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                                           LINGUISTIC PALAEONTOLOGY: SCIENCE OR FICTION?


A case study within Uralic


Dr. Angela Marcantonio



1. Introduction


I am a linguist, specialising in Uralic studies. My recent book (Marcantonio 2002a) carefully examines the evidence in favour of the theory that the Uralic languages are genetically related. In the extensive literature on this subject, I find that there is no scientific evidence at all in favour of the Uralic theory. Instead there is an extensive interlocking network of self-consistent assumptions and circular reconstructions. I conclude that the Uralic languages do not form a language family.


The purpose of this paper is to examine the methods of analysis that have been employed to build up the standard Uralic theory – and how the use of these methods has, I believe, so misled researchers. I believe this examination will be relevant to scientists in all disciplines that base their work on these reconstructions, as well as linguists who are responsible for establishing them. I hope to begin the process of a quantitative re-examination of other language families, including perhaps Indo-European.


Examining how researchers have come to believe in the unity of the Uralic language family, scholars have mainly used the so-called ‘Method of Historical Linguistics’. By comparing attested languages which are assumed to be related, and assuming a high degree of regularity in the way the languages have evolved in the past, it is believed one can reconstruct much of the language, location, culture and antiquity of a supposed ancient community. This process of reconstruction is referred to as ‘Palaeolinguistics’.


In the past, palaeolinguistics has attracted such a high scientific credibility amongst authors and peer-reviewers that many authors who report counter-evidence to the model tend to minimise or ‘re-interpret’ their data, rather than present a paper that clearly contradicts the model. Thus, one can observe papers in linguistics, archaeology, history and genetics that present evidence contradicting the theory, but whose conclusions either minimise the importance of their results, or re-interpret their data so that it now fits the model better. This minimisation or re-interpretation reinforces the interlocking network of assumptions and interpretations, so that even counter-evidence, ultimately, appears to contribute towards reinforcing the model.


One of the grossest distortions of this nature is found in the historical text that supposedly goes a long way towards establishing the Uralic origin of the Hungarians. We shall see that the original text of Constantine Porphyrogenitus refers to a population of Turks, and it clearly contradicts the supposed Uralic model. Historians describe this contradiction as ‘ridiculous’ because it contradicts the accepted linguistic model, and they simply assume that the original record was in error. The record is ‘corrected’ or ‘re-interpreted’ in most translations, so that it now appears to support the theory. Most textbooks do not mention that any re-interpretation is involved, and indeed many specialist papers fall into the same trap. One now finds this very text quoted in linguistic textbooks in support of the theory. A true circularity.


My central theme will be that I seek to invite authors – with the support of peer-reviewers – to have the courage to report their evidence as it stands. When authors discover evidence that is at variance with the linguistic models, this evidence must not be ‘re-interpreted’ in order to be consistent with the accepted model, but rather it should be stated clearly that the evidence contradicts the accepted model.



1.1 What is wrong with the standard Uralic theory?


According to the standard Uralic theory, the Hungarians, Finns, Samoyed, Lapp and so on all descend from an ancient community that lived somewhere near the Ural Mountains about 8,000 years ago.


Recent evidence from archaeology, anthropology and genetics appeared to contradict this theory. Several authors have drawn attention to this, including Julku (1997and 2000); Dolukhanov (2000a & b); Nuńez (1987, 1997a & b, 2000) and Niskanen (1997, 2000a & b). Compare also the recently published volume of  ‘Root IV’, edited by Julku (Julku 2002). The principal items of counter-evidence are as follows:- 


This evidence has given rise to many different models being proposed, such as the ‘Uralic lingua franca’ model as formulated by Wiik and Künnap (Künnap 1995, 1997a, 1997b, 1998, 2000/01, 2001; Wiik 1995, 1996, 1997a, b & c, 1999, 2000, 2000/01a, 2000/01b; see also Taagepera 1994, 1997, 2000 and Sutrop 2000a & b and 2001), or the chain model as proposed by Pusztay (1995, 1997, 2001).


All these new models appear to have a common thread. Despite their “revolutionary” or “revisionist” approaches (see Janhunen 2001), many of them still implicitly assume that there was in some sense a Uralic linguistic area, distinct from, for example, the Altaic or Siberian linguistic area. In fact, linguists as well as anthropologist and archaeologists[1] generally assume that the original, local populations who lived in northern-eastern Europe were the ancestors of the modern ‘Finno-Ugric’ and /or ‘Uralic’ populations (see for example Wiik 1996, 1997a, 2000; Künnap 1996, 2000/01; Dolukhanov 1998; Julku 1997; Nuńez 1997a & b; Pusztay 2001; Parpola (1999)),


I believe this central assumption, that linguistic studies have established the uniqueness of the Uralic family, is fundamentally flawed. Rather than being based on scientific evidence, the standard Uralic theory is founded on an extensive interlocking network of self-consistent assumptions and circular reconstructions. There is space here to outline only some of the linguistic evidence – for more information see Marcantonio (2002a & b): -



1.2 What is wrong with the linguistic method of analysis?


More generally, there are severe problems with the methods that have been used to build up language families, including the Uralic family. In this section I shall briefly examine the linguistic methods. However, the problems that become evident appear to have infected other areas of study, such as the interpretation of historical texts: it is the interaction with other areas of discipline that will be the main focus of my talk and will be described in the next section.


It is generally assumed the use of the so-called “Comparative Method” of linguistic analysis yields results which are statistically significant and which therefore can be relied upon to establish language families. Indeed, if one finds many words in the various different languages, all related to one another through the same regular rules of sound-correspondences, then it is unlikely that the words are similar by chance and therefore there is a statistical significance to the results.


However the central problem is that I have not found any instance where such a corpus of regularly related words can be found. Most studies of the Uralic languages, including the main Uralic dictionary UEW (Rédei (ed.) 1986-91), do not state the sound-rules on which the correlations are supposed to be based. The principal exception is the Uralic corpus of Janhunen (1981), which clearly states the sound-rules (at least for vowels) joining identified words. However this corpus contains more sound-rules than regular correspondences, so that this corpus too has no statistical significance.


For other issues related to of the Comparative method, including the problems related to the basic regularity principle on which the comparative method is founded, see for example Fox  (1995); Belardi  (2002, I: 147ff.), Weinreich (1953), Weinreich, Labov & Herzog (1968), Labov (1963, 1972, 1980, 1981, 1994), Wang (1969,1979).


In a layer on top of the results of the Comparative Method, one finds the use of the methods of Palaeo-linguistics, in which one reconstructs the homeland and way of life of an assumed ancient community based on the reconstructed words. Putting aside the problem of the lack of statistical significance of the reconstructed words, there is recognised to be a further problem with this method (see for example Renfrew (1987: 77ff.)). The meaning of words may change through time, some crucial cognate-words may disappear from some languages, cognate-words may not refer to the same object, and the spreading of technological innovations may diffuse new names throughout a vast area. These factors mean that, even if one could demonstrate that the reconstructions have statistical significance, it would still be debatable whether the method is capable of producing a window on the pre-historical past that is anything more than speculative.


In order to illustrate this situation, one can consider the reconstruction of the ancient Uralic words for flora and fauna, which have been used to help establish the location of the ancient Uralic homeland. Typically there are several reconstructed names for each relevant term, each with a variety of alternative meanings, so that one is unclear which of the words are supposed to have been used. For example, Table 1 shows the various reconstructed meanings of the eight reconstructed words for ‘reindeer’: -


Table 1: the reconstructed words for ‘Reindeer’

  1. dog/drone/male reindeer
  2. Reindeer/elk
  3. Ox/leading reindeer
  4. Reindeer
  5. male elk/deer/reindeer/ sacrificial animal
  6. domesticated reindeer
  7. domesticated reindeer/sheep/cow
  8. male elk/reindeer/camel



Finally, one finds that most of the relevant reconstructed words are shared with non Uralic languages, mainly Altaic languages and Jukaghir. In fact, the reconstructed terms for body-parts and flora & fauna are present, on average, in 2.1 non-Uralic languages, contrary to the assumptions of the model.


If one accepts the state of affairs outlined above it becomes evident that relying on the method of Palaeo-linguistics can be dangerous in general, and in the Uralic context in particular. In the next paragraph I am going to illustrate what represents, in my opinion, one of the most misleading instances of linguistic and extra-linguistic reconstructions within Uralic: the reconstruction of the name ‘magyar’, the self-denomination of the Hungarians, and the consequent historical and ethnic reconstruction of their origin. This example in turn will illustrate one of those interlocking network of self-consistent reconstructions and interpretations upon which the standard Uralic theory is based, as claimed above and in Marcantonio (2002a).


2. The reconstruction of magyar and the associated re-interpretations of historical evidence


2.1. Introduction


The reconstruction of the ethnonym magyar, which has played a central role in the historical formation of the standard Uralic theory, is a paradigmatic example of the interlocking network of self-consistent reconstructions and interpretations upon which the Uralic theory appears to be founded.


All the available historical records (including Greek, Latin and Arabic sources of the 9th /10th Centuries AD) that mention names similar to magyar clearly and consistently refer to Turkic tribes. They therefore contradict the Uralic theory, in which linguists claim that the Hungarian language and peoples originate not from the Turkic, but from the Uralic group of languages. In order to square this evidence with the dominant model, massive re-interpretation is required, as described in detail below. Commonly, no mention is made that any re-interpretation is involved, not even in the specialist literature (see for a recent example Rédei 1998: 57), so that the re-interpretation /correction, being passed on from textbooks to textbook, generations after generations of scholarship, acquires the status of a ‘pseudo-fact’.


Linguistically, there are clear, Turkic etymological correspondences with the term magyar, dating from early Arabic records. These correspondences also contradict the dominant linguistic model, but they usually go unmentioned in textbooks. Indeed, even in specialist literature they are usually referred to as forming part of the unsolved “Hungaro - Bashkir complex”, as if it were an arcane detail rather than a major element of counter-evidence to the theory.


As we shall see below, linguists prefer an etymology which connects magyar to another ‘Uralic’ proper name, Mansi, the self denomination of the Voguls. Unfortunately this etymology differs from the historically attested forms and is linguistically ad-hoc. Linguists and dictionaries recognise that the etymological connection magyar-mansi is ‘problematic’, but it is nevertheless accepted on the grounds that such a connection is ‘supported’ by the historical ‘data’, thus giving rise to a true circularity.



2.2. Magyar: the historical background


As mentioned, the (presumed) etymology of the Hungarians self-denomination has been central in the emerging and establishing of the conventional paradigm. In fact, it was since long known that the Hungarian Chronicles [2] had indicated an unspecified Eastern homeland for the Hungarians. Between the 15th and the 17th Centuries it came to be taken for granted that this Eastern homeland could be identified with an area near the Ural mountains, called ‘Yugria (hence the term ‘Uralic’ and ‘Ugric’). This belief was in turn based on the apparent similarity of the toponym Yugria  (with which the area was indicated in Russian and Western European sources) and the ethnonym  ‘hungarus’, the Hungarians’ external denomination.  This connection was later on reinforced by the discovery that one of the populations living in that area, the Voguls, called themselves ‘Mansi’, which  ‘to the lay ear slightly resembles the name magyar’ (to use Kálmán (1988:395) words). In other words, one of the cornerstones of the traditional paradigm - the belief that the closest relatives of the Hungarians are the Vogul/ Mansi peoples -- was originally based not so much on scientific arguments, as on a superficial, ‘accidental’ similarity between proper names: magyar vs Mansi and hungarus vs Yugria. In the meantime, linguists and historians believed to have found early occurrences of the term magyar in the text ‘De Administrando Imperio’, written in Greek by the Byzantine emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus between 947 and 952 AD. The testimony of the historical text was held to lend support to the Uralic origin of the Hungarians, as established by linguists.


It is now widely recognised in the specialist literature that Hungarian is radically different – in Phonology, Morphology, Lexicon and Syntax – from the Ob-Ugric languages; see for example  Abondolo (1987:185 and 1998: 428), Sammallahti (1988:500), Helimski (1984:253) and Salminen (1997: 86). It does not therefore come as a surprise to realize that the Ugric node (Hungarian and the Ob-Ugric languages) has consistently defied the many attempts to its reconstruction (see for example Hajdú (1987: 306), Sammallahti (1988: 484) and Abondolo[3] (1998: 428)). Nevertheless, it was assumed at the time of the formation of the conventional paradigm, and is still widely assumed to this day[4], that Hungarian shares a privileged relationship with the Ob-Ugric languages. This means that the etymological connection:  magyar-Mansi  was originally and remains nowadays the only item of ‘evidence’  in support of the assumed close relationship between Hungarian and the Ob-Ugric people. Similarly, the (presumed) testimony of the Byzantine Emperor was and remains the only item of ‘historical evidence’ in support of the Uralic origin of the Hungarians. This being the case, it is worth to examine closely these terms and their linguistic as well historical connections.



2.3 The chronological and linguistic development of magyar


It is received wisdom within Uralic studies that Constantine Porphyrogenitus (De Administrando Imperio, Chapters 38-40) mentions the name magyar, by this referring to what has now become the nation of the ‘Uralic’ Hungarians. It is also widely reported that the Emperor’s text provides another crucial item of information regarding the ancestors of the modern magyars, that is, that they lived together with Turkic tribes for about 300 years. This information is crucial indeed because it would explain why Hungarian, a Uralic language, is closer to Turkic than to any of the Uralic languages:  the prolonged and close cohabitation with Turkic tribes can easily be held responsible for the strong influence of Turkic over Hungarian, influence which manifests itself primarily in terms of extensive lexical and phonological borrowing (see at this regard the comprehensive work by Ligeti (1986)). In turn, the thesis that Hungarian was originally a Uralic language, despite superficial evidence of the contrary, can be maintained as valid.

   However, this is not quite the true story. In fact, the Emperor never actually mentions the name magyar  itself, neither is there in the text any indication that the Emperor is referring to the ancestors of the modern Hungarians or any explicit mention of the ‘300-years-long’ cohabitation with Turkic tribes. The Emperor mentions a name which is somewhat ‘similar’ to magyar, that is ‘Megέrh’ (interpreted as megyer(i)’), by this name clearly referring to a leader of a ‘Turkic’ clan. As to the question of the 300-years-long cohabitation, at one point [5] the Emperor says that the Turks (not the magyars) lived together with the [Turkic] Khazars for ‘three’ years. More specifically, the original text states the following:


1)      ‘The nation of the Turks’ consists of seven (subsequently eight) tribes[6] /clans, one of which was lead by Megέrh  

2)      ‘The Turks lived together with the Khazars for three years, and fought in alliance with the Khazars in all their wars’


The name Megέrh seems to be reflected in place-names present in modern Hungary, such as Puszta-megyer, Tót-megyer, Békás-megyer, Káposztás-megyer, etc.


The  original text as reported in  point (1)  has been re-interpreted in the sense that the Emperor is referring to the ancestors of the modern Hungarians, this interpretation being based on two assumptions: a) that a clan leader name has become a clan and then a nation name, and b): that the names  Megέrh and magyar are ‘regular variants’ of one and the same name, being connected through regular sound correspondences (according to the requirements of the Comparative Method). However, Megέrh does not really match  magyar (/mĺd’ĺr/), because of the mismatch in the vowel quality (front vs back, respectively) and the presence of a final vowel in Megέr-h which is missing in magyar[7](see below). This being the case, on a strict application of the Comparative Method one would have to conclude that these names are not related to one another, and that Megέrh / megyer(i) has nothing to do with the modern Hungarian term  magyar. Therefore, in order to establish the desired connection, some sort of ‘explanation’ is needed that would show how these two forms can be considered indeed as regular variants of the same name. This is achieved through a linguistic ‘re-interpretation’ involving the historically attested forms (Megέrh and a later form Mogerii[8] (interpreted as ‘magyeri’)) as well as the modern term. This re-interpretation, which is hardly ever made explicit in the literature, or even mentioned, takes place  along the lines illustrated in the Tables (1) and (2) below (from Marcantonio 2002a:257):


Table 1. The chronological development of   magyar : the attested forms



Constantine’s ‘clan / leader’ name Megέrh / megyer(i)

circa 950




The ‘nation’ name  Mogerii / magyeri  (in the text Anonymus Gesta Hungarorun)

circa 1200



magyar (/mĺd’ĺr/)

modern Hungarian




Table 2. The chronological development of   magyar : the linguistic ‘re-interpretation’



      *mogyër                                        Megέrh / megyer(i)  (regressive assimilation)

                                                               attested circa 950

                                                               (“secondary variant”)

   Mogerii / magyeri

   attested circa 1200                              




magyar (/mĺd’ĺr/) (progressive assimilation)





As shown in the Tables, the  mismatch in the quality of the vowels is explained (for example Ligeti 1986:400) by assuming that the original attested form of 950 was a mere ‘secondary variant’, despite its being (supposedly)  reflected in modern Hungarian place-names. This secondary variant is supposed not to appear in the linguistic tree. The early form is instead supposed to be Proto-Hun. *mogyër [9] (see for example Németh 1930/1991: 246; Gheno and Hajdú 1992:15; UEW 866-67; Ligeti 1986: 400), that is a form reconstructed on the basis of  Megέrh / megyer(i), Mogerii/ magyeri  and  magyar, so that the various reflexes of the name appear to be more regular.  In fact, by assuming *mogyër as the original form, the vowel mismatch  can be accounted for through two processes of vowel assimilation: magyar  would have developed from  Proto-Hun. *mogyër  through progressive assimilation, whilst  Megέrh / megyer(i)  would have developed from the same reconstructed form through regressive assimilation. These assimilations in turn are claimed to have been triggerd by the principle of  ‘Vowel Harmony’, the feature (typical of Modern Hungarian) according to which all the vowels within a word must be of the same quality. The change *mogyër  into its ‘regular variants’   magyar  ~  megyer(i)  supposedly took place in the late Proto-Hungarian period, before the time of the home conquest (honfoglalás), that is before the time of the conquest of the present-day Hungarian territory, ‘officially’ achieved in 896 AD.

   Although the processes of assimilation  described above are totally normal, common phenomena in languages, there are two problems associated with this explanation. Firstly, the rejection of the early attested form Megέrh / megyer(i) and its replacement by a reconstructed form that has, by design, fewer sound mismatches with the modern form, is clearly an ad-hoc process that does not accord directly with the historical records and that is contradicted by the toponyms. Secondly, the justification of the assimilation processes through the principle of Vowel Harmony is not satisfactory, because the first Hungarian text, the famous ‘Halotti beszéd’, written between  1192 and 1195 AD, shows that Vowel Harmony is just about in the process of formation [10]. It is not therefore a fully developed feature, as would have been required for the processes of assimilation to run to completion  round about 896 AD.

   Last, but not least, this ‘explanation’ leaves out the question of the final vowel present both in the Greek and Latin forms (as well as in the Arabic forms, see below), but absent in the reconstructed form. In other words, it poses difficulties to claim that *mogyër developed as its variants the form  magyar on the one hand and  megyer-i, with an added (long[11]) vowel, on the other hand, given that final vowel tend to be lost, not gaigned. This difficulty becomes even more apparent when discussing the ‘standard’ etymology of  magyar (see next section).


Let us now turn to the issue of  Constantine’s text as reported at point (2). As mentioned, although the original text is pretty clear, in the sense that the Emperor talks about the ‘Turks’, it is widely ‘re-interpreted’ as if it did refer to the ancestors of the modern magyars. Furthermore, although the emperor clearly writes ‘three’ (‘τρεîς’) years, it is widely ‘re-interpreted’ as if he meant ‘three hundred’ years, or ‘two hundred’, or, anyhow, a very long period of time. This is because three years is not a long enough period to justify such an extensive, deep influence of Turkic over Hungarian, if it is assumed that Hungarian is purely and simply a Uralic language. Given that the text by Constantine has been recognized as containing inaccurate information in other areas of the narration, this particular bit of information has generally been regarded as wrong, somtimes even ‘ridicolous’ (Grégoire 1937: 636, 1952: 280; see also Deér 1952: 108). A ‘correction’ therefore is required: instead of the word for ‘three’ (τρεîς), one should read only the initial letter, more pecisely, on should read: τ’, which is the standard way of writing ‘three hundred’ in Byzantine Greek[12] (see for example Deér 1952; Moravcsik 1930: 107, 1984/1988: 42-43; but see Shepard [13] 1998: 25 for a different interpretation). Thus, historians re-interpret the text in order to make it consistent with the linguistic model, according to which the Hungarian language and people are a totally separate, linguistic and ethnic group form the Turks. In turn, linguists generally state that the  Hungarian language diversified itself so radically from the other Uralic languages because there were ‘several centuries’ of symbiosis  between the magyars and the Turks. This is usually reported as being a  documented fact, an item of  historical ‘evidence’, rather than what it actually is: an interpretation or, better, re-interpretation, of an otherwise quite clear historical text.


2.4  Magyar: the ad-hoc, ‘Uralic etymology


Having stated that magyar can be identified with  megyer(i), through the ‘explanation’ reported above, there remains to ‘explain’ the connection between magyar and  mansi, given that a  pure superficial similarity between the two names would not be considered ‘scientific’ within the framwork of Historical Linguistics.  Therefore, a proper etymology has been created in order to justify the assumed connection. However, as we shall seee below, this etymology is highly ad-hoc, and cannot therefore contribute towards “building up” the scientific credibility of this superficial similarity. Nevertheless, textbooks usually cite this etymology as ‘evidence’ in support of the Uralic origin of the Hungarians (and, of course, of the validity of the Ugric node), in this way giving rise to a circular argument. The ‘standard’ etymology of  magyar is as follows (according to UEW 866 as well as the other major Hungarian etymological dictionaries):


3.        magy-ar  consists of two parts. The first part,  magy-  derives from Ug. *mańć'. ‘man, human being’, from which also the self-denominations of the Voguls,  Mansi, and the self-denomination of one the Ostyak clans  (mańt’ mońt’maś) is derived   (UEW 866).  Hun. /-d’-/ is a regular reflex [14] of P-U *-ńć-. The second element of  magy-ar,  that is -ar  (~ -ér, - ër) ‘man’, is the same component found for example in Hun. emb-ër  ‘man’. This root in turn is connected with Finn.  yrkä  ‘bachelor’,  yrkö  ‘man’  <  F-U  *irkä  (*ürkä) (UEW 84).


This etymology presents a major difficulty: the segmentation  magy-ar  does not have any independent justification, because neither of the two members (magy-  and  -ar ) are ever found as stand-alone elements.  The same holds true for emb-ër  ‘man’, not to take ito account the question of the missing final -i, as discussed above[15]. And, in fact, the sources that support this etymology admit that there are several difficulties (see Ligeti 1986:400 and Németh 1972:156). For example, UEW 84 & 866 says that compound nature of the noun is no longer retrievable, the compound has now become ‘opaque, obscure’.


At this point it is worth mentioning, without going into details, that there exist in the specialist literature an ‘alternative’ etymology for the name magyar, although this is hardly ever reported in textbooks. In  the 10th Centuries Arabic sources (such as ‘The Book of the Precious Stones’, written by the Arabic geographer Ibn Rusta circa 930 AD),  there occur the forms  ma EQ \O(j,ˇ)ġiri  ~  ba EQ \O(j,ˇ)ġird, which are regular variants [16]. Several authors claim that these terms are to be identified with the name magyar  (see for exaple Imre 1972:328 and Ligeti 1986). More precisely, according to Ligeti (1986: 376-7, 396, 400) from the variant  ma EQ \O(j,ˇ)ġiri  the term  magyar  has developed, whilst from the variant  ba EQ \O(j,ˇ)ġird  the forms  bašġir(d)  ~  baš EQ \O(j,ˇ)ir(t) ~  bašgir have developed, that is, the denomination of the Turkic Bashkirs. Within the framework of the Comparative Method this etymology is certainly more ‘scientific’ than the standard etymology of  magy-ar as reported in (3) above. In fact, no arbitray segmentations are required, there is no mismatch in the quality of the vowels, the consonants match (see foot-note (16)), and the lack of the final vowel in magyar can be explained with a normal process of ‘loss’ in final position. This alternative etymology, if accepted, suggests that, at least in the eyes of the Arabic historians and geographers, the tribe of their contemporary ‘magyars’ is somewhat connected to (if not even identical with) the tribe of their contemporary ‘Bashkirs’.

   It would go beyond the scope of this paper to comment on the issue of the ‘magyar-Bashkir’ connection[17], which has been extensively dealt with in the specialist literature. Here it suffices to observe that, by the designation  ma EQ \O(j,ˇ)ġir(i)  ~  ba EQ \O(j,ˇ)ġir(d)  the sources explicitly and consistently referred indeed to a Turkic population, and that the ‘Bashkiro-Hungarian complex’ (as it has been labeled by Vásáry (1985/7)), still ‘belongs to the open questions of Hungarian prehistory’, to use Ligeti’s (1986:375) words[18] [bold is mine].









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[1] There are various, slighlty different opininons among scholars as to exactly  which population/ culture, from which ‘centers of populations dispersal’, the ancestors of the present-day Finno-Ugric/ Uralic people might have derived from. However, this is not of relevance for the current argument, therefore these various positions are not taken here into consideration.

[2] Compare for example Anonymus Gesta Hungarorum (for which see below foot-note (8)) and Gesta Hungarorum,  written by Simon Kézai between 1282 and 1285.

[3] For example, Abondolo (1998: 428) states that ‘What is traditionally termed ‘Ugric’ may itself have been more a Sprachbund than a node in the Uralic family’.

[4] The notable exception is Viitso (1995, 1997a & b), who has proposed a Uralic family tree quite different from the traditional one, where, among other ‘deviations’ –as it were - Hungarian is not bundled togther with Vogul and Ostyak.

[5] Chapter 38, line 13-14 (from the edition by Moravcsik and Jenkins  (1949:170-1))

[6] The original text reads as follows  (Jenkins’ translation  from Moravcsik and Jenkins (eds) 1949:175): “Of the clans of the Kabaroi and the Turks. The first is this aforesaid clan of the Kabaroi  which split off from the Chazars; the second, of  Nekis [identified with Modern Hun. Nyék]; the third of  Megeris [megyer(i)], the fourth, of Kourtou-germatos [compare Modern Hun. -Gyarmat],  the fifth, of Tarianos; the sixth, Genach [identified with Modern Hun. Jenő  <  Jeneg ];  the seventh,  Kari, the eighth, Kasi [identified with Modern Hun. Keszi <  Kesző  ~ Keszeg ] ”.  The name Megέrh  (like most clan names) appears in the genitive construction: “τρίτη  του  Megέrh”.  As to the origin of these names, there is complete agreement in the literature that they are all of Turkic origin, with the notable exception of  Megέrh / megyer(i) ~ magyar. However, Turkic correspondences have also been proposed for the very name megyer, compare the Bashkir ethnonyms and toponyms: Mišer  ~  Mišar  ~  Mišär ~  Meščer  ~  Mižer etc.  On the issue of the Turkic origin of the (presumed) Hungarian clan names compare for example Vásáry (1985/7); Fodor (1975 and 1982); Ligeti (1963, 1964, 1978, 1986); Di Cave (1995); Golden (1990 a & b); see also Marcantonio (2000a: 260-262). The Emperor’s text reports several other famous ‘Hungarian’ proper names, such as  Álmos and Tas, and the nobility name kündü, all of which, again, are also  present in Turkic (see Ligeti (1986)). The name Árpád, that is, the name of the leader who accomplished the honfoglalás, the conquest of the present-day Hungarian territory, is also mentioned in Chapters 38-40. For this name, however, no clear etymology or origin is indicated either in Ligeti (1986) or in the etymological dictionaries.

[7] These mismatches are widely recognised in the specialist literature, see for example Gheno and Hajdú (1992:15), UEW 866-67 and Ligeti (1986: 400).

[8] The name Mogerii is found in the Mediaeval Chronicle Anonymus Gesta Hungarorum, generally known as Anonymus (his author being indeed not specified). The Chronicle was written in Latin circa 1200. The anonymous author states that the Hungarians, of Scythian origin, call themselves, in their own language,  Mogerii (~ Mogerij): “ ... populus de terra Scithica egressus per ydioma alienigenarum Hungarii et in sua lingua propria  Mogerii  vocantur” (Szentpétery et al. (eds)1937-1938: I, 33). This seems to be the first explicit, clear association of the two designations  Hungar-  and  magyar.  For information about the other  9th –13th Centuries sources that, supposedly, refer to the ‘magyars’ see Di Cave (1995) and Stephenson (2001).

[9] Several variants are also usually listed, such as *mogyëri  ~  *ma EQ \O(j,ˇ)ġër(i) ~  *ma EQ \O(j,ˇ)gir(i).

[10] A halotti beszéd és könyörgés, ‘The Funeral Oration and Prayer’, the first Hungarian text, is a free translation from Latin by an unknown author. In this short text Vowel Harmomy is not yet a fully developed feature, as shown by the following examples: Old Hun. vilag-bele vs  Modern Hun.  világ-ba ‘into the world’; Old Hun.  uruzag-bele  vs  Modern Hun.  ország-ba  ‘into the kingdom’; Old Hun. muga-nek  vs  Modern Hun. mogá-nak  ‘to himself’; Old Hun.  halal-nec  vs  Modern Hun.  halál-nak  ‘to the death’  (from the edition by Molnar & Simon 1977: 17-18).

[11] It is assumed that  the final vowel is long on the basis of the Greek h’ of Megέr-h, as well on the basis of the names attested in the Arabic sources, for which see foot-note (15) below.

[12] The number ‘three’ is generally written as: g .

[13]At p. 25 the author comments: “But the De administrando does not conceal the ambiguousness of the Hungarians’ relations with the Khazars: the period of full-blown military alliance is implausibly allocated only three years, perhaps as a symbolic way of indicating that it was quite brief,..”.

[14] One my observe that Hun. -gy- /-d’-/  may be the reflex not only of  P-U *-ńć-, but also of several other sounds. Therefore this sound change on its own cannot constitute evidence in favour of the validity of the etymology.

[15] As mentioned, the denominations recorded in the historical sources contain a final, long  -i (Latin  Mogerij ~ Mogerii,  and Greek  Megέrh), for which there is no corresponding vowel in the presumed Old Hungarian component *-ar ~  *-ér ~ *-ër.  The presence of a final long vowel is confirmed by the original Arabic script, which reads as  m.ğ.γ.rīya, whereby the long  -ī- of the Arabic ending -īya  indicates that the original, non-Arabic word contained a final vowel.

[16] The initial  m ~ b alternation is a regular one within Turkic (common Turkic  m- vs  Bulgar Turkic and Khazar  b-). Similarly,  the correspondence  -gy-  /d’/  of  magyar  vs  /š/  of  bašġir  is a regul one (see Ligeti 1986: 376-7, 396, 400).

[17] Scholars have tried in various ways to ‘re-interpret’ this item of counter-evidence so as to fit it in with the thesis of the Uralic origin of the Hungarians. Compare for example Németh (930/1991:325-327, 1966a & b, 1972); Györffy (1948:184 f.); Fodor (1975, 1982:265 f.); Ligeti (1963, 1964, 1978, 1986: 375 & 378-379); Róna-Tas (1978); Di Cave (1995:34 f.); Vásáry (1975,  1985 /7) and Golden (1990b:245).

[18] The original text reads as follows:“[The Bashkirs] a magyar őstörténet nyitott kérdései közé tartozik”.