Linguistic change – researcher’s dilemmas

The paper discusses problems concerning the theory of linguistic change. It focuses on three interdependent issues: (1) language and its user; (2) language and its use; (3) linguistic change and human conduct. The central issue is what role is played in linguistic change by the fact that the homo sapiens uses language and the way in which he uses it. It is self-evident that, in the study of linguistic change, the point of departure is the system of language. The object of study is what changed, how, and why. Extra-linguistic factors (may) play a role in the third of those questions. People’s lives and activities are kept in the desired channel by the biological law of homeostasis. Through a series of linked transmissions, that law prevails in the human activity of language use as well. And given that linguistic change comes into being in the course of humans’ linguistic activity, that is, in language use, the author argues that homeostasis can be seen as a general mechanism indirectly governing language change.

Jenő Kiss


The possibility of a new kind of systematization of Hungarian family names

The new approach to the analysis of family names proposed here bears some similarity to motivation-based systematizations of traditional typologies. The basis of naming is most often related to some peculiarity or characteristic attribute of the person named. In such cases, the (part of a) name concerned has a peculiarity-marking function (cf. Hoffmann 1999: 209). Given the basic theorem that name giving is mainly determined by extra-linguistic factors (elements of reality), it is most appropriate to delimit peculiarity-marking categories cognitively on the basis of the relationship between the name bearer and a segment or constituent of reality. Linguistic meaning “is closely related to cognition, that is, the way we perceive the world around us” (Kiefer 2007: 19). In terms of cognitive semantics, human perception identifies a smaller, less conspicuous, less readily identifiable object or entity (figure) in relation to a larger, more static piece of reality carrying known information (ground). In that relationship, five elements of reality can be discerned: (1) the individual being named, (2) a person or group of persons, (3) society, (4) a place, and (5) relevant things or events.

János N. Fodor


Anonymus and the “Black Sea”

The subject of the paper is Anonymus’ historical work on the Hungarian conquest written in the early years of the 13th century. There are two locations in the text mentioning the Black Sea; researchers were convinced until now that Anonymus refers to Pontus Euxinos in both cases, although there exists no any other source using this form for Pontus Euxinos before the second half of the 13th century, including all Western and Eastern texts. – First the expression “ad nigrum mare” is discussed (Chapter 44; SRH. Vol. 1, page 91, lines 13–18). Identification with the Black Sea makes the text fairly confusing and must have been “ad ægæan mare” in the original. This correction eliminates all the difficulties; “ad nigrum mare” is the consequence of erroneous copying. – The other occurrence reads as “ad nigrum pontum” (Chapter 1; SRH. Vol. 1, page 34, lines 11–14). The earliest known version of Anonymus’ sentence can be found in the so-called Justinus-epitome from the 2nd century A. D. The author presents a simplified process of evolution of this particular sentence. Practically only one rephrasing and two minor reading errors in the course of the copying process (phasiithasi, latereater) help us reconstruct Anonymus’ hypothetical direct source. By this reconstruction it turns out that the original “ponto” – referring to Pontus Euxinos – has changed to “ponto aquilonali”, later into „ater/atro ponto aquilonali”, and finally Anonymus has replaced ater by niger. This model of the textual evolution not only gives an interesting example of the development of a short section of a historical work through more than one thousand years, but also eliminates a false argument for a late dating of Anonymus’ work.

László Holler


The origin of the word bonze and what surrounds it in the history of Japanese

The word stocks of most European languages include a word meaning ‛Buddhist priest’ that is regarded as a direct or indirect borrowing from Portuguese (Spanish, Italian) bonzo. The lexeme has been adopted into Hungarian in the form bonc. With respect to its etymology, several views have been put forward in the relevant dictionaries. Potential sources include the following Japanese words: bonzō ~ bonsō 凡僧 ‛a common priest, an ignorant priest’, bonsō 梵僧 ‛a Buddhist priest, an Indian priest’, and bōzu [boːzu] 坊主 ‛a Buddhist priest’. Although semantically it is the third item – having several other meanings as well – that comes closest to Portuguese bonzo, in terms of their form, the first, and perhaps even the second, items could also be taken into consideration. However, the first two words have been rather infrequent in comparison with the third – that was originally coined in Japan, rather than in China – ever since the 17th century. This word, involving a long nuclear -o-, is included in a monumental Japanese–Portuguese dictionary (1603) in the form Bŏzu as a headword, following the Portuguese-style transcription of the day, but in the Portuguese definitions, it occurs several times as Bonzo (Bõzo). On the basis of the Portuguese spelling, it cannot be determined whether the form bonzo is an approximation of the Japanese pronunciation [boːnzu] or that of [bonzu], both of which were in use in the 17th century. This paper tries to clarify certain issues with respect to the history of this item, with particular emphasis on written documents and the historical phonology of Japanese.

Toru Senga