On the Russian Folk Gemonymy: Tal’yan

2021. № 4, 61-76


The article studies the Russian folk gemstone names (the system of names of precious and semiprecious stones), which practically did not become the object of attention of many linguists. The paper considera the gemstone name tal’yan (tal’yanchik, tal’yashka) is considered, which has both a generalized meaning of ‘precious (crystal) stone in general,’ and a specific ones – ‘amethyst,’ ‘rock crystal,’ ‘smoky quartz (rauchtopaz); light rauchtopaz,’ as well as the associated name of the mountain Tal’yan, located in “the Gemstone Belt” of the Urals near the Murzinka village. According to a common version, the stone got its name from Mount Tal’yan, and the mountain is named after the Italian Tartori brothers, who worked in these parts in a reconnaissance expedition in the 18th century. The author considers this version untenable in terms of linguogeography and word formation, and suggests a different solution, which is also based on the internal form of “Italian,” but the motivation is not related to the dedication to specific persons. Not the oronym tal’yan, but the name of the stone tal’yan is the primary name (marked not only in the Urals). The stone is included in the circle of realia to which the folk tradition attributed an Italian (“overseas,” “Roman,” “European”) origin and value (accordion talyanka, Tal’yan plate, Tal’yan window, etc.). It was named Italian because of its similarity to Italian (Venetian) glass, well known in Europe and Russia. The motivational parallel supporting this decision is the Old Russian word venisa, which names garnet, another coloured stone, which has the internal form “Venetian.”

For citation:

Berezovich E. L. On the Russian Folk Gemonymy: Tal’yan. Russian Speech = Russkaya Rech’. 2021. No. 4. Pp. 61–76. DOI: 10.31857/S013161170016215-5.


The study was supported by a grant from the Russian Science Foundation, project 20-18-00269 “Mining Industries and Early Factory Culture in Language, “Naive” Writing and Folklore of Ural Region” (Perm State National Research University). The author thanks Il’dar I. Artem’ev, Sergei A. Beloborodov, Lyudmila A. Budrina, Galina I. Kabakova, and Dmitrii V. Spiridonov for their valuable advice in preparing the article.