Research Group for Historical Linguistics
Chair: Lea Haader, Senior Research Fellow
Zsolt Simon, research fellow
At the Research Group for Historical Linguistics, the third volume of A Historical Grammar of the Hungarian Language is under preparation, which describes the grammar of Middle Hungarian. The period under investigation lasts from the rout at Mohács (1526) until the beginning of the age of enlightenment (1772). This research is based on the results presented in A Grammar of Ancient and Old Hungarian, published earlier as three volumes in the same series. The aim of this grammar is to capture the changes in the language system in a novel way, by projecting different descriptions of the system of the given period (the so-called synchronic cross-sections) onto each other. These historical synchronic cross-sections also enable one to register, provided the corpus is large enough, the microscopic changes always present in synchrony. The cross-section of Middle Hungarian is prepared in a structural-functional linguistic framework, which allows for the study of individual linguistic phenomena from both a formal-structural and a semantic-functional point of view. In the closed corpus under investigation, the texts are distributed according to genre as follows: 15% historical prose, 5% lyric poetry, 10% epic poetry, 15% Bible, 10% drama, 15% other prose, 15% personal letters, 15% legal texts. From each century, a corpus of texts consisting of at least two hundred thousand characters is subjected to a statistical analysis, but the corpus the research is based on consists of at least three million characters. The Middle Hungarian period, with the increase in the number of genres and text types (e.g., descriptive, argumentative, narrative, etc.) as compared to the Old Hungarian period, offers new opportunities for investigation. Besides grammatical description, we pay attention to phenomena which could not have been analyzed with respect to the earlier periods, like the relation between grammatical changes and genres, the impact of printing on the standardization of the language, characteristics of the spoken language, and the relation between language use and social stratification. The chapters on syntax treat the following problems: sentence types (questions of modality); affirmative and negative sentences; the micro- and macrostructure of the sentence; word order and information structure; subject-predicate structure; the (finite and non-finite) verb phrase, the participial phrase, the noun phrase, the adjective phrase, the numeral phrase, and the adverbial phrase; coordinate structures; sentential subordination and coordination.
The other main research area of the research group is the publication of codices from the 16th century. These manuscripts, which only exist in single copies, and which are enormously valuable from a linguistic, a literary, and a cultural historical point of view, are published in the series Old Hungarian Codices in a format which satisfies the needs of modern philology. The volumes contain a photographic print of the original manuscript, a philologically annotated exact transcript of the original text, and an introductory essay. The latter discusses the following issues: the description of the physical properties of the codex (the binding, the number of fascicles and their arrangement, the watermarks on the paper, the ink used for writing), its history (the circumstances and place of creation, the scribes, the various places that the manuscript resided), the detailed contents of the codex, specification of the origins of its Latin counterparts, and the location of the texts appearing in the codex in other Hungarian codices, and it investigates the system of marking particular sounds by different scribes and their relation to the history of orthography. The essay is followed by a detailed bibliography. The volumes which have appeared so far in the framework of this project (see them in the list of publications by the research group) have received a warm welcome not only from experts but from the wider reading public interested in the humanities. At the moment the Keszthely Codex (1522) and the Érsekújvár Codex (1530-1531) are being prepared for publication.
A separate working group is concerned with the compilation of A New Hungarian Dialect Dictionary. The dictionary, which is an organic continuation of A Hungarian Dialect Dictionary by József Szinnyei, makes available for the public dialectal data collected from all regions of Hungary, as well as from the regions in the neighboring countries inhabited by Hungarians. More than 600,000 pieces of data are published in five volumes, four volumes of which have appeared so far (the first volume, A—D, in 1979, the second, E—J, in 1988, the third, K—M, in 1992, and the fourth, N—S, in 2002, published by Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest). The first volume contains a supplement consisting of 24 maps.