Leibniz and the Finno-Ugrians

Leibniz, one of the most prominent scholars of his time, was interested not only in natural sciences, mathematics, philosophy, etc. but in linguistics as well. As is known, he was presumably the first to declare the close linguistic connection between the Finnic languages and Hungarian. In accordance with his precursors and contemporaries, he was deeply immersed in the “primeval” Scythian and Celtic (or Scytho-Celtic/Celto-Scythic) languages; he considered them as chronologically distant ancestors of the German(ic) language(s). Lots of words were thought by him to have come from Celtic languages (e.g. Kelt > Germ. Held). — Leibniz was a determined proponent of the Finnlanders and Lapponians being the original settlers populating the Scandinavian Peninsula. Interestingly enough, there are present-day Finnish linguists claiming that the Finnish people have not come from Asia; that they represent the original population living in the same region from times immemorial. — As to the Hungarians, Leibniz was convinced that their original homeland might have been near the vast Volga—Caspian Sea region. Leibniz’s Scythian theories have left deep resonances on Hungarian language comparisons. Even today we find paracomparative writings focusing on the almost mythical Scytian origins of the Hungarian language in spite of the fact that the Finno-Ugrian origins of Hungarian have long been proved.

zsef Hegedűs


On sound change

This paper discusses various sound changes occurring in the course of the history of a language, especially with respect to their articulatory or psychological motivations. On the basis of some classical and modern approaches, the author lists four main reasons for sound change: ease of articulation, analogy, increased speech rate, as well as some extralinguistic factors. The specific claims are illustrated primarily by Hungarian and Slavic examples.

István Nyomárkay


The Old Hungarian place name forming suffix -j, -aj/-ej

It has been recognised by scholars for some time now that -j, -aj/-ej is to be considered an obsolete Hungarian place name forming suffix; however, various uncertainties have arisen with respect to its origin and function. These uncertainties are reflected in the Hungarian-based etymological and morphological labels applied to such items occurring as place names still in use today in Lajos Kiss’ An Etymological Dictionary of Geographical Names. More recently, it has been pointed out that the crucial factor in this issue might be a conversion, with no additional suffixation, of Slavic personal names ending in j into Hungarian place names. The present paper, considering obsolete place names as well as those in use today, comes to the following conclusions: 1. Derivational suffixes of Hungarian and of Slavic origin cannot be mistaken for one another since their differences go back to important onomastic, phonological, morphological, as well as territorial criteria. 2. The Hungarian suffix -j (-aj/-ej) goes back to Uralic/Finno-Ugric origins; its function was clearly possessive, without a component of diminutivity. 3. The Hungarian suffix is a specific product of early Old Hungarian (10—13th century) place name formation. Its productivity came to an end relatively early on but the number of place names involving it and still recoverable today is substantial. — The paper also raises some more general issues in historical onomatology, especially with respect to etymologies of proper names.

Loránd Benkő


Some remarks on Hungarian names of trees

The paper discusses the etymology of the following Hungarian tree names: bükk ‘beech’, tölgy ‘oak’, kőris ‘ash-tree’, gyümölcsény ‘hawthorn, a plant similar to whitethorn or elder’, gyertyán ‘hornbeam’, gyűrűfa ‘a kind of tree similar to maple or cornel’, éger ‘alder’, dió ‘nut’, mogyoró ‘hazel’. The author claims that tölgy is of Iranian, more precisely Alanian-Ossetian origin, mogyoró is either of Turkic origin or an internal Hungarian development from Old Hungarian mony ‘egg’, while the origin of éger is very uncertain. The remaining six and a seventh item, som ‘cornel’ (not dealt with in this paper), are of Turkic origin. — The first part of the paper focuses on the name bükk ‘beech’. The author discusses its possible Indo-European origin. Further, he summarises the geobotanic background of the borrowing of tree names. He tries to reconcile the available geobotanic data with the linguistic and historical ones. — In search of the Turkic background of the tree names at hand, the author also deals with some other Hungarian, Slavic, Ossetian and Turkic tree names. — Finally, he points to the fact that the geobotanic map of these trees outlines the region where Hungarians may have borrowed the names, and thus this research opens a new type of source for the reconstruction of the early history of Hungarians in the first millennium.

András Róna-Tas


Additional remarks on the explanation of Sermo super sepulchrum

This paper is a sequel to an earlier one published in the same journal (1997: 207—16), containing linguistic and cultural-historical commentaries on certain expressions in the earliest extant Hungarian-language document known as Sermo super sepulchrum (Halotti Beszéd és Könyörgés, abbreviated as HB., respectively HBK.) that has survived as copied into Pray Codex, a Latin codex from around 1195. First, it deals with the expression pur eN chomuv (uogmuc) ‘(we are) dust and ashes’, occurring early on in HB. and referring to the transience of human life, man’s insignificance as compared to God. The expression is a set phrase of Biblical origin (cf. Gen. 18. 27); it has a number of versions and can be set in parallel with other Biblical or religious expressions, too. The paper then discusses a particular three-part figura etymologica known in Hungarian mainly from HB. The Lord says to Adam (Gen. 2.17): “for in the day that thou eatest thereof [of the tree of knowledge of good and evil] thou shalt surely die”. (The sentence is also found in HB., with the phrase corresponding to that italicised above being halalnec halaláál holA [lit. ‘you will die a death of death’].) This formula must also have become a set phrase by the time of HB., and it can also be quoted from later texts such as various points of the first Hungarian translations of the Bible, as well as from other early ecclesiastical or even secular texts. Finally, the author discusses the expression mend w NAentíí e? unuttei (cuAicun) ‘(among) all his saints and chosen ones’ from HBK., corresponding in Pray Codex to inter sanctos et electos suos. The author claims that the word unuttei, otherwise unknown in Hungarian, is probably a copying error for ununei (read ününei) ‘his own ones’. This is supported by theological reasoning, by citing similar Biblical or ecclesiastical expressions, and a few cases attested in early Hungarian codices where n and tt were mixed up during copying. The discussion of the three expressions shows that, by the time of HB., Hungarian ecclesiastical usage had acquired a set of phrases based on Latin texts but used (partly) independently of them, too.

Ferenc A. Molnár


Inetymological consonants in early Hungarian place names

Inetymological sounds are surplus vowels or consonants that are added to the etymon, or the original sound structure of a word, in the course of its historical development. Their occurrence in Hungarian common words has been discussed in two monographs by István Nyirkos, but their role in proper names has not been studied so far in a comprehensive manner. This paper investigates the appearance of inetymological consonants mainly in the place name material of 11—14th-century documents. — The most frequent cases, as with common words, involve hiatus resolution. Sequences of two adjacent vowels are often broken up by j, v, or h. In consonantal environments, it is l, n, and p that are most often inserted, but r, g (~ k), d (~ t), m, h, j, v also occur. The paper deals with the phonetic contexts of inetymological consonants in detail, it tries to reveal the phonetic reasons, as well as some extraphonetic ones, for these sound changes.

Valéria Tóth