Noam Chomsky, 80, and the Chomskyan linguistic revolution

The paper is a tribute to Noam Chomsky on the occasion of his 80th birthday on Dec 7, 2008. It states in what sense his Syntactic Structures (1957) initiated a linguistic revolution and a new linguistic paradigm. It discusses Chomsky’s criticism of structuralism and behaviorism, and it confronts the aims, the methodology, and the basic tenets of structuralism and behaviorism with those of generative theory. The paper surveys the evolution of the generative paradigm, from a theory of rules to a theory of principles and parameters, and to the Minimalist program, pointing out the “biolinguistic” motivation driving the changes. Finally, the paper summarizes what we owe to the Chomskyan revolution in linguistics and in psychology.

Katalin É. Kiss


Árpád “de genere Turul”

Anonymus’ gest (cca. 1210) mentions the myth of origin of the Hungarians, in which a bird referred to as astur ‘hawk, falcon, etc.’ features prominently. Simon Kézai’s chronicle (1282) gives the Hungarian name of the same bird as turul ‘eagle’, with reference to the clan of Árpád the conqueror. This bird name of a Turkic origin, with the associated beliefs going back to the age of the conquest, became a symbol of Hungarian national ideology in the historiography and literature of the nineteenth century and, in their wake, also in the common knowledge of Hungarians. The author points out that the name is the individual coinage of Kézai, of a Pecheneg descent himself; it has no real content and was not known in Hungarian sources from before the chronicle that was subsequently lost and became known again in the eighteenth century. Despite its romantic overtones, the symbol of the turul is an organic and indispensable component of Hungarian national consciousness today.

Loránd Benkő


Was Gáspár Heltai the translator and/or adapter
of the sixteenth-century romance on Fortunatus?

The author discusses two major issues in this paper. First, via a detailed comparison of linguistic features found in his writings, he tries to support the claim that Gáspár Heltai’s language was not a conglomerate of various different dialects but reflected the Mezőség dialect, in particular, the spoken language of Kolozsvár, of the 16th century. Second, using similar methods and means of analysis, he concludes that, although the language (phonological, morphological and syntactic properties) of the epic poem on Fortunatus does not substantially differ from Heltai’s own usage, it mainly includes, unlike Heltai’s writings, forms like azban ‘in that’, ezből ‘from this’, aznac ‘to that’, ez file ‘like this’ etc. and does not represent the cluster d + j in the way Heltai does, either. If we additionally consider the facts that Heltai was primarily a prose writer and that the erudition of the translator of the poem, as can be gleaned from the romance itself, points toward Protestantism and one of the Reformed colleges, the final conclusion that the translator and adapter of Fortunatus was not Heltai (but rather an unknown Protestant priest or perhaps a schoolmaster) is perhaps not unfounded.

István Szathmári


Coherence in a narrative poem by Sándor Weöres

Sándor Weöres has a poem entitled Egérrágta mese ‘A tale nibbled by mice’ whose typography suggests that the paper it had originally been written on was subsequently nibbled by mice. Portions of the text that are supposed to have been lost in the process are represented by sequences of dots. On reading the text, full continuity of meaning is not (and cannot) be created in the reader’s mind by actual linguistic forms, yet on the basis of her extralinguistic knowledge in the widest sense the reader is able to restore continuity of meaning, the basis of coherence, despite missing lexical items or expressions. Mutual accessibility and relevance connects notions and members of relationships: cognitions referring to either the actual world or to some possible world. The paper is based on an experiment in which university students were asked to provide the missing parts of the poem, and issues of coherence were studied on the new text “reconstructed” in that manner.

László Büky

Generative linguistics and sociolinguistics

This paper provides an overview and personal assessment of a problem in contemporary historiography. After a comparison of the linguistic conceptions of generativism and sociolinguistics, scenarios of what may happen to both areas in the near future are considered. First, ways in which the status quo may be upheld (of which the survival of the present institutional and programmatic isolation is the most realistic option) are looked at; then the most important factors contributing to a possible change of situation are pointed out. In this latter case, external factors such as a growing need for the integration of knowledge areas and for the adaptivity of knowledge, as well as globalisation effects, are also explored. Finally, the paper supports an attitude (of functional linguistics) that considers language to be a social cognitive activity and hence may be an appropriate basis for a new synthesis in linguistics.

András Imrényi