Don’t miss the Poemas del río Wang post about one of those astonishing 19th-century wanderers long forgotten in the rush to delineate the world and its history in nationalist terms, with neat little boxes in which Persians live in Persia and speak Persian, French persons live in France and speak French, etc. etc. The post is about Mollah Sadik, given name Ishak/Izsák (1836-1892), brought to Hungary by the orientalist Ármin Vámbéry:
Izsák remained in Hungary and within a short time he perfectly mastered Hungarian. He was Vámbéry’s servant, librarian of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and even the “Tatar teacher” of Vámbéry’s friends József Budenz and Áron Szilády. For at that time he was the only one in Europe to speak Turkic languages, including his Uzbek mother tongue as well as Chagatay, the literary language of Central Asian Turks, and the Turkic scholars of Hungary were enthusiastic to draw on this never-hoped-for source.
Contemporary science of languages still professed the Turkic origin of Hungarian language. One had to wait some twenty years until the outbreak of the so-called “Ugrian-Turkic war”, the passionate scholarly debate in which Vámbéry was opposed by his former friend Budenz, and which made the theory of the exclusive Finno-Ugrian origin official for a century. Only recent scholarship has rehabilitated Vámbéry to a certain extent by saying that the Finno-Ugrian substratum of Hungarian language was enriched during the centuries of nomadic life in the steppe by such a great amount of Turkic elements both in its vocabulary and its grammar that it brought fundamental changes to the language.
“Vámbéry’s Tatarman was a great sensation”, writes Iván Sándor Kovács. “As if the young Veinemöinen came to visit Professor Elias Lönrot and his colleagues while compiling the Kalevala, or as if one of Ulysses’ sailors held a presentation of knotting at the Dutch Naval Academy.”
There’s too much in the post to try and summarize; go and enjoy. (And while you’re there, check out the latest post on the many names of Venice and the putative etymology of the Hungarian town of Velence, where the Tatarman is buried.)