An unequalled and unsurpassable achievement
The Transylvanian Hungarian Historical Dictionary is an outstanding piece of work even within Attila T. Szabó’s oeuvre of unparalleled dimensions. In his various accounts of his own life and scholarly activities, he regarded that dictionary as his chef-d’oeuvre himself; as time passed, he increasingly concentrated his attention, thought and energy on it. Among his many other superb achievements, this was the work that commanded attention in professional circles to an exceptional extent, calling forth a number of detailed reviews and analyses as well as favourable recognition from all quarters, linguists and representatives of neighbouring disciplines alike. (The dictionary is still being edited and published, Volume 13 is forthcoming soon.) This talk presents Attila T. Szabó’s life and work, including personal memories of the speaker, with the Dictionary in the focus of attention. Its national and international significance is briefly discussed and its interdisciplinary character is emphasized.
Attila T. Szabó and the Society of Hungarian Linguistics
This talk concerns the friendship of Attila T. Szabó with Dezső Pais, a scholar who determined the intellectual atmosphere of the Society for decades. Dezső Pais, professor of linguistics at the university of Budapest, legendary editor of The Hungarian Language, a prominent figure of the Budapest school of linguistics, became aware of the work of the young Transylvanian linguist rather early on. In the thirties, he was one of the first to publish Szabó’s articles in the journal of the Society, and to aid his professional development with good advice and personal encouragement. During his stays in Budapest, Attila T. Szabó actively participated at the meetings of the Society, and made the acquaintance of the members of Kruzhok, a fraternity of linguists. After the Second World War, in the first decades of the communist regime, direct personal contacts between Hungarian scholars living in Romania and those living in Hungary became impossible. In those years, Pais and Szabó had to rest content with exchanging personal letters. The talk presents interesting details of those precious documents of the history of Hungarian linguistics.
The university of Kolozsvár and its professor
This paper is about the thirty-one years between 1940 and 1971 that Attila T. Szabó spent teaching at the university of Kolozsvár. The title mentions “the university of Kolozsvár” although, during the twentieth century, Kolozsvár now had a Hungarian university and now it had none, and the opportunities of higher education in Hungarian were also quite variable in that city. This situation has not come to a satisfactory solution even today. The institution that Attila T. Szabó was a professor of cannot simply be referred to as “the university of Kolozsvár”. For him and some of his fellow professors, this was like the situation of certain Hungarian communities in the Carpathian Basin, the members of which successively turned into citizens of a number of different countries without ever leaving the village in which they had been born. Szabó, too, was professor of at least three different universities while teaching at “the university of Kolozsvár”. The locality and the sometimes unforeseeable turns that history was taking determined his teacher’s and scholar’s career, a rather unusual career to be sure.
Attila T. Szabó and ethnography
It is repeatedly pointed out in papers reviewing Attila T. Szabó’s publications or assessing his completed oeuvre that, given the multifariousness of his work, ethnography, literary criticism and cultural history are also among the disciplines that must keep an eye on his accomplishments, on account of a number of his articles, studies and books that can be seen as belonging to those disciplines. He himself pointed out several times in interviews and on other occasions that he intended to contribute not only to linguistics but to other branches of scholarship as well. However, it has to be added that, surveying his work discipline by discipline, we must never forget that the multiplicity of his interests always pointed towards the integration, rather than towards the divergence, of those fields. This is the case with respect to his relationship to ethnography, too. He wrote papers in ethnography in a manner that he never for a moment gave up his identity as a linguist; indeed, it is just that identity that gives a special flavour to his ethnographic papers. He never considered himself to be an ethnographer or an expert on folklore, even if a number of his writings can be accepted as ethnographic without reservation. The present talk surveys those writings in the first place, but it also includes an ethnographically-minded review of some of the rest of his work.
Attila T. Szabó, dialectologist and master of style
Great scholars, truly outstanding personalities are characterized by the fact that their purview encompasses both their own discipline and all neighbouring fields, in almost their entirety; that they break new ground in their own area of study; that they think of future and found a school; and that they remain true and just even in the most difficult circumstances of life. Such a scholar, such a personality was Attila T. Szabó, born a hundred years ago. This talk recalls him as a researcher of dialectology, and also as a master of style. The study of style, stylistics, was not one of his main areas of research (unlike dialectology); but in studying works of fiction, especially pieces and genres of folklore, he invariably touched upon their style, too; and what is even more important: he was a master of colourful and easy-flowing diction that reflected his thoughts to the minutest detail and brought home fine nuances of meaning; a master of full-flavoured Transylvanian Hungarian.
Attila T. Szabó the onomatologist
Attila T. Szabó was an excellent onomatologist; his scholarly career started with collecting toponyms. Throughout his life, he was considering publication of the historical place name material he had collected but, for political reasons, the possibility never arose. For a short time, then, he turned to studying personal names, especially historical nicknames; and after that, he began working on the monumental series of The Transylvanian Hungarian Historical Dictionary. Nevertheless, the publication of his data on historical place names, approximately a million items, was something he never totally gave up. Had it appeared in print, this huge Transylvanian historical place name material would have been very useful for the development of toponymy both in Hungary and in Romania. The manuscript collection that has survived among his posthumous papers will now be published by the Society of Hungarian Linguistics in some twelve volumes. The material of seven counties has already been published.
Speech production and mental representation
The process of speech comprehension consists of two large phases: the perception of vocal phenomena corresponding to the system of linguistic signs, and the interpretation of that code system. Both phases are made up by several levels that collectively ensure the decoding of speech phenomena in a regular cooperation with one another. Speech comprehension is an active process whereby the
hearer interprets the speech phenomena s/he has perceived at successively higher levels. For that process to work, certain mental representations must be shared by speaker and hearer. The notion ‘mental representation’ can be understood in various ways; it includes thoughts, ideas, wishes, percepts, conceptions, etc. Specifically ‘linguistic’ mental representations, on the other hand, are such that they contain linguistically relevant signs and functions of the individual’s patterns of knowledge. Certain portions of linguistic mental representations may keep changing or being modified throughout the individual’s lifetime. The present paper analyses, in several series of experiments, cases in which objective acoustic phonetic parameters seem to contradict the corresponding mental representations. The aim is to highlight the relationship between articulatory/acoustic differences and the invariant features that underlie them as well as that between mental representations and objective parameters. Four areas are investigated with respect to Hungarian: (a) the production, acoustic patterns, and perception of vowels; (b) the variants of the phoneme /h/; (c) the coarticulatory behaviour of [r]; and (d) a phonological rule of coarticulation applying in spontaneous speech. On the basis of the results obtained, the author attempts to answer the question of how the (apparent) paradox of the contradiction between the objective physical reality of speech and its mental representation might be resolved.
The word forms geisha and gésa
against the backdrop of the history of Japanese
The word geisha is represented in Japanese by two Chinese characters or by four kana symbols: ge + i + shi + ya. That word, adopted in a number of European languages as a Japanese loanword, is in general rendered as geisha (as in the modified Hepburn system, or Hyojunshiki) or something similar in most languages, as opposed to Hungarian where it is represented by only four letters as gésa. – In Japanese, the spoken form of what is represented by a kana symbol involving -e followed by the kana symbol for i when a Chinese character is transcribed into kana symbols (jion kanazukai) turned into a syllable whose nucleus is a long -e several centuries ago. In the Meiji period, the idea occurred to some spelling reformers that kana symbols involving -e should not be followed by the kana symbol i (e + i, ge + i, me + i, etc.) but rather by a straight line (e-, ge-, me- etc.). Likewise, some people working on the Romanization of Japanese words suggested that -ei should be replaced by -e. However, the spelling reform was soon discomfited and until 1946 everything remained roughly as it had been; even after that date, the kana representation -e + i and ei-type transcription both survived as exceptions, to the present day. – In the mid-nineteenth century when (mainly English-speaking) Europeans and Americans came to know geishas, the word referring to them was committed to paper as geisha, reflecting the kana spelling pronunciation. In Hungarian, where the word may have been transmitted by German and English, after a short period of vacillation among geisa, gejsa and gésa, the last-mentioned form came to be generally used since the end of the nineteenth century, due to a Hungarian-internal phonological development. By mere coincidence, this traditional Hungarian form reflects the current Japanese pronunciation more faithfully than geisa, a potentially regular but non-accepted Hungarian transcription would.
Linguistic nationalism in Hungary
in the period of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy:
Ingredients of a linguistic ideology
This paper is an attempt to reconstruct the form of existence of linguistic nationalism in Hungary in the period of the Dual Monarchy, to trace the main ingredients of that linguistic ideology. The author’s aim is not to explore and contrast the various prominent and less prominent individual views of the period but rather to reconstruct a general, collective system of ideas and values that underlies their apparent multiplicity and that is more or less constant throughout the period at hand. As a result of that reconstruction, partial and non-definitive as it might be, a rather abstract and complex system of views emerges; but one has to observe that the abstract system of views at issue had important practical consequences with respect to the everyday linguistic behaviour of the communities carrying it and especially those forced to be confronted with it. Quite a few specific forms of linguistic behaviour of the period (such as the practice of language cultivation, the language shift of linguistic minorities of Hungary, changes in the use and functions of languages and language varieties spoken in Hungary, changes in the system of those languages and varieties, etc.) can eventually be explained in the light of that linguistic ideology.