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From a linguistic point of view, the age of the Árpád dynasty is called the early old Hungarian period. The most important changes in the phonetic and morphological system of the language, and modifications in spelling, which followed them, took place in this period. Linguistic records from the age of the Árpád dynasty, which enable us to learn about the contemporary state of the language, survived in three categories: Hungarian words scattered in Latin texts, that is sporadic records; short unbroken Hungarian texts, that is textual relics; and finally commentaries to Latin texts (on margins, or between lines), that is glosses.

Sporadic records

Sporadic memories of the language can usually be found in charters.

The oldest authentic charter, which survived in the original version, is the Letter of Foundation of Tihany from 1055. It is a written document about the foundation of the Benedictine abbey of Tihany in honour of the Virgin Mary and St Ányos. It fixes the land possessions of the abbey and its borders. Among its Hungarian words (proper names and place names) there are 58 common words, with 33 suffixes. Among place names there are word-groups and fragments of sentences as well. For example, (in modern reading and spelling) Mogyoróbokorra (monarau bukurea), Óút kútjára (ohut cutarea), Nagyaszó fejére (nogu azah fehe rea), köves homok (cues humuk), Fehérvárra menő hadútra (feheuuaru rea meneh hohu utu rea). Consequently the Letter of Foundation is a very important source, concerning phonetic and morphological, and within limited bounds even syntactical aspects of the contemporary language. Among its proper names we can find Tihany, Somogy and Tolna.

The deed of gift of the Dömös prepostery (1138/1329) assures the Dömös prepostery of their possessions and servants, and enriches them with new gifts. This charter is also the first collection of Hungarian proper names: it contains more than 100 geographical names and about 1400 personal names in connection with the land possessions of the prepostery in different parts of the country. Names of land possessions are, for example, Nógrád (Naugrad), Fekete, Bata, Ság (Sagu). The personal names in it are names of servants. They are partly of Biblical origin, such as Gábriel (Gabriel), Jákob (Jacob), János (Janus), and partly they originate from common words, such as Lengyel (Lengen), Péntek (Pentuk), Vasas (Wasas).

The biggest collection of names in this period was the Tihany Inventory from 1211. This charter confirms the contents of the Letter of Foundation of Tihany. It contains about 150 place names and 2000 personal names. Some of its place names can be identified with place names mentioned in the Letter of Foundation of Tihany, such as Kolon, Fertő, Kövesd, Szakadát. From among the names of servants we would like to mention Patkány (potcan), Látomás (latomas), Szállás (Zalas), Emse, Szombat. A similarly large collection of names can be found in a charter, issued in 1193, which grants the crusaders of Székesfehérvár their possessions. In this the King confirms the properties of the Székesfehérvár crusaders (János-knights), which were presented to them earlier, and enriches the order with further gifts. In the deed of gift there are 55 estate names, for example: Újudvar (Ojvduor), Megyer (Meger), Szulok (Zuloc), Fehéregyház (fejrhigaz).

The Pécsvárad letter of foundation from 1015, which was attributed to St Stephen, is also a very famous one, as it contains several personal and place names. This charter is an inventory of donations to the benefit of the monastery at the foot of Vashegy. Actually this is a forgery, made later, around 1220, after the pattern of St Stephen's letters of foundation from Pannonhalma and Pécs.

A linguistic record similar to charters, and at the same time one of the most significant sources of the history of Hungarian education and law is the official report of the Várad cathedral, called the Várad Regestrum. For the smaller part this book of reports contains the summary of conciliations, testaments, contracts of sale and other matters settled in front of the chapter between 1208 and 1235, and for the greatest part it is a list of red-hot iron tests and scourges which were performed in the hall of the Nagyuvárad cathedral, in front of St Ladislaus's tomb. In the list more than 30 castle districts, 600 villages and 2500 persons are mentioned. Place names are, for example: Szerep (Scerep), Szántó (Zamtou), Keserű (Quesereu). Personal names are: Nemhisz (Numhiz), Ölyves (Vlues), Fehéra (Fehera). Personal names with accusative suffixes are: Bélát (Belat), Medvét (Meduet).

Anonymus's book about the origin of the Hungarians and the Conquest, the Gesta Hungarorum ("The Hungarians' Deeds") helps us learn about the language of the age. The author - according to his own words - wrote it so that the Hungarians could learn about the history of their origin and the Conquest from an authentic source, and not "from the false tales of peasants or prattling songs of the minstrels". Anonymus, in fact, knew the Hungarian regions and the names and location of cities and rivers well, but he did not have appropriate data about the details of the Conquest. He composed his work in a narrative form, with invented names and stories.

We can find common words (for example, zerelmes "loved", aldumas [áldomás] "blessing"), and several place and personal names among its sporadic records. These names, however, are not characteristic of the language of the age of the Conquest, but of a later period, after the Conquest, around 1200. For Anonymus projected the geographical names of his own age to the age of the Conquest, and even more, he invented personal names from these geographical names. From among his heroes and leaders Zobor was named after mount Zobor, Zalán was named after Szalánkemén, Gyalú was named after the fortress of Gyalú, and Elkölcs was named after the village Elkölcs, next to the fortress of Szabolcs. Anonymus's inclination to explain names is also reflected in the fact that he gave several naive explanations, folk etymologies concerning place names. In his opinion, Esküllő is called Esküllő, because the Hungarians took oaths there [eskü = oath], he connects the name Szerencs with love [love = szerelem], and he explains that Munkács was called Munkács because people worked a lot there [munka = work].

Textual relics

Textual relics provide a great possibility for acquaintance with the language of the age. From the early old Hungarian period only four short texts survived. These are so-called "guest-texts" copied into Latin church service books. All of these texts were written for the spoken part of Christian church services. So these relics are the first Hungarian manifestations of early Hungarian Christianity. In all probability, they are not unique, occasional works; the writer or copier might have put well known, frequently repeated texts into writing. Their form and high standard language suggest that the cultivation of the mother tongue in the age of the Árpád dynasty may have reached high standards.

The oldest known Hungarian text relic is the Funeral Oration and Prayer from the end of the 12th century, which survived in the Pray codex. Its first part, the oration itself is not a translation of a Latin funeral oration, but a Hungarian interpretation of it by heart. The person who wrote it down might have made a lot of similar speeches, before he recorded this one. He reminds us of the Fall using bitter words, and mentions the fact that by breaking the law in Paradise, the first man brought death into the earth for the whole human race. The oration is written in rhythmic prose, full of questions and adequate answers, and repetition of words and sentences; a special genre on the borderline of poetry and prose.

The various poetical means heighten the effects of the text, for example: figurative etymology: "halálnak halálával halsz" [you will die with the death of deaths], synonyms: "jorgasson őneki és kegyedjen" [let God be rightous and merciful with him], alliterations: "mennyei malasztban" [in divine grace], "hallá holtát" [having heard of his death]. The second part of the Funeral Oration, the prayer for the dead person, is the official translation of the Latin church text. The structural division of the text reflects a conscious planning: the full stop followed by capital letters are used to indicate the separate sentences; the full stops followed by lower case letters are used to indicate (sub-)clauses.

The Königsberg Fragment and its Ribbons is a praise of the Virgin Mary from the beginning of the 13th century. Its text was repeated as a litany. It consists of three broken text fragments. The first part is the "Fragment" itself, it is a meditation on Mary as a virgin mother. The second part tells the story of archangel Gabriel's mission in a colourful, dialogical style, then it quotes the words of the angelic greeting. The prayer referring to the angelic greeting, beginning with "Ave ...", first appears here in the Hungarian language. The third part of the text fragment is an extract from a medieval Mary-legend, in which the author meditates on Mary being a mother. Here we can also find poetic means (figurative etymology, alliteration), for example: "királyok királyának szent arany oltára" [saint golden altar of the king of kings], "angyaloknak asszonyához" [to the lady of the angles], "világon való bűnösök" [sinners on the earth].

The Old Hungarian Lament of Mary is the first poem written in Hungarian. It originates from the middle of the 13th century, and it is one of the most beautiful, and most lyrical pieces of early Hungarian poetry - and of the whole Hungarian literature. The miserable mother, Virgin Mary, is standing under the cross and she is lamenting the sufferings and unjust death of her saint son. She is calling her son in pain, then states that she would like to die together with her son. The author heightens the beauty of his two-beat line poem by using various linguistic means, such as similies: "édes mézül" [like sweet honey], "véred híul vízül' [your blood will become water]; synonyms: "búval aszok epedek" [I'm suffering in pain and agony], "fogva, húztozva, ...ölöd" [you are holding and carrying {it} ... and kill {it}], alliterations: "siralommal sepedek", "választ világomtól", figurative etymology: "Világ világa, virágnak virága" [world of worlds, flower of flowers]. The Old Hungarian Lament of Mary, which avoids Latinisms, represents high standards in Hungarian literary creation, and its author must have had outstanding sense for language, rhythm and music.

The Gyulafehérvár Lines from the second half of the 13th century actually do not form a complete text, they are drafts of sermons, and the leading ideas of sermons in rhythmic form. This linguistic memory consists of three parts. The first is the draft of a sermon for the new year, and the author meditates on the question what Jesus's name means to people. The second part is in connection with the celebration of St Thomas, and answers the question how the believers see Christ. The third part is a sermon for the Passion Week, and it lists the circumstances which make Christ's suffering especially painful spiritually. The Gyulafehérvár Lines is a borderland between the spoken and written text. Presumably it was not written as a poem, but the regular structure of sentences, and rhythmically rhyming lines make it similar to a poem.


They preserve the memory of Hungarian spiritual and material culture, so they represent great value from the point of view of history of culture. There are three glosses from this period. These are: the Oxford Glosses from around 1230, which contain 11 Hungarian words, the Vatican Glosses from around 1290, which include 4 Hungarian words and the Leuven Glosses. This latter one appeared in the same codex which contained the Old Hungarian Lament of Mary, and it has 9 Hungarian words in it.



The written records from the early old Hungarian period prove that the language had a rich vocabulary and it had a well-developed grammatical system. In the vocabulary of the age we can still find words of ancient origin (Uralian, Finno-Ugric and Ugric words) and also independent Hungarian words created from ancient elements, which played a very important role in the language. They are partly names of body parts, partly words referring to kinship, natural objects and phenomena, and the everyday life of people: él, lát, eszik, ül, vesz, kéz, mál = mell, apa, anya, fiú, ház, vég, lélek, világ, virág, vén, nagy, édes, szép, fehér, három, öt, hat [live, see, eat, sit, buy, hand, chest, father, mother, son, house, end, soul, world, flower, old, big, sweet, beautiful, white, three, five, six]. The number of loan-words, which were adopted in the age of the migration and during the Conquest, is quite big. For example: szekér, tehén, vám, vásár, csákány, gyümölcs, homok, harang, szeplő [cart, cow, customs, market, pick-axe, fruit, sand, bell, freckle].

The adoption of Christianity and the organisation of the state brought changes in the economic, social and spiritual life of the country, and these changes left their traces in the language, too. The meaning of some already existing, old words was modified or changed in accordance with the new conditions. For example, the words Isten, bűn, ördög, ige [God, sin, devil, scripture] were used in the Christian sense. The meaning of other words broadened, for example: the word világ [world] also meant 'light' and 'universe'; the word fél meant 'half' and 'companion', the word asszony meant 'queen, princess' and 'married woman'.

Many new words were created with the help of suffixes and word-combinations (though part of them might have existed already in the ancient Hungarian period): kegyelem, intet = intés, áldomás, bírságnap, bútor, egyház, húsvét [grace, warning, blessing, punishment day, furniture, church, Easter]. Words created by inner word formation (onomatopoeia, tone-painting) also appeared: dörög, cinege, cseng, zeng, [thunder, titmouse, jingle, ring]. The number of loan-words also increased. Words in connection with ecclesiastical life were borrowed from the Latin: kar, templom, mise, apostol, prédikál [chorus, temple, mass, apostle, preach]. From the Slav language Hungarian borrowed the ones which referred either to the church or economic life: kereszt, pap, malaszt, király, megye, ispán, ruha, zab, kádár [cross, priest, grace, king, county, bailiff, clothes, oat, cooper]. Part of the Italian loan-words also originate from this period: mázsa, szerecsen, fátyol [two hundredweight, Moor, veil]. German loan-words are: sáf = korsó, torony, herceg [mug, tower, prince]. Some of the loan-words are so-called "wondering words", which were wide-spread in the majority of European languages. For example: mécs, püspök, pünkösd [wick, bishop, whitsun]. At the same time some words which were used at the beginning of the period were suppressed - later they became old-fashioned: isa [surely], heon [only], fész [prey], jonh [heart, soul], jorgat [have mercy].

From among the grammatical auxiliary words the system of pronouns - which was formed earlier - is almost perfect. The definite article was created from demonstrative pronouns at that time. The circle of postpositions - besides the earlier postpositions - is increased with the forms koron [at ... time], képpen [as, somehow].

Concerning proper names the majority of personal names consisted of only one element. At first the names - in accordance with primitive traditions of giving names - originate from common nouns. They refer to the body or character of the person described: Nyomorék [Crippled], Hitvány [Wretched], Munkás [Hard-working], Fekete [Black]. Names referring to kinship are: Apa, Unoka, Fiad [Father, Grandson, Son]. Plant and animal names are: Bokor, Szamár, Medve [Bush, Donkey, Bear]. Activity and job names are: Sipos, Lovas, Keverő [Whistler, Rider, Mixer]. Later Christian names, originating from the Latin, also appear: Pál, János, Benedek [Paul, John, Benedic]. There are hardly any names which consist of two elements; such names include a Latin Christian name followed by a Hungarian common noun: Johannis girhes [John bony], Ladislaus sipos [Ladislaus whistler].

Part of the geographical names are of foreign origin, and these were created well before the Conquest. For example: Duna, Körös, Szamos. The majority, however, are of Hungarian origin, which became place names from common nouns. Linguistic records mention several such place names: Füzegy, Agár, Újudvar, Vasvár, Köveskút. There are a lot of common nouns with suffixes of place names; since the possessive "-é" is modified to "-i" in the early old Hungarian period, and this "-i" has a different role, it becomes a suffix of place names: Püspöki, Halászi, Olaszi. The method, that villages are named after the protective saint of the church of the village becomes popular at this time: Szentgyörgy, Szentlászló, Szentlőrinc. It was also wide-spread that the place was defined by a combination of nouns with a possessive adjective (it consisted of a personal name and common name with a possessive adjective). We can find such place names already in the Letter of Foundation of Tihany. For example: Bagát mezeje [the field of Bagát], Petre szénája [the hay of Petre].

The grammatical system

The main trends of the Hungarian grammatical system had already been formed during the ancient Hungarian period. In the early old Hungarian period this system becomes more sophisticated and it also stabilises; it is more and more like the system today. There were more phonetical and morphological changes than syntactical ones. The sound of the language also changes, the system of sounds became completed. Spelling - which was also in the making at that time - could not follow these changes for a long time.

The circle of consonants increased with the sounds c and zs, then at the end of the period with the sound ty. The lip-rounding, voiced fricative at the beginning of words (β) became v. The ancient Hungarian dzś was pronounced gy at the end of the period. The sounds χ and γ pronounced in the place of k and g disappeared. Concerning vowels, the process of wearing away of short i and u at the stem of words was completed by the end of the period. We can still find forms written with vowels at the end of stems in the Letter of Foundation of Tihany: hodu, utu; but these became sporadic by the 13th century (rare sounds, letters).

Other changes in the vowel system made pronunciation more colourful and sonorous. The back vowel i became a front vowel. One of the most important changes was that part of the vowels became lower and more open: i>ë, ë>e, u>o, o>a. The pronunciation of certain vowels became more lip-rounding: i>ü, ë>ö, å>a. The two-open-syllable tendency became faster. In spite of these tendencies sometimes the opposing tendencies also had their effects. The diphthongs - which consisted of an emphatic one and a less emphatic one - were simplified into long vowels: ou>ó, ou>ú, iü>ëü>ő, iü>üü>ű.

The system of word-stems in the early old Hungarian period is very similar to the present-day system. In the formation of verbs and nouns, besides the ancient one-element formative syllables (for example, -d, -r, -s, -sz, -z, -l were verb formative syllables, -d, -a/-e, -g, -k, -m, -r, -s ...etc. were noun formative syllables), longer formative syllables are used. For example, -dok/-dek/-dök, -dít/-dul-dül, -lal/-lel, -tat/-tet, -hat/-het as verb formative syllables, -csó/-cső, -ócs/-őcs, -hó/-hő, -ók/-ők, -nok/-nek/-nök as noun formative syllables. The ancient signs expressing time and modality of verbs are also in use. The personal suffix of verbs in the first person plural -muk/-mük changes to -unk/-ünk, parallel with the possessive personal suffix of nouns.

During this period the system of nominal suffixes (inflection) is still in the making; its development lasts till the late old Hungarian period. Besides the basic suffixes, which originate from the ancient Hungarian period (for example, the accusative ending -t, the suffixes for adverbs of place: -á/-é, -n, -l, -t ) and the suffixes, which were made from these, new, longer suffixes appear: -val/-vel, -nak/-nek, -ban/-ben, -ról/-ről. Certain postpositions become suffixes. The transitional phase is shown by the development of suffix -re/-re, for example: in the Letter of Foundation of Tihany it is still a postposition: "ohut cuta rea" (óút kútja reá), "azah fehe rea" (aszófő reá), but in the 13th century it is already a suffix: "Balwankure" (Bálványkőre). The role of certain adverbial suffixes is extended: for example, the suffix -ban/-ben, which was originally a suffix for adverbials of place, takes up a new function, it is also used as a suffix for participles.

The structures and types of sentences and word-combinations are shown, first of all, by the textual relics. The system of sentences was stable and varied in the period. We can find almost all the sentence and word-combination types which are used today. Examples for simple sentences are: from the Funeral Oration and Prayer: "mondá neki" [he told him] - affirmative sentence; from the Königsber Fragment: "ki legyen neki atyja" [who will be his father] - interrogative sentence; from the Old Hungarian Lament of Mary: "Kegyedjetek fiamnak" [Have mercy on my son] - imperative sentence. Because of the restrictions of the genre of the textual memories (sermon, poem) we can find a lot of exclamations. For example, in the Funeral Oration and Prayer: "Szerelmes barátaim!" [My beloved Friends!], in the Old Hungarian Lament of Mary: "Óh, nekem! én fiam" [Oh my! my son]. Among the compound sentences the subordinating clauses are quite rare. The clause beginning with the conjunction ha expresses only the adverbial of time. For example, in the Königsberg Fragment and its Ribbons: "Fel ... mennybe ha tekinte, ékesen téged ... ha láta" [ha = if = when; when he looks up to Heaven, when he sees you embellished].

The way of structuring word-combinations, which was formed in the ancient Hungarian period, stabilised in the old Hungarian period. There were predicates of verbs, nouns and noun-verb combinations. The subject could be a noun or a nominal pronoun. The subject and the verb had to be agreed in person; in case of predicates of noun-verb combinations the number of the subject and verb were not always agreed. The verbs and participles were made more complex by adding objects and various adverbials to them. There were a lot of participle structures. In this period governments expressing abstract relations had already been used. From among the complements of nouns the adverbial of quality and the adverbial of possession can be found in the Letter of Foundation of Tihany. The original, unmarked form of structure with adverbials of possession becomes more complicated by this period. For example, in the Funeral Oration and Prayer: birságnap [punishment day], Megyehatár [County border]. In structures with adverbials of possession the number of the adverbial of possession -nak/-nek increased towards the end of the period. The adverbial of apposition was relatively rare; its main role was to create the atmosphere and make the style more colourful. For example, in the Funeral Oration and Prayer: "mi ősünket, Ádámot" [our ancestor, Adam], in the Königsberg Fragment and Ribbons: "boldog anya, szűz Mária [the happy mother, Virgin Mary].

The complements of adjectives and numerals can also be found in the text, though only sporadically. Even more, there is some data in connection with the complements of adjectives: in the Königsberg Fragment and its Ribbons: "malaszttal teljes" [full of grace].

The subordinate structures of the text are almost all connected to some kind of a relation. These structures, formed without any conjunctives, are quite frequent in the Old Hungarian Lament of Mary.

The word order of word-combinations and sentences first of all originate from the ancient Hungarian period, and it is still the same in the present-day usage. The complement usually preceeded the basic element of the main structure. Strict restrictions regulated the word order of adjectives and appositions: the adjective stood before the noun, the apposition stood after the noun.

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