbanov wrote: “Every word should be investigated comprehensively. There are not, and there cannot be, any meaningless words in the language, and each word and expression has a particular meaning. However, some words may express not one but several meanings. We can say that all the proper names in our language are lexical units with an appellative meaning. When it becomes an onomastic unit an appellative word turns into a proper name”.


Naturally, Afad Gurbanov’s works dedicated to onomatology played a specific role in establishing him as the “founder of the school of onomatology”. He published as many as 100 articles, tens of books and several monographs dedicated to issues of onomatology.


The scientist’s greatest success in this area is his excellent and comprehensive monograph “Onomatology of the Azerbaijani Language” published in 1988 and awarded the State Prize in 1989. For the first time in Azerbaijani linguistics this work dealt with onomastic problems from a scientific and theoretical standpoint.


Paying special attention to problems of onomatology, Professor Gurbanov published a fundamental monograph in 2004 consisting of 2 volumes and dedicated to the issues of onomastics (“Bases of Azerbaijani Onomatology”, volumes I and II). This two-volume monograph written at a high scientific level and in fluent language is a fundamental monograph dedicated to a study of the theoretical bases of Azerbaijani onomatology. This monograph was also published in Turkey and Russia.


These works were devoted Azerbaijani linguistics, and, generally, for the first time in Turkological linguistics, to a comprehensive linguistic study of proper names. In these works Afad Gurbanov set out the theoretical bases of for the study of fundamental onomastics and identified groups of proper names in the Azerbaijani language and in the languages of the world as a whole. Now all research in this area is performed on the basis of the grouping determined by Afad Gurbanov. Moreover, the research scientist also worked on issues relating to the formation and alteration of onomastic language units, the theoretical bases for their particular poetic and stylistic characteristics, as well as orthographic and orthoepic problems.


In addition, since 1988 he has published “Turkic Names in the World” (2000), “Azerbaijani Names: How to Choose a Name for a Child” (1993), “Name and Man” (2002), “Dictionary of Azerbaijani Names” (2002), “Turkic Peoples’ Naming Traditions” (2002) and other books, as well as hundreds of articles dedicated to onomastics.


The school of onomastics and the scientific works created and written by Professor Afad Gurbanov played a special role in the rapid development not only of Azerbaijani but also of Turkological linguistics. His scientific activity in the area of onomastics is also valued very highly by well-known local and foreign linguists and academicians.


In his article entitled “The Onomastics School in Azerbaijan and its Future”, Academician M. Shiraliyev writes: “A. Gurbanov’s book “The Onomatology of the Azerbaijani Language” is a very valuable book not only for our linguistics but also for world Turkological linguistics. I can say with quite categorically that with this book Afad Gurbanov has laid the foundation of the Azerbaijani school of onomastics”.


Several pages of the fundamental scientific journal entitled “Turkic World Research” which was published in Istanbul in 1989 were dedicated to an analysis of this book. The Reviewer Khalil Aciggoz writes: “In this book which we have been awaiting for many years respected Professor Afad Gurbanov has carefully investigated the theoretical and practical problems of Turkic and Azerbaijani onomastics. No expression of gratitude on our part can be quite enough. We request that this book be published in the Turkic language within a short period of time. The publication of this book in our county too will shed more clear light on Turkic onomastic research”.


The review of this book by the researcher Yasin Aslan living in the city of Munich in Germany is also worthy of note: “As an Azerbaijani I congratulate you on the services you have rendered to the Azerbaijani people and science and I wish you continued success. Our country should be proud of its sons like you”.


Another of Afad Gurbanov’s fundamental works in the area of onomastics is the “Dictionary of Azerbaijani Toponyms” covering circa 7 thousand geographical names. This dictionary was published under his editorship and with the support of the Encyclopedia of Azerbaijan.


The founding of the Society of Onomastics of Azerbaijan and the Scientific Center of Onomastics at the State Pedagogical University of Azerbaijan, the creation of the “Onomastics” scientific-onomastic journal, establishing 25 October as Onomastics Day, and the holding of large-scale republic-level conferences dedicated to the problems of onomastics are also directly linked with the name of Afad Gurbanov.


The “Azerbaijani Onomatology” scientific school created by Professor Afad Gurbanov has become famous all over the world (USA, Canada, Finland, Belgium, Norway, Turkey, Russia, Iran, etc.). Onomastic research has been conducted under Professor Gurbanov’s leadership in a number of foreign countries. Tens of Phd and doctoral dissertations related to the problems of onomatology have been defended under A. Gurbanov’s direction.


As a result of his personal initiative, organizational activity and strenuous work, since 1986 there have been 13 republic-level conferences dedicated to the problems of Azerbaijani onomastics. The scope encompassed by these conferences has been very comprehensive. They have been attended by representatives of the scientific community of most of the allied republics if the former Soviet Union. The conference materials were published in the form of a book within a short period of time. These conferences subsequently became a tradition and began to be held once every two years.


Moreover, a Turkic onomastics section was established within the Soviet Turkologists Committee of the USSR Academy of Sciences in ………. at the initiative of Professor Gurbanov who was the committee’s deputy chairman, and consequently onomastic research began to be conducted in all the Turkic language republics of the USSR.


The tradition established by Afad Gurbanov in the area of Azerbaijani linguistics will exist for many years and keep his name alive.