A memorial speech on Miklós Zsirai,
late Member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences
This paper is an overview of the life and work of an outstanding figure of twentieth-century Hungarian and Finno-Ugric linguistics, Miklós Zsirai (1892–1955). He had a peculiar, almost romantic course of life, and worked as Head of the Department of Finno-Ugristics at Budapest University from 1929 to his death. With his attractive personality and captivating teacher’s activity, he won numerous young students over to the cause of Finno-Ugric studies. With his exceptionally ethical character, he set an example to all. He focussed his scholarly attention on the Ob-Ugrian languages. His most important book “Our Finno-Ugric Relatives” is a veritable encyclopedia of Finno-Ugric peoples and languages, a masterpiece of the propagation of knowledge. He edited two volumes of Khanty (Ostyak) heroic songs that had been collected by Antal Reguly. He also made his mark in the areas of etymology, comparative morphology, and the historiography of linguistics. He played a leading role in Hungarian linguistics in the period of 1930 to 1955.
The role of the Székely people in defending the country in the Árpádian age
The eleventh and twelfth-century history of the Székely, one of the characteristic groups of Hungarians, has to be revised at a number of points as compared to earlier studies in the field. This paper discusses an important issue within that period of the history of the Székely: their role in defending Hungary. The discussion retains its original form as an oral presentation and focuses on the results of the inquiry. It argues against the claim that the Kingdom of Hungary had employed foreigners, nomadic people from the East, to defend the country in the early Árpádian age. Rather, the kings of Hungary at that time organised Hungarian troops to accomplish that task from light horsemen capable of forming flying patrols and deployed them next to strategically prominent roads and mountain passes, generally at the fringes of the territories within which Hungarian was spoken. Many of these groups of people, referred to as the Székely, were later transferred from those remote areas to what is known as the Székely land in eastern Transylvania today, also with defence tasks, only in the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries.
An etymological dictionary of Turkish and the
of the Hungarian language
This paper gives a detailed survey, starting with Ármin Vámbéry’s dictionary, of the history of Turkish etymological dictionaries and related aspects of etymological research. A recent product of that research is “An Etymological Dictionary of the Turkish Language”, compiled by the author, that can be seen as a concise preliminary sample of the originally planned project. In the second part of the paper, the author describes some Hungarian-related etymological analyses associated with that project (e.g., on H mogyoró ‘hazelnut’, tanú ‘witness’, tapsifüles ‘bunny’, tor ‘funeral banquet’, etc.) that are especially relevant with respect to the linguistic and cultural history of Hungarian.
The phonology of Hungarian vowel clusters
Hiatus, i.e., a heterosyllabic sequence of adjacent vowels, constitutes a dispreferred configuration in a number of languages. Some languages disallow the occurrence of hiatus altogether; others prevent some instances from arising by various means but let others surface or resolve them in some surface-phonological manner. The diverse means of avoiding hiatuses, resolving potential hiatuses, or breaking up actual ones, include elision of one or the other vowel, diphthong formation or glide formation, vowel coalescence, as well as epenthesis of a default consonant, capturing a ‘floating’ consonantal melody or the spread of some (consonantal) melody from one of the vowel positions flanking the empty onset position. This paper surveys the major hiatus avoidance/resolution patterns that are attested in Hungarian (these turn out to include nearly all of the logically possible patterns). In particular, elision of the first vowel (szomorŘ-odik ‘become sad’), that of the second vowel (kocsi-Řn ‘on a cart’), diphthong formation (autó ‘car’), consonant epenthesis (karcsú-s-ít ‘make slim’), floating consonant realisation (a-z-alma ‘the apple’), as well as hiatus resolution in the strict sense (fi[j]ú ‘boy’) are discussed in more or less detail. In the second part of the paper, these phenomena are given an optimality theoretic analysis.
The word yen and what surrounds it
In 1871, the Japanese government introduced a new currency whose name has ever since been represented as yen in most languages spelt in the Latin alphabet, even though the name of the currency is pronounced [en] in Japanese. The sound value of the Chinese character (kanji) ? (?), respectively of the kana symbols ??, used to be [wen] that subsequently changed into [jen] in the Kamakura period, and then in the Endo period, sometime in the 18th century, into [en]. Thus, there is no obvious linguistic reason why in the late nineteenth century (and ever since) the name of the currency should be transliterated as yen. However, the language manuals and dictionaries published in those days retained ye-type transliterations of a-, ya- or wa-line syllables with an -e nucleus – whose phonemic value was, and is, uniformly /e/ –, with special regard to the 1867 first edition of James Curtis Hepburn’s Japanese–English dictionary in which e-initial Japanese words do not figure at all, such items being represented as ye-initial. For chronological reasons, the word denoting the new currency does not occur in that dictionary, although the system of transliteration employed by Hepburn allows one to reconstruct the spelling yen, a form that does actually occur as an entry in the second edition of 1872. In the third edition of 1886, following the transcription system elaborated in 1885 by Romajikai (Romanisation Club), all ye-initial words were written as e-initial, except that both en and yen occur as separate entries, though Hepburn himself exceptionally preferred yen over en. On Japanese banknotes, yen made it début in 1872, in an English environment (hundred yen, two yen, etc.). The shape – considered as an English form – is acceptable; yet it is difficult to understand why the Bank of Japan (Nippon Ginko) persists in using the Latin-letter inscription e.g. NIPPON GINKO 5000 YEN on the banknotes it issues.
On lexical intensification and moderation
The author has dealt with the problems of non-comparative intensification in several papers and a monograph (Lexical intensification. Scolastica, Budapest, 2001). In the present paper, having given a short overview of the preliminaries, he first discusses the similar and different aspects of lexical intensification and moderation. He states that the range of means to express lexical intensification is far wider than that of expressing moderation. Subsequently, he presents the major characteristics of expressing moderation. In the second part of the paper the author discusses the relation between comparative and non-comparative intensification and moderation. One of his most significant conclusions is that verbs and nouns can also be intensified in cases of making comparisons. In the final part of the paper, the author expresses his opinion that the range of means belonging to the semantic field of intensification and moderation can be described by means of both grammar and lexicography. In his opinion, when an attempt is made to describe intensification and moderation within grammar, more attention should not be paid to an exact definition of the range of intesifiable and moderatable words, and the phenomenon of intensification and moderation should be narrowed down to the issue of the comparison of adjectives. With the help of lexicographic means the phenomenon of intensification and moderation can be described in intensification dictionaries. The author considers it justified that – in addition to the already existing bilingual intensification dictionaries – monolingual intensification dictionaries should be compiled, which should aim at completeness.