Last May a massive two-volume history of Jewish Hungarians appeared. When I say massive I’m not exaggerating. Géza Komoróczy, professor of Assyrian and Hebraic Studies at ELTE of Budapest, spent ten years on the research for this comprehensive 2,400-page study. He paid special attention to the neglected Middle Ages. Komoróczy is unique in the sense that he is not Jewish, which is considered to be an oddity nowadays in Hebraic studies. Interestingly enough, in the nineteenth century it was mostly non-Jews who worked on Jewish history; they were the pioneers in the field.
The book is expensive, yet the first edition sold out and the publisher is reprinting it. After the book appeared Komoróczy was interviewed extensively. It was in one of these interviews that Komoróczy talked about the beginnings of Hungarian Jewish history–and the beginnings of Hungarian history as a whole.
The link between the two is the Khazar Empire, whose political elite converted to Judaism. It is known that the Hungarian tribes at one point were under the supremacy of the Khazars. It is possible that the Hungarian chieftains followed the Khazar religious example since they adopted many Khazar customs.
One clue is that Hungary’s third king was a certain Aba Sámuel, most likely the nephew of St. Stephen. Scholars doubt that he followed the Jewish ritual, but it is likely that he came from a family in which the Judaic tradition was strong. Or there is King Salamon (1063-74), son of András I. That’s why Komoróczy jokingly said in the interview that if there was a Jew among the Hungarians who arrived in the Carpathian Basin it was Árpád himself.
You may recall that Arthur Koestler wrote a controversial book entitled The Thirteenth Tribe outlining his hypotheses about the Khazar origins of European Jewry. The Khazars were a Turkic people who lived in the region of the Caucasus. As was so often the case in this region, the Khazars were pushed westward by invading armies from the East and settled in present-day Russia, Ukraine, and Poland. Koestler argued that proving that Ashkenazi Jews had no biological connection to the biblical Jews would remove the racial basis of European anti-Semitism.
Today science ostensibly allows us to be more certain about our ancestry. Yaakov Kleiman’s 2004 study DNA & Tradition: The Genetic Link to the Ancient Hebrews seemed to have disproved Koestler’s theory. Kleiman stated that “the general Ashkenazi paternal gene pool does not appear to be similar to that of present-day Turkish speakers. This finding opposes the suggestion that most Ashkenazim are descended from the Khazars, the Turkish-Asian empire that converted to Judaism en masse in or about the 8th century C.E.”
Now there is a new study by Eran Elhaik, who published an article in the most recent issue of Genome Biology and Evolution entitled “The Missing Link of Jewish European Ancestry: Contrasting the Rhineland and the Khazarian Hypotheses.” The Rhineland hypothesis describes Eastern European Jews as a “population isolate” that emerged from a small group of German Jews who migrated eastward and expanded rapidly.
Elhaik concentrated on a possible DNA link between the Khazars and present-day European Jews. But there was a bit of a problem. The Khazar population disappeared somewhere on the steppes of Russia. So Elhaik studied first the DNA of people of the Caucasus today, altogether 74 ethnic groups, and compared them to eight different Jewish groups, among them some from the Near East. He came to exactly the opposite conclusion from Kleiman. According to him, European Jews are most closely related to the Turkic-Iranian ethnic pool, although there are some Semitic strains as well.
Elhaik’s explanation for the Semitic strain is that Semitic people also migrated to Khazaria from the Near East, specifically from Mesopotamia and Judea. These groups settled in the southern parts of Khazaria where today Georgians and Armenians live. The researcher claims that the closest genetic relationship of Ashkenazi Jews is with the Armenians of today.
According to Elhaik’s account, the DNA of today’s Jewry comes from three different sources: (1) the non-Semitic Khazars, (2) the Jews who settled in the Greek and Roman Empires, and (3) the Jews of Mesopotamia and Judea.
But then where does the Yiddish language widely spoken in earlier times by Jews come from? Although it includes Hebrew words, it surely has its roots in the German language. That would support the Rhineland theory. Koestler’s answer to this was that during the Middle Ages most of the cities of Eastern Europe were inhabited by Germans. This was certainly true of Poland, and of Hungary as well. Koestler pointed out that since Jews were not allowed to own land they had to settle in cities where they picked up more and more German words.
I guess one can have two completely different results from DNA research. Therefore, unlike Origo, which confidently entitled its article on the subject “The genetic foundation of anti-Semitism is disproved,” I find it difficult to wholeheartedly embrace this new theory. I would like to know, for example, what language these Jewish Khazars who moved to Poland spoke. And are there any traces of a Turkic language in Yiddish?
Whatever the case, let’s be satisfied with the likelihood that the Khazar influence on the early Hungarians also meant that high Hungarian officials converted to Judaism alongside the Khazars. I’m pretty sure that this is shocking enough to our anti-Semites.
“Whatever the case, let’s be satisfied with the likelihood that the Khazar influence on the early Hungarians also meant that high Hungarian officials converted to Judaism alongside the Khazars. I’m pretty sure that this is shocking enough to our anti-Semites.”
Just leave it to them: this is just a proof of how early the Universal Jewish Conspiracy against Hungarians has started.
The Turkish language family is very similar to Hungarian: agglutinative, has vowel harmony, rich is case declensions, though is not marked for gender (nouns, pronouns, adjectives, etc.)… It has had no significant impact on Yiddish, as this language developed later once the people had settled in Central Europe.
It is this misleading similarity to Hungarian that led the (Jewish) dragoman Vámbéry Ármin to mistakenly champion the cause for a Turkic origin of Hungarian; in opposition to the Finno-Ugric origin proposed by the German Joseph Budenz. StrangeIy Jobbik and Fidesz now champion Vámbéry’s theories. I remember you reviewing one of Nádasdy Ádám’s articles (from Élet és Irodalom) concerning this back in 2010.
Anyway, Yiddish has felt no appreciable influence from any Turkic language.
Kudos to Eva. Her blog-contribution is an important act, to clean up the Hungarian mind.
Just a brief hint, read Krisztian Ungvary and Janos Gyurgyak:
On the opposite side, there are the Csurkas, Vonas, Morvays who are poisoning the minds of many desperate citizens by “love laced” incitement against various scapegoats.
America is a melting pot, Hungary is a trouble spot.
I am no linguist (as anyone hearing my pathetic ‘Hungarian’ will testify!) but I was under the impression that Yiddish was essentially German with Hebrew words, not Hebrew with “more and more German words”. But surely, as the two languages are so very different from each other, the answer should be obvious?
As for the origins of European Jews, this is something that has long puzzled me. Popular history (i.e. as taught in UK schools) has the Jews being evicted from Palestine and then later being in Europe, with no explanation of how they got there (and why there in particular), but instead, just an assumption that this is what happened (somehow) and therefore the Jews of 1st century Palestine are more or less the same people as the Jews of 21st century Europe.
I’ve always thought there must be a lot more to it than this – I’m not trying to suggest that European Jews aren’t ethnically Jews for one minute, just asking how the migration happened, and why they chose to settle so far away in Europe and not closer to Palestine. I have been reading around this question for years and am still none the wiser.
One thing I have discovered though is that the ‘expulsion’ story is far too simplistic, many Jews remained in Palestine and many more only ‘migrated’ as far as nearby countries. Long before the growth of Zionism and the idea that a new Israel should be created, there was a significant Jewish population already in Palestine, which had presumably been there for some time – perhaps even from the time of the ‘expulsion’.
But how and why the bulk of the Jewish people moved as far as Europe and chose to settle there remains (to me at least) a mystery. Unfortunately, the studies and theories outlined above by Éva don’t seem to help clarify this at all.
And, on the subject of this causing controversy in Hungary, surely such theories and findings would cause a far greater controversy in Israel itself? The question as to whether Jewishness is based on ethnicity or religion is complex and controversial enough already, without the suggestion that many ‘Jews’ may be Jews ‘only’ by conversion.
Paul, so are you saying that Jews are not an ethnic group, therefore by definition are not Hungarians??
** let me correct myself:
Paul, so are you saying that Jews are an ethnic group, therefore by definition are not Hungarians??
Eva, you may like to consult the books and articles of my old colleague at Rutgers Univ., Peter B..Golden, who has been a world class authority on ther Khazars.
I guess about the same way as those of all the other origins inhabiting Hungary (for example Slovaks or Germans) are not Hungarians.
Komoroczy in his first volume categorically rejects the Khazar-Magyar-Jewish connection.
Paul: But how and why the bulk of the Jewish people moved as far as Europe and chose to settle there remains (to me at least) a mystery. Unfortunately, the studies and theories outlined above by Éva don’t seem to help clarify this at all.
As far as I understand, most Jews left Palestine under Rome, either as trader, slave or as refugee (economic or political). As Rome was expanding so where the Jews. When Rome left most Jews remain in the places where they were living ,until the Middle Ages when Jew exclusion, prosecution or banishment took place. Most of the European Jews went to Poland, and the rest went mainly to the Ukraine.
Furthermore, as to ethnicity, in Rome conversion to Judaism. Nowadays, if you want to convert to Judaism it is very difficult.
The last part of my previous post should read: Furthermore, as to ethnicity, in Rome conversion to Judaism was normal and the Jewish communities were very active in this sense. Nowadays, if you want to convert to Judaism it is very difficult.
Eva said “I guess one can have two completely different results from DNA research.”
The author claims the questions posed by the other studies are different and do not clearly distinguish between the Rhineland and the Khazarian hypotheses. From a synopsis in GBE:
““Results in the current literature are tangled,” Elhaik says. “Everyone is basically following the same assumption: Ashkenazi Jews are a population isolate, so they are all similar to one another, and this is completely incorrect.”
Previous studies had, for example, combined the question of similarity among and between Jewish populations and the question of ancestry and relatedness to non-Jewish populations. Elhaik viewed these questions separately. Jewish communities are less homogeneous than is popularly thought, he says, with Jewish communities along the former Khazarian border showing the most heterogeneity.”
Elhaik’s paper may be a more definitive study because of his approach. It will be interesting to see the commentaries and the author’s replies published in GBE over the next few months.
PDF’s of a synopsis (http://gbe.oxfordjournals.org/content/5/1/75.full.pdf+html) and the full article (http://gbe.oxfordjournals.org/content/5/1/61.full.pdf+html) are available for free download at GBE.
I have bought the last of the first edition of Komoroczy’s book. A marvelous, fascinating book.
But let’s turn to the subject!
I strongly recommend the reading of Israeli history professor, Shlomo Sand’s book “The invention of the Jewish people.” It is contrary to almost everything above. That is not to say that it would be the last word on the subject, but it is a very interesting, original and completely unusual examination of the subject.
The main claim of the author is that the Ashkenazim cannot, but be from Kazar origins. As he is re-examening the well-known historical evidence so is he coming to a new conclusion about every one of them and finds them misinterpreted, misundertood, or ill-applied. For example he has a completely new and shockingly convincing review of Trajan’s triumphal arch, concluding that the Jews’ exile in 71 AD never happened.
In conclusion he stipulates that the Ashkenazim, as a surviving remnant of the Kazars, in the absence of genetic connection to the ancient Jews, have no rightful claim to the land of Israel. This, of course, is a wild and wooly conclusion, even if the supporting evidence and argument should be correct. Behind the historical workmanship also lurks the intention of the author to boost the case of the Palestinians and their claim for the land of Israel.
I shouldn’t like to elaborate on this, merely mention it to prove that there are many possible interpretation for the origins of Jews.
Nevertheless, te genetic evidence and the linguistic one should be treated as separate, since there is no necessary correlation between the two: whatever their genetic provenance, they had plenty of time to take on a common language. It would be absolutely foolish to expect of them to carry on a Kazar language, even if they are Kazars, after spending a thousand years in other linguistic environment.
My deepest conviction about this issue is that if they lived, believed and suffered as Jews for those thousand years, for better, or for worse they are Jews. Applying the Nuremberg Laws, now again for the second time against them, to prove on genetic grounds that they are actually not quite Jews, therefore, unqualified, would be pure evil. If they were Jewish enough to go to Auschwitz, then they are surely Jewish enough to live in Israel, no matter what their genes.
My answers can not be too relevant regarding the rampant antisemitism in Hungary now and in the past..
Too many young and old Hungarians are criminally guilty of being misguided, prejudiced, racist etc.
There is no united front against these historical failures.
The Jewish Hungarians are pretty divided. I can not identify constructive thoughts for ending this nightmare.
My best input would be, to praise the positive progressive individuals who wanted to end the misery of the Jews and Hungarians at the same time.
The best champion in history was Ferenc Deak. All others were of smaller capacity.
Komoroczy, Bibo, Gyurgyak and the similar thinkers are great.
The next lists were the WWII heroes: Ferenc Koszorus, Miklos Mester, Bela Kiraly…
Perhaps, we can find other heroes in this google search:
Well, first off, I’d never stick my nose into 2,400 pages; but that bulk is in line with the ‘blow-fish’ mentality of Hungarians.
I have a standard limit of 200 pages which, on rare occasions, I will extend. Recently, I read a new biography of Lincoln–most of its 750 pages–but true to my theory, there wasn’t much to be found after the first 200.
Most great books are short. The writer knows that words serve only as hints toward ideas and not the carrier of the ideas themselves. Two examples: Machiavelli’s “The Prince”, and Lao Tzu’s “The Way of Life” are both less than 100 pages. As it should be.
Say what you mean precisely and get the hell out of the way so the reader can think about it. I don’t think Komorocy would belong to my club…and I certainly won’t be reading his navel-gazing tome, either.
I strongly disagree, Shlomo Sand is a charlatan and has no clue about the History of Jews. Let me give you just one example. He declares that the Jiddish language has a slavic structure. I have asked a fellow who thought at Oxford Jiddish and he told me, what I knew, that the structure is based on the German spoken in early Middle Age in the Rhineland.
I made an interview with Israeli Historian Yoav Gelber last October and quote from it:
Karl Pfeifer: Why is the market flooded with non-serious books about Jews, Israel and the conflict, for example the book of Shlomo Sand about the invention of the Jewish people. Sand is a specialist on French cinema and modern French History, what does he know about the Jewish people?
Yoav Gelber: Not much, but he has an opinion. (…) But let’s go back to your example, which is a good one. He and his like are hardly considered in Israel and are very successful abroad. What is the basis for their success? They write provocatively, and I do not mean their ideology. I like to read what they write, and they write the right thing according to what this part of the audience believes. But many people, including in Israel are first impressed by the style, the language, the originality, the provocation in the book. Historians appreciate a book about its security, its sources, its innovation. Sand did not innovate anything. His arguments are old. But for the non-professional audience it is an attractive book. Historians ignore it. And it is the same with others.
Even the German SPIEGEL has an article on the “new” theory by Elhaik:
I find it starnge that so much time and energy is expended on this …
The Shlomo Sand book “The Invention of the Jewish People” is a provocative read, but the author bases almost all of his references to the Khazars on Arthur Koestler’s book about Khazars “The Thirteenth Tribe.” Koestler – born in Budapest in 1905 and moved to Vienna in response to the White Terror in 1920 – was a great essayist, but he was not in any sense a trained historian – “The Thirteenth Tribe” carries no explanatory footnotes or bibliography. Koestler was simply pasting a collage of hearsay, responses to antisemitic diatribes, library reading and personal opinion into a readable best seller. Koestler was definitely aware of the use of the term “Khazar” in Hungary to refer to “non-native” Jews, primarily Yiddish speakers from Galicia. In 1901, Miklós Bartha published a book ‘Kazár Földön’ “In the Land of the Khazars”that still shows up in reprint on tables selling nationalist literature.
The Khazars have been studied extensively by non-Hungarian sources. It is likely that only the ruling strata actually converted to Judaism (as an alternative to making a political and economic commitment to either Islam or Christianity in the 8th century) As for their language, it was definitely Turkic, probably close to Old Bulgar Turkish (and its modern successor, Chuvash) and it is possible that the Turkic language spoken by Crimean Jews (Krymchak – now nearly extinct as a language) may have originated with the Khazars but today it is essentially the same Oguz Turkic dialect once spoken by the Cumans and a strata of Crimean Tatars. About 500 Karaite Jews (who follow a branch of non-Talmudic Judaism) still speak a Judeo-Turkic language in two towns in Lithuania and Poland, but it would be impossible to say that they are “direct descendants’ of the Khazars.
Yiddish has no real Turkic substrate apart from a few terms adopted via Ottoman Turkish (including “pastrami” from “bastirma” via Romanian ‘pastrama” and “karpuz” ‘watermelon’) but it definitely derives from Rhineland (Trier) middle German and most scholars assume that it moved eastward along the Danube valley as Jews fled the anti-Jewish violence unleashed during the First crusades. East European dialects of Yiddish do show a strong influence from Slavic languages in both vocabulary and word order (“take” – ‘really’) which is sometimes interpreted as a Germanic language taking precedence among a Slavic speaking Jewish population that may well have been comprised of former Jewish Khazars who had (like so many other Steppe peoples) assimilated linguistically (‘relexified’) in response to changing populations around them. http://www.nytimes.com/1996/10/29/science/scholars-debate-roots-of-yiddish-migration-of-jews.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm
For a better popular analysis of Yiddish origins, Prof. Dovid Katz’ recent book “Words on Fire. The Unfinished Story of Yiddish” http://www.amazon.com/Words-Fire-Unfinished-Story-Yiddish/dp/0465037305
provides a clear linguistic history of Yiddish, or you can peruse his writings at http://www.dovidkatz.net/dovid/dovid_linguistics.htm
Key findings of various scientific studies:
The main ethnic element of Ashkenazim (German and Eastern European Jews), Sephardim (Spanish and Portuguese Jews), Mizrakhim (Middle Eastern Jews), Juhurim (Mountain Jews of the Caucasus), Italqim (Italian Jews), and most other modern Jewish populations of the world is Israelite. The Israelite haplotypes fall into Y-DNA haplogroups J and E.
Ashkenazim also descend, in a smaller way, from European peoples from the northern Mediterranean region and even less from Slavs and Khazars. The non-Israelite Y-DNA haplogroups include Q1b1a (typically Central Asian) and R1a1 (typically Eastern European but the most common Ashkenazic variant comes from somewhere in Asia, probably Central Asia).
Dutch Jews from the Netherlands also descend from northwestern Europeans.
Sephardim also descend, in a smaller way, from various non-Israelite peoples.
Georgian Jews (Gruzinim) are a mix of Georgians and Israelites.
Yemenite Jews (Temanim) are a mix of Yemenite Arabs and Israelites.
Moroccan Jews, Algerian Jews, and Tunisian Jews are mainly Israelites.
Libyan Jews are mainly Israelites who may have mixed somewhat with Berbers.
Ethiopian Jews are almost exclusively Ethiopian, with little or no Israelite ancestry.
Bene Israel Jews and Cochin Jews of India have much Indian ancestry in their mtDNA.
Palestinian Arabs are probably partly Israelite.
The Cohen Modal Haplotype is found among many Jewish populations of the world, including Ashkenazim, Sephardim, and the Bene Israel of India.
The Cohen Modal Haplotype, which belongs to haplogroup J, was a component of the ancient Israelite population, and especially common among the Cohens (priests of the Temple in Jerusalem).
The Cohen Modal Haplotype is not exclusively found among Jews, but rather is also found among Kurds, Armenians, Italians, Palestinian Arabs, and a few other peoples.
About half of Ashkenazic Levites possess Eastern European non-Israelite haplotypes belonging to the R1a1 haplogroup. This is almost never found among Sephardic Levites, and may have been introduced into the Ashkenazic Levite lines by Slavs or Khazars who converted to Judaism.
The 185delAG breast cancer mutation is found among both Ashkenazim and Moroccan Jews.
A mutation causing Factor XI Deficiency is found among both Ashkenazim and Iraqi Jews.
One form of the gene causing Familial Mediterranean Fever is found among Ashkenazim, Iraqi Jews, Druzes, and Armenians. Another form of the gene is found among Iraqi Jews, North African Jews, and Armenians. Some Sephardim, Arabs, and Anatolian Turks also have the gene.
Gaucher Disease is found among both Ashkenazim and some Europeans.
The mutation DFNB1, which causes deafness, is found among both Ashkenazim and Palestinian Arabs.
The mutation G2019S sometimes associated with Parkinson’s Disease is found among both Ashkenazim and Arabs.
I1307K, an allele that causes Colorectal Cancer, is found among Ashkenazim, Sephardim, and Arabs.
The pemphigus MHC susceptibility gene is found among both Ashkenazim and Iranians.
The protective CCR5-D32 allele may have been introduced into the Ashkenazic population by Khazars.
Samaritans are descended from Israelite men and Assyrian women.
Those Lembas who possess the Cohen Modal Haplotype have Middle Eastern ancestry, possibly Jewish Cohen. The Buba clan is especially Middle Eastern in its paternal DNA.
Many Spanish-speaking Latinos of the American Southwest are descended from Anusim (Spanish Jews who were forced to convert to Catholicism).
The Mizo people of northeastern India, the self-styled “B’nei Menashe”, have no proven genetic connection to the Israelites.
As you can see, the genetic situation is complex. On the other hand, we are all emigrants from Africa, with a little admixture from the Neanderthals, who had come out of Africa too, just earlier.
At a cultural level, the Palestinian Arabs show their rear end towards the former Temple of Jerusalem when pray on the Temple Mount – they pray towards Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Their graves are also directed towards Mecca.
Jews, on the other hand, pray towards the former Temple of Jerusalem and their graves show that direction too.
I thought Hungarians came from outer space and flew down here in a gigantic flying saucer shaped like the Holy Crown.
I am supporting Karl Pfeifer on Shlomo Sand. Sand could find decency and exercise a fast retrieval. We are waiting.
All people could unite in a noble effort to seek the positive in our common history.
Humanity could celebrate the achievements of the others, and each of us should regret the sins, our ancient ancestors committed in their immoral moments.
Unfortunately, the entire question of the connection between the Altaic (Turkish, Mongolian, Tunguz, etc) and Uralic languages (like Hungarian) is so over-politicized (by both sides, actually), and has been for years, that it is hard to see when if ever it will get a fair hearing. That there are significant Altaic influences on Hungarian (both lexically and in terms of morphology) to me seems indisputable. The question of whether this occured through areal contact or if there is some kind of a typological relation is moot. Sadly, certain right-wing parties, determined to emphasize “our” Asian ancestry at all costs, carry the Altaic-Uralic hypothesis to ridiculous extremes, which then leads to a predictable reaction on that part of the left of denying any Altaic influence whatsoever.
To me the Kazar idea sounds plausible (it was not juct that Koestler found this out, it was plausible to him). It is much more plausible to imagine that a tribe wich lived in the area became Jewish (somewhat similarly to the Szombatisták, Sabbathists among the Székelys in Transsylvania, although they, as a relighion and identiy, sort of died out by the 19th century) than to imagine that people from Palestine actually moved (all through the Kaukasian mountains) to what is now Eastern Europe and they became the Ashekanzis. if that is supported by genetic research, it is even more plausible. Komoroczy may have to rewritre the next edition.
I also recommend this post by Nicholas Nasseem Taleb (as well as the comments, some of which don’t appear initially, only after clicking to all previous comments command).
about the possible connection between Phoenicians and Sephardic Jews.
They were actually Szombatosok (as opposed to Szombatistak, who I think are Adventists). Some of them existed up to the Holocaust, when they were all deported with the Jews to Auschwitz and murdered.
@hongorma: “…the entire question of the connection between the Altaic (Turkish, Mongolian, Tunguz, etc) and Uralic languages (like Hungarian) is so over-politicized (by both sides, actually), and has been for years…”
Only amongst ignorant politicians with an axe to grind. I think you’ll find real linguists really don’t give a damn which political ideology is supported, they only care about the data. On a day-to-day basis they have to put up with so many misguided, ill-informed opinions from journalists, politicians, the great unwashed and the media that they simply stay out of all that; as much as is humanly possible.
Having said that, here in Hungary, with Fidesz now financiing an alternative to the National Ethnographic museum, we may well see some researchers keen to establish links. Good luck to them. Whatever is unearthed will have to be scientific and bear the objective strutiny of other linguists internationally.
And when you say that Hungarian has come under Turkic influence, well of course it has. The question is where does the language come from, when and what form of influence (the ancestors of Turks and Hungarians have crossed each others paths many times). I’d recommend re-reading Nádasdy Ádám’s article “A gonosz Budenz” http://seas3.elte.hu/delg/publications/modern_talking/a-gonosz-budenz.html or the commentary given on this blog “József Budenz, the evil” https://hungarianspectrum.wordpress.com/2010/05/02/jozsef-budenz-the-evil/
I buy and read pretty much any book published on Hungarian-Turkish links, so would welcome any suggested reading matter; whether, linguistic, political, sociological, travel etc… doesn’t matter.
One of my favourites is Pusztay János’s “Az ‘ugor-török háború’ után” (1977, Magvető). It’s light reading, but has a useful outline of some of the historical speculations for the origin of the Hungarian language. Without spewing the whole lot out here, it notes that both Geleji Katona Isztván’s work “Magyar Grammatikátska” (1645) and Komáromi Csipkés György’s “Hungaria Illustrata (1655) believed that Hungarian was an Eastern isolate that could only be compared with the language of the Jews, having come into being after the fall of Babel.
Skipping lots in between to get closer to Budenz’s time, 1825 sees Horváth István (who was working as a historian in the Széchényi Library) writing the marvellously and unintentionally witty ‘Sketches from the History of the Hungarian People’ (“Rajzolatok a Magyar Nép Történetéből”). He ‘reasoned’ that Hungarians are the oldest people on earth and that all other peoples derive from them. The proof is clearly give in the bible. Adam is none other than ‘Ad-ám’ (ti. almát Évának). Babilon is no other than Bábolna, Karthágó = Kard-hágó… and it goes on.
Then there was Táncsics Mihály (likely to be of Croat descent as Tančić Mihalj) who went even further arguing that the very root of language ushers from the incipient breath of the magyar tongue. The very shape of the first sound ‘a’ leading first to ‘arra’, ‘abba’… The meaning of the ‘b’ led first to that of ‘be’, ‘bele’… In this way the first word was ‘ab’ from which we have abált (szalonna), abrak, bab… but also the German Abendessen etc… Definitely food for thought, no?
Let’s not forget Petőcz Mihál’s deranged “Old Hungarian words” (“Regi magyar szavak”) in which Barcelona = Árcsa-hona (azaz a tengerár és a sok templom városa) and Spain itself nothing more than Kisbánság etc….
Finally, there is the work of Markos Gyula, from the second decade of the 20th Century. In his work of 1919 he proposed that the Ursprasche, the lost language spoken in Eden/Paradise, was none other than…. you guessed it… Hungarian! Who would have thought? He managed to find around 6,000 words from the bible that are, in fact, Hungarian words, including the three names the ultimate deity is referred to as in Hebrew (Elohim, Jahve, Adonáj). Elohim = Élő hím, Jahve = Jó java, Adonáj is a reduction of ‘ata nao jó’ which is ‘Nagyon jó Atya’… You get the idea. But he wasn’t happy with leaving things there, oh no. According to him Greek is stuffed full of Hungarian words. The all embracing cosmos itself is Hungarian, as clearly kozmosz came from közmű. Hungarians are the patriarchs of democracy, as demokrata = tömeg akarata (szerinti).
Them aside, more recently we have had Sára Péter’s “A magyar nyelv eredetéről másképpen: magyar-török rokon szavak, szókapcsolatok” (1995, Arculat). This is a quite extraordinary alternative etymological dictionary for the Hungarian language trying to find all sorts of relationships to modern day Turkish. As with all the other depressing theories, it relies purely on surface features of the language, sound similarities and doesn’t even attempt to understand the history of either language.
So @hongorma, I ask you, if you know of any research in English, Hungarian, Turkish or French (I’m presuming there’s nothing in Irish) that I should read, please just send me the references and I will definitely read them. If they are in another language, don’t let that hold you back, I’ll have a friend digest them for me and give me a synopsis of the main points – or I’m sure other people here would also read them. I’m grappling with Spanish, so I’d welcome anything from such sources.
Alternately, if you can point out what specific features of either language that you were refering to: what similarities? Specifically what influence, when, how and why.
On a personal level, I only bothered to start learning Turkish due to its similarity to Hungarian. The similarities are striking and did help make the language somewhat predictable.
– Let alone, that so far the origin of the Hungarians hasn’t been conclusively proven one way or the other, so any claim that we are ‘different’ from the Jewish quite fictitious in my point of view: we don’t know, who we are really, could be anyone just as well.
A story I read a few decades ago: someone has been granted emigration to Israel after WWII on ground that his father(!) was unknown, so, he may even have been Jewish… We don’t know either, do we?
If I am at it: I demand a through research in order to clarify the true origin of the Turul!
I couldn’t sleep quite well ever since it occurred to me, that – ohmigod – even the bird could have a Semitic origin! And I don’t mean the beak, I mean,isn’t it originates from the Khazar-area too?
The greatest identity crisis you have ever seen in the making, folks!
This is surely interesting – but is it really important ?
For me as a scientist (retired …) another question comes to mind ?
Why were there so many Jewish Hungarian scientists and mathematicians ?
And then of course: Why did most of them have to leave Hungary to get a career and recognition ?
PS: Just read something about Polya, one of the great mathematical minds, that’s one reason why I’m asking …
One of the reasons was the Numerus Clausus in Hungary 1920 – 1945.
By the way during the Kádárregime, there were, so I am told, two chairs of mathematics, a Jewish one and a Non-Jewish one.
I am reading Eran Elhaik’s article that you can download from
He used the DNA samples of an Estonian scientist.
How did that scientist obtain the samples? Why didn’t
Mr Elhaik obtain samples himself?
Elhaik actually argues for the Caucasian, especially Armenian origin of the Eastern European Jews. On the other hand, he plots the origin of Jews into Northeastern Turkey in Figure 4.
[That area was never part of Khazaria – let me remark]
Since he thinks that Israeli Druze also came from Eastern Turkey, Jews and Druze are also brothers.
Well, then Hungarians are really close to Jews: think of the abducted Ossetian asszonyok and the loan words from the Caucasus like hid = bridge.
Let me add that most people were kóbor or kósza (nomadic wanderers) in the steppe, independently of their genetic or linguistic origin, so they were called Kabar or Khazar, later Kazakh or Cossack.
Three articles that criticize Elhaik’s:
Thank you for this very good article.
Read also this abstract:
Comparison of maternal lineage and biogeographic analyses of ancient and modern Hungarian populations.
Maybe one can draw some common conclusions from the two.
Over-politicized by both sides? As a Finno-Ugric linguist, I don’t quite understand. No serious Finno-Ugric linguist I know has ever tried to deny or downplay the massive influence that diverse Turkic languages have had on Hungarian, and I don’t understand how the Finno-Ugric relatedness could be politicised in any serious way. (I don’t see any Hungarian politicians pushing Hungary towards stronger contacts with Finland and Estonia, for instance, or publicly criticising the way Russia treats its Finno-Ugric (and other) minorities.)
The question of the connection between “Altaic” (as far as I know, most linguists of today don’t believe that a genetic connection between the so-called Altaic language groups has been or can be really verified) and Uralic has been subject to intensive research, not only in Hungary, and there are no serious unsolved issues. Everybody agrees that there is a typological similarity (which some linguists have tried to explain by presuming ancient contacts between proto-languages), that is, these language families (along with quite a few others) happen to belong to the same structure type. And everybody agrees that the Turkic languages have had a deep impact on Hungarian.
The real problem, in my view, is that historical linguistics can be “poltiicised” by naïve nationalist laymen, for a certain reason: Historical-comparative linguists works with something like “pure lineages”. Influences from other languages are not denied or downplayed, but they are held conceptually and methodologically distinct from inherited elements and structures. Unlike in genetics – our genes get mixed in every generation, and every nation is a mixture of various populations – languages normally don’t “get mixed”: you either “inherit” the whole language or you don’t. This, sadly enough, is the wet dream of a naïve nationalist: if we identify “language” and “nation”, we can pinpoint the One and Only Origin of our nation and go on believing that our nation has “always” existed as an organic whole.
For everybody who reads Hungarian, Klára Sándor’s book “Nyelvrokonság és hunhagyomány” is warmly recommended. My two cents: http://homepage.univie.ac.at/johanna.laakso/wonderbugs.html
And English “see you” is from hungarian “sija” (sorry I don´t know writing of sija)- it was information what I obtained by one student of Hunagarian origin in Slovakia.
Hungarians invented everything!
‘See you’ simply means ‘see you’ – it’s plain, straightforward, very easily understood, English (as in ‘See you later, Alligator’!) It isn’t “from” anywhere, it’s just English.
Whereas ‘szia’ is a relatively recent form of informal Hungarian address, said to be a shortened version of ‘szervusz’ (which in turn was a Magyorisation of the Latin phrase ‘servus humillimus’ – your humble servant).
If anything, the popularity of ‘szia’ (it has become ubiquitous in recent years) is quite likely down to the fact that it sounds like the English/American ‘see ya’.
How on earth did you read that into what I wrote? (And that applies to both versions of your post!)
What a fascinating thread (now I’ve had the time to read it properly) – HS at it’s best. In particular the contributions from Bob Cohen, tappanch (as always), Vándorló and Karl Pfeifer (by no means an exclusive list of names). There is so much of interest in some of these posts that it’s going to take me several readings to digest them.
But, sadly, the outcome of all this is that I am even more confused about how the European Jews got there (and why) than I was before. As for the debate about where the Hungarian language came from and its relationship to other languages, I am so confused that I am inclining towards Pibroch’s ‘Holy Crown shaped flying saucer’ idea – it has, at least, the virtue of simplicity…
One thing that did strike me though is the notion of trying to ‘prove’ a language’s origin by the number of loan words from other languages. This strikes me as of probably very little use, as any language in close contact with many others (e.g. Hungarian or English) will be full of a huge number of loan words from many other languages. I once read that there are actually very few (5% or less?) genuine Hungarian words in Hungarian, even many ‘basic’ words turn out to be borrowed.
And, in the case of English, you could ‘prove’ all sorts of origin theories on the basis of loan words – e.g. it ‘obviously’ developed from French or Latin. I was once told quite seriously by someone that English was a corrupted form of Latin, bequeathed to us by the Romans during their occupation, and you could tell this because of the many Latin words in English. I pointed out that you could ‘prove’ a Greek origin of the language using the same theory (this didn’t go down too well). We even have loan words from Russian, Japanese, and (of course) Hungarian.
Returning to the the Jews, I was struck by a phrase of Sandor’s: “Behind the historical workmanship also lurks the intention of the author to boost the case of the Palestinians and their claim for the land of Israel.” Surely the Palestinians claim for “the land of Israel” is based quite simply on the fact that they happen to have lived there for thousands of years? (Although, of course, all they ‘claim’ these days is the part of it left them by the 1967 cease-fire.)
And English “see you” is from hungarian “sija” (sorry I don´t know writing of sija)- it was information what I obtained by one student of Hunagarian origin in Slovakia.
So a student of Hunagarian (sic) origin in Slovakia – is an expert in English etymology?
I’m afraid your example is a ludicrous, unbelievable and a preposterous suggestion – not worthy of the Hungarian Spectrum community..
Paul has it right.
So the whole declension of the English verb ‘to see’ emanates from ‘sija’? And where for goodness sake does the pronoun ‘you’ (pronounced in the cockney form ‘ya’) crash the scene?
Ed I have dignified your idiocy with a response – idiot that I am.
You’re pulling our plonker.
For Charlie and Paul and others. Information about szia was the example of stupid informations of some people who are expert in all branches. My sample is real. It is sample of un-critical thinking. We have also “great expert” in Slovakia. But I don´t like stupid people who don´t change opinion what is incorrect. The aim was not to insult you. Sorry for my english.
Ah! Sorry! Ed
If I understand you correctly you were being ironic? That so-called ‘experts’ are not only to be found in Hungary – but Slovakia too?
Ok – if so, I owe you an apology – Sorry!
(And your English is much much better than my Hungarian – so no apology needed.)
Don’t let it stop you you contributing here either!
@Charlie and Ed:
Now I feel really smug and proud – because I immediately saw that Ed was being sarcastic …
Welcome Ed to this “forum” or (depending on whom you ask …) band of “Red Eva’s Acolytes”!
A very interesting discussion again started by Eva’s post – though sometimes really sad …
Totally OT, but still …
Did anyone watch Obama’s inauguration speech ?
He even uses the word “gay” – he must be one of those Liberals, so dreaded by Fidesz etc …
Yes, I did. I think that he decided that in his second term he will be able to stand up for those principals he holds.
Wolfi wrote: “He even uses the word “gay” – he must be one of those Liberals, so dreaded by Fidesz etc …” Although FIDESZ is happy to hire the conservative political consultant Arthur J. Finkelstein, who is in a legal domestic partnership with his male partner of some 40 years. FIDESZ is not a conservative party, and the leadership really can care less about such issues. It is a power and kleptocracy party, willing to use any populist issue in its platform to insure that power and access to the Hungarian people’s wealth.
I heard/read this also:
He doesn’t have to factor in a reelection – so he might start the projects where a large minority of the US start foaming at the mouth …
Maybe (I really hope) he can work something out re Obamacare, gun control, war (not only on drugs …), sexual equality and so on …
Hey, it’s good to be an optimist again!
Although I’m still pessimistic regarding Hungarian politics – I fear it will take longer to get rid of Fidesz and their idiotic ideas/laws/personnel …
wolfi: Totally OT, but still …
Did anyone watch Obama’s inauguration speech ?
Yes, Obama is fantastic. His language is almost Shakespearean. Alas, we will never see him on the scene as Othello.
You’re sharp…….but not too sharp!!
I sincerely hope this was meant as a compliment!
Just saw on the Hungarian news:
“The head of Hungary’s public media fund MTVA presented a new rendering of the national anthem in digital format to representatives of Hungarian primary schools both in the country and across the borders”
Those very nice packages of CDs and DVDs must have cost (i e made someone …) a fortune – you could download them from a server for free – but Fidesz calls CDs “High Tech” …
These guys are so unbelievably stupid/funny/narrow minded …
I hope someone will throw it up on youtube. Fidesz is so out of touch, that even the million dollar PR specialist from London and the even more expensive PR men from the USA were not able to teach them the meaning of file sharing. No kidding they have to spend the money on specialists and their “high-end” people belong to such a lame talent pool.
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