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Hungarian researchers on Ob-Ugric languages

János Gulya

*1 February 1933 in Budapest.

After attending secondary school in Pécs, he studied at the Eötvös Lóránd University of Budapest in the years 1951 to 1955 with a major in teacher training (Hungarian). During this time, he discovered his interest for the Finno-Ugric languages, in particular for the Ob-Ugric languages and the history of science.
He wrote his master's thesis on attributive constructions in Khanty under Miklós Zsirai. In 1960, he finished his candidate's thesis on handwritten Mansi glossaries from the 18th century. From 1958 on, he has been a member of the Hungarian Linguistic Society. In 1975, he wrote his academic dissertation on Vakh Khanty sentence constructions.
His main organizational achievement was his key role in the 1st International Congress of Finno-Ugric Studies. He considered the familiarization of the Finno-Ugric languages and Finno-Ugric studies to the general public to be of great importance and in the course of his career he gave lectures on three continents to kindle an interest in these topics. He achieved his most notable results in the field of Ob-Ugric studies, in particular with regard to the Khanty language. In addition to the previously mentioned works, he has other noteworthy publications, such as collections of Mansi and Khanty folk-songs, treatises on the Vakh Khanty language and a dictionary of Old Mansi which is in preparation. Linked to his name is the publication of J. E. Fischer's hand-written work entitled Vocabularium Sibiricum and the edition of the German Petőfi anthology.

(Ádam Geiger; translated by Veronika Bauer)

Works (selection):

László Honti

*27 August 1943 in Lengyeltóti.

After finishing secondary school in Keszthely in 1961, he began his studies of Hungarian and Russian at the Eötvös Lóránd University in 1963. In 1965, he additionally selected Finno-Ugric studies. As a scholarship student he attended the universities in Turku and Helsinki. In the year 1969 he received his university diploma as a teacher of the Hungarian and Russian languages. In 1970, he obtained a degree in Finno-Ugric Linguistics. This was followed by a period as staff member at the Research Institute for Linguistics of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and later as head of this institute. In 1976, he defended his candidate´s dissertation, and in 1989 his academic doctoral thesis. From 1998 on, he was an associated member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences; since 2004, a corresponding member. Since 1976, he has worked as editor of the journal Nyelvtudományi Közlemények [Linguistic Communications] in various capacities, since 1998 as the head editor.
From 1988 to 1997 he was chair of the Finno-Ugric Institute of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. From 1997, he taught at the institute for general linguistics and classic philology of the University of Udine in Italy. Starting in 2008, he began to teach at the Institute of Hungarian Linguistics of the Gáspár Károli University of the Hungarian Reformed Church.
Within his research he has focussed on the description of the Ob-Ugric languages, expecially in a diachronic respect. The greater part of his publications deals with this topic. He has been awarded several prizes: in 1977, the Zoltán Gombocz commemorative medal, in 1977 as well as in 1982, the Academic Critical Niveau Prize, in 1993, he shared the Academy Prize and received the Bernát Munkácsi Prize in 2006.

(Varga Anette; translated by Veronika Bauer)


  • Article on Wikipedia "László Honti" (in Hungarian).
  • Works (selection):

    Pál Hunfalvy

    *12 March 1810 in Nagyszalók, † 30 November 1891 in Budapest.

    image Pál Hunfalvy He studied philosophy, law and theology in Miskolc and Késmárk. First he worked as a lawyer, then in 1842 he started to teach law at the college in Késmárk, becoming its director in 1846. In 1849 he started to learn the Finnish language.
    From 1851 till his death he worked as librarian at the MTA (Hungarian Academy of Sciences). In the years 1857/1858 he helped Antal Reguly to organize his collections of Mansi. It was he who encouraged József Budenz to move to Pest to study the Finno-Ugric languages. His active organizational work helped to establish the study of Uralic languages in Hungary, an important role being played by two journals, Magyar Nyelvészet and Nyelvtudományi Közlemények, started and edited by him. In the latter journal he published a Bible translation in the Konda Mansi dialect together with a glossary. He also took part in the so-called 'Ugrian-Turkic War'. Hunfalvy was one of the forerunners of ethno-linguistics in Hungary. He studied and popularized the literatures of the related peoples, especially those of the Mansi and Khanty peoples. He also studied the languages and dialects of these two peoples and managed Antal Reguly's linguistic legacy.

    (Horváth Ildikó; translated by Daniela Röll)


  • Article on Wikipedia "Hunfalvy Pál" (in Hungarian).
  • Article on "Hunfalvy (b. Hunsdorfer) Pál" (in Hungarian).
  • Article in "Österreichisches Biographisches Lexikon 1815–1950" (Vol. 3/11, 1961), p. 12): "Hunfalvy, Paul" (PDF, in German).
  • Article on "Castrén, Matthias Alexander" (in Hungarian).
  • His main works:

    Béla Kálmán

    *28 February 1913 in Lakompak (present-day Lackenbach, Austria), † 22 August 1997 in Budapest.

    image Béla Kálmán Kálmán started studying Hungarian language and literature as well as French at the Pázmány Péter University of Budapest in 1930. After studying in Estonia for a year he obtained a degree in Finno-Ugric linguistics.
    Kálmán started to work as a teacher in Érsekújvár (present-day Nové Zámky, Slovakia) but he was recruited by the army in 1944. Subsequently, he was a Russian prisoner-of-war for two and a half years. After returning home at the invitation of Miklós Zsirai, Kálmán started to work in Budapest as the dean’s secretary at the Faculty of Arts of Eötvös Loránd University. From 1949 on he worked at the Research Institute for Linguistics of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and was a member of the editorial board of the Atlas of Hungarian Dialects from its establishment in 1950.
    In 1952 he became the head of the Department of Finno-Ugric Linguistics at the Kossuth Lajos University of Debrecen. Between 1963 and 1964 he was a guest professor at the University of Helsinki and at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland. Kálmán was an external member of the Finnish Academy of Sciences.
    In 1970 he was honored with the insignia Cross of Merit of the Order of the Lion of Finland. He obtained the academic candidate’s degree in 1952 and an advanced doctoral degree in 1957 (Die Russischen Lehnwörter in Wogulischen). From 1973 he was a corresponding member and from 1982 a full member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.
    He was the head of the Summer University of Debrecen for almost twenty years. Between 1953 and 1980 he was the editor of Magyar Nyelvjárások (Hungarian Dialects), the periodical of the Department of Finno-Ugric Linguistics at the Lajos Kossuth University of Debrecen. Kálmán was a doctor honoris causa of the Lajos Kossuth University of Debrecen (1988) and professor emeritus (1994). He was also awarded the title 'Honored Citizen of Debrecen' (1994).
    The main fields of his research were: the Ob-Ugric languages, Hungarian dialects, onomastics. An important part of his scientific work was the publishing of Bernát Munkácsi’s linguistic materials.

    (Bernadett Bíró; translated by Veronika Bauer)

    His most notable publications are:

    Magdolna Sz. Kispál

    *30 May 1910 in Satu Mare/Szatmárnémeti, † 15 June 1984 in Den Haag.

    She studied at the Pázmány Péter University where she graduated with a teacher’s degree in Hungarian and German in 1933. After that she worked in Helsinki and in Tartu between 1933 and 1936. She taught at the University of Szeged from 1936 to 1941 and at the University of Cluj-Napoca from 1941 to 1948. Subsequently, she was active at the Finno-Ugric Department of the Eötvös Lóránd University from 1948 to 1974. In 1955 she defended her candidate´s dissertation, which dealt with the syntax of Mansi non-finite verbal forms. In 1938 she published a study on the designations of the times of the day (Napszakok nevei az ugor nyelvekben [Designations of the Times of the Day in the Ugric Languages]). She also dealt with the Mansi non-finite verb forms (A vogul igenevek mondatbeli szerepe [The Syntactic Role of Mansi Non-finite Verb Forms], 1966) as well as with an ancient stratum of Mansi proper names (Vizsgálódás a vogul személynevek egy ősi rétegében [Analysis of an ancient Stratum of Mansi Proper Names], 1970). In 1970, together with Henrietta F. Mészáros she edited a Northern Khanty Chrestomathy (Északi osztják chrestomathia, and later a Finnish textbook (Noronen Minne / Henrietta F. Mészáros / Magdolna Sz. Kispál: Finn nyelv [Finnish language]).

    (Varga Anette; translated by Gábor Fónyad)

    Works (selection):

    Bernát Munkácsi

    12 March 1860 in Nagyvárad, † 21 September 1937 in Budapest.

    image Bernát Munkácsi As a student at the Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, he was a pupil of Antal Reguly, Zsigmond Simonyi and Ármin Vambery. In 1880 he studied the villages and dialects of the Moldavian Csángós and with his work won the Sámuel Prize of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences). In 1885 he began a trip to the Udmurts to collect linguistic material and also collected material from the Simbrinsk Chuvash before returning home. From May 1888 to April 1889 he collected Mansi materials. With this journey he achieved an important result. He learned the Mansi language, became acquanited with Mansi culture which enabled him to understand the Mansi texts from Reguly's legacy. His Vogul népköltési Gyűjtemény (1892, 1892, 1893, 1896) was published in four volumes. (The accompanying volumes to two of them were published after Munkácsi's death by Béla Kálmán in 1952 and 1963.) In the Nyelvtudomány Közlemények he published sketches of six Mansi dialects.
    In 1890 he became a corresponding member of the MTA and also in the same year school inspector of the Budapest Jewish Community. In 1891 he was elected associated member of the Finno-Ugric Society, and in 1892 Vice President of the Society of Hungarian Folklore. In the years 1894-1910 he was the editor of the journal Ethnographia (from 1898 on together with Gyula Sebestyén). Together with Ignác Kunos he founded the magazine Keleti Szemle in 1900. In 1910 he was elected a full member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. During World War I, he gathered language and folklore materials from the Udmurt prisoners-of-war at the detention center in Esztergom. Béla Kálmán, using Munkácsi's legacy, published the Wogulisches Wörterbuch in 1986.

    (Hatvani Flóra; translated by Daniela Röll)


  • Article on Wikipedia "Munkácsi Bernát" (in Hungarian).
  • Article on "Munkácsi (Munk) Bernát" (in Hungarian).
  • His major works include:

    József Pápay

    *1 July 1873 in Nagyigmánd, † 9 June 1931 in Debrecen.

    image József Pápay In 1892 he enrolled at the University of Pest where he took up Hungarian and Finno-Ugric linguistics as his main subjects. He consciously prepared himself for a linguistic career: already at that point in time he declared his goal to be the decipherment of the material collected by Reguly. He finished the university in 1896, and in the following year – recommended by his teachers Zsigmond Simonyi and Pál Gyulai – he was allowed to take part in Earl Jenő Zichy's expedition to Asia.
    In December he arrived in Saint Petersburg from where he also went to Helsinki. In the spring of 1898 he went to Kazan where, amongst other things, he studied the Chuvash, Udmurt and Mari languages. In July he reached Samarovo and the Khanty people. Following Reguly's route, he journied on to Beryozovo and Obdorsk. Here, with the help of the local Khanty, he managed to decipher more of the heroic songs that Reguly had written down. After that he collected linguistic and ethnographic material in Northern Khanty settlements. In summer 1899 he came home to Budapest. From 1901 on he worked in the library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and edited the material he had collected. In 1905 his collection of Khanty folk poetry was published.
    In 1908 he became a corresponding member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. In the same year he began teaching at the Faculty of Arts of the Reformed College in Debrecen, and in 1914 he was nominated professor at the newly established Department for Hungarian and Finno-Ugric linguistics at the University of Debrecen which he was to head until his death. In addition to his teaching activities he attempted to process his Khanty material, which, however, was destined to remain a manuscript to be published posthumously.

    (Geiger Ádám; translated by Gábor Fónyad)


  • Article on Wikipedia "Pápay József (nyelvész)" (in Hungarian).
  • Article on "Pápay József" (in Hungarian).
  • The handwritten heritage of Pápay József in Debrecen (more about Pápay in Hungarian).
  • Some of his most significant works:

    Károly Rédei

    *11 April 1932 in Kiskanizsa, † 16 August 2008 in Budapest.

    image Károly Rédei

    He studied Hungarian language and literature as well as Finno-Ugric linguistics at the Eötvös Loránd University of Budapest under the guidance of Géza Bárczi, Dezső Pais, Miklós Zsirai and György Lakó between 1951 and 1955.
    Rédei carried out research among the Komis in 1964 and collected Northern Khanty texts and grammatical materials from the students of the Herzen University in Leningrad. This latter material was published in 1968 under the title "Nord-ostjakische Texte (Kayzm Dialekt) mit Skizze der Grammatik".
    From 1960 on, Rédei worked at the Department of Finno-Ugric Linguistics at the Research Institute for Linguistics of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and served as its head between 1967 and 1974. He was the co-editor of the etymological dictionary A magyar szókészlet finnugor elemei [Finno-Ugric Elements of the Hungarian Vocabulary] and was the technical editor of the periodical Nyelvtudományi Közlemények between 1961 and 1973 and then from 1974 to 1985 its editor-in-chief. His academic doctoral dissertation Die syrjänischen Lehnwörter im Wogulischen was published in 1970. As the chief editor Rédei headed the work on the Uralisches Etymologisches Wörterbuch during the 1970's and the 1980's. He contributed to the Osnovy finno-ugorskogo jazykoznanija (1974-1976), published in three volumes in Moscow.
    Rédei was given the title of honorary professor by the József Attila University of Szeged in 1971 and was then the head of the Finno-Ugric Institute of the University of Vienna from 1974 until his retirement.
    The main fields of his research were etymology, historical phonology, Permic and Ob-Ugric linguistics, connections among the Uralic languages, linguistic connections between the Uralic and the Turkic peoples and also between the Uralic peoples and Russians as well as ancient Uralic-Indo-European contacts
    In 1987/1988 he was the chairman of the Hungarian Linguistics Society. He was elected external member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in 1990, becoming in addition an honorary member of the Finno-Ugric Society of Helsinki. He was honored with the insignia Commander of the Order of the Lion of Finland, Award of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Dezső Pais Award and Bernát Munkácsi Award.

    (Hatvani Flóra; translated by Bernadett Bíró)


  • Article on Wikipedia "Rédei Károly" (in Hungarian).
  • Obituary for Károly Rédei by László Honti, published in Linguistica Uralica XLIV (2009/1) (PDF, in German).
  • Works (selection):

    Antal Reguly

    *11 July 1819 in Zirc, † 23 August 1858 in Buda.

    image Bernát Munkácsi He was the pioneer of Hungarian Ob-Ugric studies. He completed his academic studies in Győr and in Pest, obtaining a degree in law, but not completing a degree in linguistics. In 1839 he started out on a journey to Western Europe. In Stockholm he became acquainted with Arvidson, a royal librarian, who directed his attention to the Finnish-Hungarian linguistic relationship. He travelled to Finland, and during a long stay of one and a half years he familiarized himself with the Finnish, the Saami, and the Estonian languages. In 1841 he came to Saint Petersburg, and with the support of the local academic elite was able to begin his trip through Russia in 1843, during which he wanted to collect linguistic material. In the meantime he was nominated as corresponding member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.
    He reached the Ural Mountains crossing the Udmurt and the Bashkir language areas. In Vsevolodskoy he met Mansis for the first time from whom he noted a significant amount of material: songs, customs, and more than 5.000 words. He sought out the son of the last Konda Mansi prince who provided him with Mansi texts. From Tobolsk he traveled to the Konda Khanty – it seemed to him that the knowledge of their language would provide aid for a better understanding of the Mansi language. From here he went to the Pelym Mansis, staying at Pelym for some time in order to edit his material. From there he proceeded farther North towards the Sosva river, to Berezovo. He and his companions had to face serious challenges and pay a heavy price in order to reach the Sosva and the Sygva and Synya lands where he studied the language and the culture of the Northern Mansi. He was the first one to do this kind of exploration in this region.
    After this he turned his attention to the Khanty. In the autumn of 1844 he arrived in Obdorsk at the Ob River. Starting from here, he explored the delta region of the Ob and the northern part of the Ural Mountains while he continued collecting ethnographic material from the Khanty. Here it was especially the large amount of heroic poetry he collected that would prove to be of great significance. But then he was forced to break off his work, and in March 1845 he set off for Kazan. His health had changed for the worse, but not worrying about this he began an expedition again in autumn. In the Middle Volga region he continued collecting material among the Mordvins, and in November traveled in the country of the Chuvash. In August 1846 he returned to Saint Petersburg. Here he prepared his detailed map of the Northern Ural region. In September 1847 he returned to Hungary. Because of his illness he was unable to process his large volume of collected material, dying in 1858.

    (Geiger Ádám; translated by Gábor Fónyad)


  • Article on Wikipedia "Antal Reguly" (in German).
  • Article on Wikipedia "Reguly Antal" (in Hungarian).
  • Article on "Reguly Antal" (in Hungarian).
  • Article in КАК БЫЛИ ОТКРЫТЫ УРАЛЬСКИЕ ГОРЫ: "С берегов Дуная на север Уральских гор " (in Russian).
  • Éva Schmidt

    *28 June 1948 in Budapest, † 4 July 2002 in Khanty-Mansiysk.

    image Eva Schmidt After finishing a secondary school of visual arts, in 1967 she began her studies at the Eötvös Lóránd University, in 1973 she graduated with a degree in English, Ethnography, and Finno-Ugric Studies. At the same time she studied for two years (1969-1971) at the Department for Finno-Ugric Studies of the University of Leningrad. During this time she visited the Institute of the Peoples of the North at the Leningrad Herzen Pedagogical Institute repeatedly where she attanded Khanty and Mansi language lessons and became friends with the local students of Ob-Ugric Studies. Thanks to these circumstances she was able to travel to the Ob region, first to Tugiany in 1970 and then to Khanty-Mansiysk in 1971.
    By then, she had read all the literature on Ob-Ugric studies available in Hungary, making it easy for her to learn the various Khanty and Mansi dialects. From 1976 to 1979, she was a trainee at the Finno-Ugric Department of the University of Debrecen, and between 1979 and 1983 she continued her studies once again in Leningrad. From 1983 on she was a senior employee at the Institute of Ethnology at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and in addition to this, from 1984 to 1990, also taught at the Finno-Ugric Department at the Eötvös Lóránd University. She defended her candidate's thesis on the Ob-Ugric bear cult in 1989.
    At the beginning of the 1990’s she founded the Northern Khanty Ethnographic Archive in Belojarsky with the goal of preserving the dialects and traditions of the Ob region. She taught the fellow-workers of the archive herself, generating a network of amateur collectors. She took down an immense amount of Ob-Ugric folklore and language data, and a great many ethnographic and linguistic investigations are connected to her name. She was also in charge of the legacy of other researchers, e.g. Chernetsov. She was also concerned with making the Ob-Ugric peoples familiar with and teaching them their own culture and languages.
    In 2002 she committed suicide, leaving behind a large quantity of written material as well as visual and acoustic materials which to date have not yet been edited. The work done before 1991 has been published in a series called Schmidt Éva Könyvtár [Éva Schmidt Library], however, she blocked her writings from the period after 1991 for the following 20 years, meaning that they will not be made accessible to the scientific community till 2022.

    (Horváth Ildikó; translated by Gábor Fónyad)


  • Article on Wikipedia "Schmidt Éva" (in Hungarian).
  • Obituary for Éva Schmidt by Márta Csepregi, published in Nyelvtudományi Közlemények 99 (2002). 309-318. (PDF, in Hungarian).
  • Article on "Schmidt Éva" (in Hungarian).
  • Significant works:

    Edit Vértes

    *31 May 1919 in Budapest, † 11 August 2002 ibid.

    She graduated with a teaching degree in mathematics and physics from the Pázmány Péter University of Budapest in 1942 and then took her doctorate in linguistics in 1943. Starting in 1941, she worked as a secondary school teacher but also gave lectures at the Department of Mathematics of the University of Technology. She conducted linguistic-statistical work in the acoustic and ultrasound group of the Central Institute of Physics of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in 1951. Vértes worked at the Department of Finno-Ugric Linguistics of the Research Institute of Linguistics of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences between 1952 and 1984. She contributed to the completion of the etymological dictionaries A magyar szókészlet finnugor elemei [Finno-Ugric Elements of the Hungarian Vocabulary] and the Uralisches Etymologisches Wörterbuch.
    At the end of the 1950's she undertook the task of working with K. F. Karjalainen's and Heikki Paasonen's Khanty materials and published Karjalainen's Khanty grammatical materials in 1964 and Paasonen's materials in 1965. She edited Karjalainen's Southern Khanty texts (one volume) and Paasonen's Southern Khanty texts (four volumes) which appeared in 1975. Her coursebook for university students Szibériai nyelvrokonaink hitvilága [Myths and Beliefs of Our Linguistic Relatives in Siberia] in which she treated the entire specialist literature on Ob-Ugric and Samoyedic mythology was published in 1990.
    Between 1984 and 1989 she was the head of the Department of Finno-Ugric Linguistics at the Kossuth Lajos University of Debrecen. From 1989 on at Tibor Mikola's invitation she took part in the doctoral training of the Department of Finno-Ugric Linguistics in Szeged. Vértes was a member of the Finno-Ugric Society of Helsinki, the Kalevala Society of Helsinki, the Finnish Academy of Sciences as well as the Societas Uralo-Altaica of Germany. After her death the foundation "Finnugor díj Vértes Edit emlékére" [Finno-Ugric Award in Memory of Edit Vértes] was established in her honor.

    (Varga Anette; translated by Bernadett Bíró)

    Works (selection):

    Miklós Zsirai

    *10 October 1892 in Mihályi, † 9 September 1955 in Budapest.

    image Miklós Zsirai He studied Hungarian language and literature, Greek, and Latin at the University of Budapest. Already during his years at the university, he began to devote attention to the Hungarian and Finno-Ugric linguistics, this being due to the influence of Zoltán Gombocz. He travelled to Finland in 1914, but after the outbreak of the First World War he returned home and joined the army. At the front he was taken prisoner-of-war by the Russians and thus had the opportunity to meet native speakers of several Finno-Ugric languages and to study the Komi language amongst others.
    After returning from the war he finished his studies and first became a teacher at the Eötvös College, then teaching Finno-Ugric comparative linguistics at the University of Budapest. He was a member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and between 1944 and 1952 he was also the chairman of the Hungarian Linguistics Society. Beside teaching he also concerned himself with matters of language cultivation, the history of science, questions of the Finno-Ugric relations of the Hungarian language and their familiarization to the general public. He studied the Ob-Ugric languages in detail and their linguistic relationship to Hungarian, as well as the Ob-Ugric verbal prefixes and the ethnonyms of the Finno-Ugric peoples. He planned to publish the Khanty material collected by Antal Reguly, but was unable to finish this work because of his death.

    (Horváth Ildikó; translated by Bernadett Bíró)


  • Article on Wikipedia "Zsirai Miklós" (in Hungarian).
  • Article on "Zsirai Miklós" (in Hungarian).
  • His most notable publications are:

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