On the periodisation of the history of Hungarian

The author argues that it is necessary to adopt a more differentiated view of the periodisation of the history of Hungarian; in particular, with respect to the Modern Hungarian period (1772—). His point of departure is that such new periodisation is made necessary by the political, cultural, scientific and technological changes of the twentieth century, as well as the political and social processes that the community of Hungarians has undergone and that have affected their language, too. The language-policy situation and use of Hungarian in the twentieth century, and the major changes that it exhibits, are scrutinised and it is concluded that certain divergent tendencies of language change emerged or were enhanced, alongside the convergent tendencies that had prevailed beforehand, from the 1920s onwards (beginning with the Trianon Peace Treaty of 4 June 1920 that forced millions of Hungarians into a minority situation, gradually turning them bilinguals as time went by, with the limitations of their Hungarian language use that that situation implies), especially with respect to the language use of minority communities of Hungarians. The author lists the changes that can be detected in the situation, use, and condition of Hungarian in the twentieth century, including the manifold consequences of the information age and globalisation. He observes that the most dramatic changes have occurred in the situation of Hungarian, less drastic ones in language use, and the least radical changes have occurred in the state of the language, the language system. Finally, he proposes that the decades after 1920 should be differentiated from the earlier ones such that the period between 1772 and 1920 be called Modern Hungarian, whereas that from 1920 be referred to as Contemporary Hungarian.

Jenõ Kiss

Doboka and other names

This article is a reply to Gyula Kristó’s paper in this year’s first issue of The Hungarian Language (pp. 55—60), in which he refers to some observations made by the present author concerning the historical and onomatological authenticity of certain characters of the early chronicles as ‘overly critical’, observations that were included in my 2001 book entitled The evidence of Old Hungarian. Re-opening the case of the history of Southern Transylvania in the early Árpádian age. The points made in that book, criticising Kristó’s claims among others, are supplemented by further details and arguments here. I continue to claim that Doboka, Keán, Belyöd, Kulán and Erdéelvi Szoltán were not real historical figures and that their names are artificial coinages in line with a special writer’s practice of the period: with the exception of Doboka, they were created by a mid-thirteenth century chronicler known as Master Ákos. Turning to some important figures of Hungarian history, I also see the names Vajk (for St Stephen), Beleknegini (for his mother), and Prokuj (as the name of one of the Transylvanian princes) in quite a different light than Kristó does. For these names, I consider the writer’s role of Bishop Thietmar of Merseburg (eleventh century) as the decisive one. With respect to the name Vajk, I do not only oppose Kristó’s view but also the currently prevailing assumption.

Loránd Benkõ

Processes of lexicalization and grammaticalization in phraseological units

The aim of this paper is to summarize the most important ways in which phraseological units are created. The author pays special attention to idioms with verbal heads. Most phraseological units are formed from free lexical units through the process of phraseologization. This process can be manifold; however, two main types can be established: change in meaning and change in form. The results of these two types of changes will distinguish phraseological units from free lexical units. Change in meaning — mainly via metaphorization — is attestable in a change in the argument structure of a word. This can mean a change in its semantic argument structure (i.e., in thematic roles) but, on a higher level of lexicalization, free and set phrases might have different arguments both in terms of number and form. Another type of lexicalization is discernible in phraseological units created by formal stabilization. That stabilization can be the result of various changes: either the synonymous variants of earlier phrase components disappear, or a change occurs in the use of articles or possessive markers. A rare type of phraseological units is the group of so called alogisms. These are statements referring to an impossible state of affairs, therefore they cannot be interpreted literally. On the other hand, as far as form is concerned, phraseological units that contain unique components cannot be mistaken for free lexical units as the former contain elements that — apart from set phrases — never occur in the language.

Tamás Forgács

The linguistic image of hands in Hungarian

In this paper, the author makes an attempt to reconstruct the notion of human hands as conventionalised in Hungarian. This notion reflects our idea of the human hand in the simplest possible form; the hand, as part of the human body, has a definite shape and consists of several smaller parts, and is used by humans to perform various actions. The cognitive base of that notion is made up by several cognitive domains that involve an enormous variety of contents related to the human hand. As it is known, cognitive domains are the source of the conceptual contents of linguistic expressions, hence each linguistic expression may invoke one or more cognitive domains. In our view, the central (prototypical) conceptual features of hand, the basic and permanent components of its meaning, activate three natural categories of description: (1) the whereabouts of hands in the human body (hands as part of the human body); (2) the way hands look (their shape and structure); and (3) their function that is categorised in the most general conceptual structure as human activity. From the domain of activity, the following subdomains can be derived by concretisation (i.e., by the specification of activity): “possession”, “contact”, “work”, “man”, and “punishment”.

Janusz Bañczerowski

Historical sociopragmatics:
a new approach to the study of the history of Hungarian

It is both timely and imperative to renew the traditional system-centred approach to historical linguistics primarily focusing on Ancient Hungarian and Old Hungarian and supplement it with usage-centred research based on Middle Hungarian sources (like records of evidence in witchcraft trials). One possible way of doing that is offered by historical (socio)pragmatics, a line of study little known at present within Hungarian linguistics. Although a systematic application of (synchronically tried-and-true, all but classical) pragmatic theories and methods to historical material may come up against unforeseeable or even unresolvable difficulties, such “experimentation” is a promising enterprise: the pragmatic point of view and the theories built on it may provide historical investigations with a framework that can not only be expected to yield new conclusions but also to throw new light upon familiar facts of language history.

Zsófia Sárosi

Structural synonymy and formal variants:
Relative clauses and their parallels in six early Hungarian translations
of the Bible

Structural synonymy is exhibited by sets of expressions that are capable of conveying the same denotative content but are differently constructed and hence have slightly different meanings. Synonymous structures, due to the general complexity of syntactic phenomena, are not quite coterminous semantically, stylistically, or pragmatically (i.e., they are not synonyms in the strict sense); it is exactly for that reason that they offer a choice for the language user. Formal variants, in the author’s view, are sets of syntactic structures that do not exhibit any semantic diversity despite their formal differences; hence, they are freely interchangeable (or, in the case of historical phenomena, are assumed to be such on the basis of available data). The existence of formal variants is the basis of the subsequent emergence of synonymous constructions. — This paper discusses variation and structural synonymy in one type of complex sentences: those involving relative clauses. The data are taken from parallel passages of six different Hungarian translations of the Bible written between 1416 and 1626, supplemented by two contemporary translations of the same passages. The following phenomena are explored: among formal variants: constructions with az / amaz ’that’; ki ’who’ vs. mi ’that’ / mely ’which’; mi ’that’ vs. mely ’which’; and ki / aki ’who’, mi / ami ’that’, mely / amely ’which’; and among synonyms: the alternation of relative conjunctions (the expression of conditionality), the alternation of relative clauses vs. constituents; and that of subordinate vs. coordinate clauses.

Adrienne Dömötör