Page:A history of Hungarian literature.djvu/17

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II

THE HUNGARIAN LANGUAGE

In studying a literature it is necessary to give some consideration to the language in which it is written.

At a first glance, Hungarian seems as much a stranger among all the other European languages, as the erratic blocks of the geologist amidst their foreign surroundings. It is not related to the language of any neighbouring nation, either Russian, German, or Wallachian. It is true we may find in it fragments from all these ; the Hungarian word harcz (battle), for instance, is identical with the German Hatz; fogoly with Vogel. There are numerous Slavish words — király (king) — kral; and Latin ones as well — muzsikamusica. All these, however, are evidently borrowed words.

The origin of Hungarian has often been discussed by philologists ; some thought it was derived from Hebrew ; others that it was of Slavish origin ; while some regarded it as an ancient speech having no relatives among modern tongues.

In the eighteenth century, however, an incident occurred which suddenly threw a ray of light upon the subject. In 1769 a Hungarian astronomer, a Jesuit, John Sajnovics, went to the north of Europe to observe the Transit of Venus. At Vardö, on the extreme north coast of Norway, he saw a great deal of the Laplanders