Report on the formation and activities of the Onomastic Department of the Society of Hungarian Linguistics




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Chronicle

Erzsébet Fercsik (Budapest, Hungary)

Report on the formation and activities of the Onomastic Department of the Society of Hungarian Linguistics

During the 100 years of its existence, the Society of Hungarian Linguistics [Magyar Nyelvtudományi Társaság] has done a great deal to facilitate research into proper names. Loránd Benkő defined the connection between the Society and onomastics from a history of science perspective: “Although onomastics is a complex science, with relations to and an interest in social sciences, a number of natural sciences and even engineering, linguistics is without doubt the central discipline, the determiner of its principles and methodologies. What is more, the majority of onomasticians are linguists. This then explains why the Society of Hungarian Linguistics felt obliged to organize and support name-collecting activities, and to promote onomastic research and processing. The fact that many prominent figures of the Society have been not just active but significant practitioners in the field demonstrates and proves the fact that the Society has been drawn to the issue of Hungarian onomastics. Let us refer to just a few of these linguists from the previous generation: János Melich, Zoltán Gombocz, István Kniezsa, Dezső Pais, Géza Bárczi (Benkő 1981: 7).

At its reading sessions, the Society provides the opportunity for various ono­mastic topics to be heard and, as an academic forum, it contributes to the presentation and discussion of the work of onomasticians. Its journal (Ma­gyar Nyelv [Hungarian Language]) and its series of publications (A Magyar Nyelvtudományi Társaság Kiadványai [Publications of the Society of Hungarian Linguistics]) have published articles by prominent Hungarian onomasticians ever since its foundation. Furthermore, it plays an important role in organising and publishing the work of volunteer collectors of personal and geographical names.

B

eside all this, the Society has organized onomastic symposiums, conferences and discussions. In the past fifty years, it has organized at least six conferences on onomastics: in 1958 in Budapest, in 1969 in Budapest, in 1980 in Veszprém, in 1986 in Zalaegerszeg, in 1995 in Miskolc, and in 2007 in Balatonszárszó. Organizing work is not just a practical activity, but the participation of the Society as organizer ensures high professional standards. The Society contributes to editing and publishing the conference presentations in a conference volume (Pais–Mikesy 1960, Kázmér–Végh 1979, Hajdú–Rácz 1981, Balogh–Ördög 1989, B. Gergely–Hajdú 1997). These publications play a significant role in the current field of onomastic research and teaching.

The Society acknowledges significant scientific work by its members with prizes and awards. Some of the prestigious awards are the Csűry Commemorative Award, the Pais Commemorative Award, and the Bárczi Award. The Révai and Gombocz Commemorative Awards as well as The Hungarian Language Award are given to linguists irrespective of their field of research, in other words, besides national and foreign linguists, onomasticians also receive the honours of the Society.

The Society of Hungarian Linguistics has always supported initiatives which aim at providing the structural and institutional background for Hungarian onomastic research. The history of science still has to define a methodological course for the former, but the points of contact illustrate the attempts. In what follows, through the most important phases of its establishment, we will present the real preliminaries of the Onomastic Department [Névtani Tagozat].

Onomastic research boomed after the first onomastic conference in 1958. It gradually re-occupied the place it had held in previous decades. The scientific policy of the time, however, hindered Hungarian onomastics from a thematic and methodological point of view and disabled it from reaching the level of the onomastic research tradition in the rest of Europe. Increasing interest in the field and its importance were proved by the attempt to lend onomastics in Hungary a certain structural and institutional division, which would emphasize its independence and significance. The Onomastic sub-committee was established, connected to the Linguistic Committee of Class I of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, under the leadership of one of the most prominent linguists of the time, Géza Bárczi. It functioned extremely actively during the three years of its existence. It dealt with topics such as the spelling of geographical names, the unification of linguistic technical terms, and a draft of the onomastic bibliography and onomastic lexicon (Mező 1981: 98). Due to the reorganization of the committee system, the body was cancelled, or rather: “it became a part of the Hungarian Committee, but retained its responsibilities” (Benkő 1981: 9).

I

n the following decades the work of onomasticians was more strongly related to the Society of Hungarian Linguistics. At the Second Onomastic Conference in 1969, Loránd Benkő drew attention to the development of the structural framework of onomastics and suggested the formation of an onomastic section: “It is possible that the onomastic section will be promoted as the most active section of the Society of Hungarian Linguistics in a fairly short time, and we should think about it” (Benkő 1970: 15). The proposal was soon realized and the following year saw the formation of the Onomastic Section of the Society of Hungarian Linguistics. Its first chair was László Papp, its first secretary Sándor Mikesy. It was very dynamic from the beginning; onomastic presentations were frequent and a large audience was interested in them. In the following decades, however, the willingness to present and the will to listen gradually decreased (Mező 1981: 98).

At the same time, the Onomastic Workgroup of the Hungarian Linguistics Department at the Eötvös Loránd University began its work under Mihály Hajdú. One of the results of their wide-ranging work is the publication of the “Magyar Személynévi Adattárak” [Hungarian Proper Name Data Stores] (since 1974) and “Magyar Névtani Dolgozatok” [The Hungarian Onomastic Papers] (since 1976). In addition, Mihály Hajdú and András Mező have also worked on “Névtani Értesítő” [Bulletin of Onomastics] since 1979.

During a discussion at the Third International Congress of Hungarian Linguists in 1977, the idea of expanding the onomastic workgroup was born. At the very same Congress, a decision was made to form the Hungarian Onomastic Workgroup with Béla Kálmán as its chair and Mihály Hajdú and András Mező as secretaries. At the Fourth Onomastic Conference, Mihály Hajdú reported on the foundation and aims of the workgroup: “let me say a few words about this loosely organised community which welcomes all types of onomasticians as its members, pensioners, professors and students alike. The aim is to observe each other’s work and to support each other professionally and personally, as well as to provide an opportunity for publications. There is no membership fee, there are no meetings, only sessions and memorial conferences, but there is possibility for researchers to exchange ideas in the periods between big conferences. We send our publications to any national and foreign individuals’ research centre who indicate demand in any form” (Hajdú 1989: 49).

In the last two to three decades of the 20th century, the interest in reading sessions increased. The board of the Society of Hungarian Linguistics saw the reasons for this in the differences arising from being divided into sections. In 1996, it decided to merge the existing 10 sections, i.e. to incorporate them into four sections (Kiss J. 2005). As a consequence, the Onomastic Section coalesced with a few other groups into the Hungarian Linguistic Department.

O

nomastic research, similarly to other social sciences, boomed, and its scientific thematical and methodological direction was enriched after the change of regime. The conditions for information flow changed. New research centres in the capital, in the country and in the diaspora appeared, partly or totally focusing on onomastics. Onomastic centres in higher education institutions strengthened, and quite a few institutions offered postgraduate programmes with onomastics as one of the possible dissertation topics. In this lively scientific public atmosphere at the beginning of 21st century, the demand for an independent professional body appeared again. There seemed to be a need for a unification of Hungarian onomasticians from within and outside the borders, for supporting information flow at international forums and for enhancing the exchange of information. Due to the initiative of the onomastic workgroup of the Eötvös Loránd University and the support of Mihály Hajdú, the organization of the Onomastic Department of the Society of Hungarian Linguistics began in 2004.

Onomasticians welcomed the initiative at the statutory meeting in February 2005, and in December of the same year, they elected the board of the Department. Its chair became István Hoffmann, and the secretary Erzsébet Fercsik. In the past two years, the Society has organized several presentations in Budapest and in other countries. It took part in organizing onomastic events within and outside the borders of Hungary, as well as in the preparation and organization of the Sixth Onomastic Conference. What is more, it started several annual toponymic seminars. The Department’s website is also operating, and can be reached from the homepage of the Society (www.mnyt.hu). As evidence of efficient professional work in the recent past, onomasticians received several awards from the Society.

Those interested may enquire about the events connected to the work of the Department from the website. It features detailed programmes of the events, as well as the complete texts of presentations with comments. In all cases, there are references to data concerning already published work or work in the press. In what follows we can only outline the Department’s main events.

Readings, presentations

N. Fodor, János: A természetes családnevek rendszerezési lehetőségeiről (Society of Hungarian Linguistics, Budapest, 28 November 2005).

Szentgyörgyi, Rudolf: A Tihanyi alapítólevél hátlapja mint nyelvi emlék (Society of Hungarian Linguistics, Budapest, 14 November 2006).

Rácz, Anita: Törzsnévi eredetű helyneveink nyelvi kérdései (Society of Hungarian Linguistics, Budapest, 5 December 2006.). In: Helynévtörténeti tanulmányok 2. Editd by Hoffmann, István–Tóth, Valéria. Debrecen, 2006. pp. 9–29.

T

óth, Valéria: A templomcímből alakult településnevek változásáról (Presentation seminar of the Debrecen Group of the Society of Hungarian Linguistics, 8 December 2006). In: Helynévtörténeti tanulmányok 2. Edited by Hoffmann, István–Tóth, Valéria. Debrecen, 2006. pp. 31–46.

Conferences, seminars

2–4 July 2005. Onomastic Conference in Nitra — 45 years of Hungarian Teacher Training in Nitra. In: Vallanak a nevek múltról és jelenről. Edited by Vörös, Ferenc. A Magyar Nyelvtudományi Társaság Ki­adványai 225. Budapest, 2006.

30–31 May 2006. History of Toponyms Seminar (Síkfőkút). Primarily young researchers, teachers and postgraduate students in institutions of higher education. In: Helynévtörténeti tanulmányok 1. Edited by Hoff­mann, István–Tóth, Valéria. Debrecen, 2004.

Congresses:

22–26 August 2006. VIth International Congress of Hungarology, Ono­mas­tic Symposium (Debrecen). In: Nyelvi identitás és a nyelv dimen­ziói. Edited by. Hoffmann, István–Juhász, Dezső. Debrecen–Budapest, 2007, pp. 9–215.

22–24 June 2007. VIth. Hungarian Onomastic Conference (Balatonszárszó). In press.

Awards:

2006. Bálint Csűry Award: Ferenc Vörös

2006. Lajos Kiss Award: Valéria Tóth

2007. Dezső Pais Award: Dezső Juhász

The Onomastic Department of the Society of Hungarian Linguistics tends to continue to serve a complex objective. As can be read on its website, it aims at establishing a forum for onomastic research, to promote the acquisition of scientific results, and to harmonize individual and collective research projects as much as possible. With all the above, the Society aims at protecting the prestigious rank of Hungarian Onomastics. It puts an equal emphasis on popularizing the results of onomastics among the general public as well. We aim at making the work of the Society even wider ranging, achieving higher standards and becoming more effective in serving the interests of Hungarian Linguistics.
References
Balogh, Lajos–Ördög, Ferenc, eds. (1989) Névtudomány és művelő­dés­történet. A Magyar Nyelvtudományi Társaság Kiadványai 183. Budapest.

Benkő, Loránd (1970) Névtudományunk helyzete és feladatai. In: Névtudományi előadások. Ed. by Kázmér, Miklós–Végh, József. Budapest, pp. 7–16.

B

enkő, Loránd (1981) Megnyitó. In: Név és társadalom. Ed. by Hajdú, Mihály–Rácz, Endre. A Magyar Nyelvtudományi Társaság Kiadvá­nyai 106. Budapest, pp. 7–13.

B. Gergely, Piroska–Hajdú, Mihály eds. (1997) Az V. Magyar Névtudományi Konferencia előadásai. A Magyar Nyelvtudományi Társaság Kiadványai 209. Budapest.

Hajdú, Mihály–Rácz, Endre eds. (1981) Név és társadalom. A Magyar Nyelvtudományi Társaság Kiadványai 160. Budapest.

Hajdú, Mihály (1989) A személynevek és egyéb tulajdonnevek gyűjtése, kutatása (1980–1986). In: Névtudomány és művelődéstörténet. Ed. by Balogh, Lajos–Ördög, Ferenc. A Magyar Nyelvtudományi Társaság Kiadványai 183. Budapest, pp. 47–61.

Kázmér, Miklós–Végh, József eds. (1970) Névtudományi előadások. Budapest.

Kiss, Jenő (2005) Százéves a Magyar Nyelvtudományi Társaság. In: Ma­gyar Nyelv 101: pp. 7–14.

Mező, András (1981) Földrajzinév-kutatásunk helyzete és feladatai. In: Név és társadalom. Ed. by Hajdú, Mihály–Rácz, Endre. A Magyar Nyelvtudományi Társaság Kiadványai 160. Budapest, pp. 85–99.

Pais, Dezső–Mikesy, Sándor eds. (1960) Névtudományi vizsgálatok. Bu­dapest.


Шандор Матичак (Дебрецeн, Венгрия)

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