Old Hungarian script

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Old Hungarian
Type: Alphabet
Languages: Hungarian language
Time period: c. 550–1850
Unicode range: Not in Unicode (see proposal)
ISO 15924 code: Hung
Hungarian language
Alphabet, including ő ű and
cs dz dzs gy ly ny sz ty zs
Phonetics and phonology
Vowel harmony
Grammar, including
noun phrases and verbs
T-V distinction
Regulatory body
Tongue-twisters
English words from Hungarian
Hungarian pronunciation of E.
Hungarian name
Old Hungarian script (runes)
edit

Hungarian Runes (Hungarian: rovásírás, székely rovásírás (listen ) or simply rovás) is a type of runic writing system used by the Magyars (mainly by Székely Magyars) prior to AD 1000. The name rovás comes from the Hungarian word for "carving," <ref>Literally, rovás means "score". It derives from the verb , English "to carve, to score".</ref> since the letters were usually carved on wood or sticks.

The first Christian king of Hungary, St. Stephen I ordered that all traditional writings be destroyed and that the Latin alphabet be adopted. However, the Székely script remained in use in remote regions of Transylvania until the late 1850s. A very similar script was reportedly used by the Huns.

In some respects, this writing system is more suitable for writing Hungarian than the Latin alphabet, because it includes letters for all the phonemes of the Hungarian language, such as cs, gy, ly, ny, ö, sz, ty, ü, zs. Note that the rovásírás alphabet does not contain the letters for the phonemes dz, dzs, q, w, x and y of the modern Hungarian alphabet — the first five of these appear in words of foreign origin only, while y is only used in digraphs (and certain family names).

Contents

[edit] History

[edit] Early period, 600 – 896

Around 600 AD, the Hungarian tribes were forced to move southwest from their earlier territories into Khazaria. The Hungarian Runes are almost certainly related to the Orkhon or Turkic Runic script. This is supported by the Hungarian tribes' early geography propinquity to the Gokturks. Moreover, thirteen of the Hungarian rovás glyphs closely resemble characters of the Orkhon script. The additional characters were Hungarian developments rather than borrowings. The Hungarian Runic script is not directly related to Germanic Runes: the only tie between them is that both derive from the Phoenician alphabet.

The origins of the Hungarian runes are also demonstrated by the genealogy of the Hungarian words for 'letter' (betű), 'to write' (ír) and 'stamp' (bélyeg): all derive from a Turkic language. The word rovás, the name for this kind of writing, interestingly, derives from the verb ró (to carve) which is derived from old Finno-Ugric.

Around 830, after living for 230 years in Khazaria, the Hungarians moved westwards, to Etelköz (the land of present-day Moldavia). Off here, they descried the Carpathian Basin. In 896, because of external pressures, they left behind Etelköz and conquered the territory of present-day Hungary.

[edit] Later Middle Ages, 896 – 1526

Image:Nikolsburg abc.gif
The alphabet of Nikolsburg

The century after 896 showed the era of the emerging of the Hungarian State. The seven Hungarian (and three soon assimilated Kabar) tribes formed smaller principalities, which were slackly tied with each other. There are archeological findings from the 10th century, for example, from Homokmégy. The latter inscription was found on a fragment of a quiver made of bone. Although there were several attempts to interpret it, the meaning of it is still unclear; a possible translation is "Win with the quiver of ten arrows." Finally, these smaller units (the tribal principalities) procreated the Principality of Hungary, which, in 1000, with the coronation of Stephen I of Hungary, evolved to the Kingdom of Hungary. The Latin alphabet was adopted as the official one, however, the rovásírás remained in use for a long time then.

The runic script was first mentioned in the 13th century chronicle of Simon of Kéza, where he stated that the Székelys and the Vlachs (Romanians) used their script. The earliest surviving copy of the actual alphabet is an incunabulum from 1483, found at the library of the castle of Nikolsburg, now Mikulov in Moravia. This alphabet lists 35 letters and 15 ligatures with latin transcriptions.

[edit] The period between 1526 – 1850

In 1526, Hungary lost the Battle of Mohács against Ottomans. This led to the partition of tke kingdom: the western and northern parts remained in Royal Hungary, the southern parts were occupied by the Ottoman Empire, and the eastern portion became independent. The latter, notably the Principality of Transylvania favoured the Hungarian culture.

Image:Enlaka rovas inscription.jpg
The Énlaka Inscription, 1668

The letters were not used furthermore in the way as previously, but it became the part of folk art in serveral areas. Thus, the corpus of the Hungarian runes became more voluminous at the time. In 1598, János Telegdi wrote his primer, "Rudimenta Priscae Hunnorum Linguae", where he concluses his knowledge about the rovás. It also contains Hungarian texts written with runes, for example, the Lord's Prayer. In Royal Hungary, rovás activity was fairly less, although there are relics from this territory, too.

There is another copy of the rovás alphabet, dated back to 1609. The inscription from Énlaka, dated to 1668, reads the following: "God is one. Georgius Musnai deacon.". Dated to 1686, the Kingdom of Hungary regained the territories which she lost in 1526. In the era, several other runic inscriptions were inscribed: for example, the inscriptions of Kibéd, Csejd, Makfalva, Szokolma, Marosvásárhely, Csíkrákos, Mezőkeresztes, Nagybánya, Torda, Kecskemét and Kiskunhalas, all ranging from the 17th to the early 19th century.

After 1850, with the spread of modern education, the Hungarian runic writing turned subsidiary, and its importance decreased to a minimal level.

[edit] 20th century: the era of research

[edit] Today

Though the runic script is no longer in practical use, Hungarians treasure it — especially the Hungarians of Transylvania. The worldwide Hungarian Scout organisations are still teaching it today. There are contemporary efforts to promote it to youth. The runic script does not have its own code page, and it is not coded in Unicode either.<ref name="Unicode">It is proposed that the "old Hungarian script" will be added to the Unicode Standard. See Michael Everson's discussion and proposal. </ref>However, there are some fonts which contain Hungarian Runic characters. Because of the lack of capital letters, they can be written by simply pressing the specific key. Characters for gy, ty, sz, etc. can be written with the use of shift key.<ref name="rovfont">Download the Rovás standard font</ref>

The runes sometimes also have a political undertone, as they are used by far-right groups in their propaganda or graffiti across Hungary.[citation needed]

[edit] Variants

There are two variants of the script, the Székely runes and the pálos (Pauline) runes. The Pauline runes have been discovered only recently. Mediaeval texts mention only the Székely variant, thus previous scholars only recognized this one. Nowadays experts agree that there are two variants.

[edit] The Székely runes

[edit] History

"Old Hungarian script" often means this variant, however, it is not the only one Hungarian runic script. The first Christian king, Saint Stephen banned the runic script when he became the king of Hungary in 1000 – but among the Székelys (a Magyar group in Transylvania) the script remained in constant use, as there are many well dated relics from these times. From the late 13th century (when the Árpád dynasty became extinct) both runic scripts were used. In the court of the great Hungarian Renaissance ruler, King Matthias, the runic script was in fashion.

During the Turkish wars in Hungary (dated from the Battle of Mohács in 1526), an independent Hungarian state, the Transylvanian Principality was formed. Here, while the Latin alphabet remained the official one, the use of the runes was customary among the Székely commons.<ref>J. Telegdi: Rudimenta, 1598. (more)</ref>

This variant was still used in the late 1850s, but with the spread of education, it turned subsidiary.

[edit] Characters

The runic alphabet includes 42 runes.<ref>The letters may vary, but every style is almost the same.</ref> Some consonants have two forms, for example, aS and eS. The 'a' form should be written after vowels a, á, o, ó, u, ú, while the 'e' form after e, ë, é, i, í, ö, ő, ü, ű.
To gather information about the transliteration's pronunciation, see Hungarian alphabet.

Image:Hun rovas alphabet.PNG

Hungarian runes are also comprise some non-alphabetical runes, which are not ligatures but separate signs. These are called capita dictionum. Further research is needed to define their origin, and traditional usage. Some examples:

Image:Hun rovas cd.PNG

[edit] Features

The Székely runic letters were usually written from right to left on sticks. Later, in Transylvania, they appeared on several spots. Writings on walls are also right to left and not boustrophedon style (alternating direction right to left and then left to right).

Image:Rovas szamok.gif
Hungarian numerals

The numbers are almost the same as the Roman, Etrusc, Chuvash numerals. Numbers of livestock were carved on sticks and the stick was then cut in two lengthwise to avoid later dispute.

  • Ligatures are common. (Note: the Hungarian runic script employed a number of ligatures. In some cases, an entire word was written with a single sign.)
  • There are no lower or upper case letters, but the first letter of a proper name was often written a bit larger.
  • The rovás did not always mark vowels. The rules for vowel inclusion were as follows:
    • If there are two vowels side by side, both have to be written, unless the second could be readily determined.
    • The vowels have to be written if their omission created ambiguity. (Example: krkImage:Rovasiras krk2.jpg can be interpreted as kerékImage:Rovasiras keerek.jpg [wheel] and kerekImage:Rovasiras kereek2.jpg [rounded], thus the writer had to include the vowels to differentiate the intended words.)
    • The vowel at the end of the word must be written.
  • Sometimes, especially when writing double consonants, a consonant was omitted.

[edit] Text example


Text from Csikszentmárton, 1501. Runes originally written as ligatures are underlined.

Interpretation in old Hungarian: "ÚRNaK SZÜLeTéSéTÜL FOGVÁN ÍRNaK eZeRÖTSZÁZeGY eSZTeNDŐBE MÁTYáS JÁNOS eSTYTáN KOVÁCS CSINÁLTáK MÁTYáSMeSTeR GeRGeLYMeSTeRCSINÁLTÁK G IJ A aS I LY LY LT A" (The letters actually written in the runic text are written with uppercase in the transcription.)

Interpretation in modern Hungarian: "(Ezt) az Úr születése utáni 1501. évben írták. Mátyás, János, István kovácsok csinálták. Mátyás mester (és) Gergely mester csinálták [uninterpretable]"

English translation: "(This) was written in the 1501st year of our Lord. The smiths Matthias, John (and) Stephen did (this). Master Matthias (and) Master Gergely did [uninterpretable]"


[edit] The Pauline runes

[edit] History

Knowledge about the Pauline runes is very deficient. This variant got its name from the Pauline order, the only monastic order founded in Hungary. This variant was used by the order and was written from left to right similar to the Latin script. The monks sometimes used this script in their correspondence, documentation, etc.

Several examples of this script variant were found in South American archives, since the monks worked as missionaries there after being invited by the kings of Spain and Portugal to help exploring the continent. The Pauline missionaries had good relations with the natives whom they even protected from the authorities. During this endeavour the Pauline monks used the Pauline Runic variant in their letters as a secret code, reporting home about atrocities committed by the Spaniards and the Portuguese against the natives.

[edit] Characters

As the knowledge is very deficient about the pauline runes, only some characters, for example:

Image:Pauline l.png Image:Pauline sz.png Image:Pauline t.PNG Image:Pauline szl.png
L SZ T SZL
(ligature)

[edit] Text example

This inscription can be found in the Cerro Pelado cavern, in Ecuador, South America. It was written around 1500.<ref name=Hosszu>According to Dr. Gábor Hosszú. See webpage: http://www.geocities.com/rovasiras.</ref>


Pauline runes from South America, ~1500.

Interpretation in Hungarian: "SZüLeTeTt : 1473". (see the key)

English translation: "Born in 1473".

[edit] Archeological findings

Rune relics exist all over the territory of the Kingdom of Hungary, from Transdanubia to Transylvania. Only some of these:

  1. A labeled crest etched into stone from Pécs, late 13th century (Label: aBA SZeNTjeI vaGYUNK aKI eSZTeR ANna erZSéBeT; We are the saints [nuns] of Aba; who are Esther, Anna and Elizabeth.) (photo)
  2. Runic stick calendar, around 1300, copied by Luigi Ferdinando Marsigli in 1690. It contains several feasts and names, thus it is one of the most extensive runic records.
  3. Nicholsburg alphabet
  4. Runic record in Istanbul, 1515.
  5. Very rare Pauline runes, Cerro Pelado cave, South America, around 1500 (See below)
  6. Székelyderzs: a brick with runic inscription, found in the Unitarian church
  7. Énlaka: runic inscription, discovered by Balázs Orbán in 1864. (photo)
  8. Székelydálya: runic inscription, found in the Calvinist church
  9. Pauline inscription from Felsőszemeréd (Horné Semerovce), Slovakia (1400s)
  10. A letter by missionary János Zakariás from Peru, Pauline runes
  11. The initials of a name from Makfalva (T. Sz.), 19th century

[edit] Gallery

[edit] Notes

<references />

[edit] References

  • (Hungarian) Antal Károly Fisher: Hun-magyar írás ("The Hun-Magyar Writing"), in: Heisler J. Könyvnyomdája, Budapest, 1889 (analyzes writings from 12 findings dated between 1501-1753)
  • (Hungarian) (English) Gábor Hosszú: Rovásírás
  • (German) Franz Babinger: "Ein schriftgeschictliches Rätsel", Keleti Szemle, 14, Budapest, 1913–1914.
  • (Hungarian) G. Nagy: "A székely irás eredete", Ethnographia, VI, 1895.
  • (Hungarian) J. Nemeth: "A régi magyar irás eredete", Nyelvtud Közlemények, 45, 1917.
  • (Hungarian) Gyula Sebestyén: A magyar rovásírás hiteles emlékei, Budapest, 1915.
  • (English) Dr. Edward D. Rockstein: "The Mystery of the Székely Runes", Epigraphic Society Occasional Papers, Vol. 19, 1990, pp. 176-183.
  • (Latin) J. Thelegdi: Rudimenta priscae Hunnorum linguae brevibus quaestionibus et responsionibus comprehensa, Batavia, 1598.

[edit] External links


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