28th Meeting Venice, 1985 (Report)

Nota Bene: This is the full report as it appeared in the Acta Orientalia. For a summary of the Meeting, including a list of participants, see the article in Newsletter 16, August 1986, p. 7.

Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hung. Tomus XL (2—3), 331—333 (1988)



For a week during the summer of 1985, various groups of Altaists were in Venice becoming hopelessly lost, wandering the streets, but eventually, thanks to maps, compasses and helpful notions — or by sheer luck — finding their way to the beautiful Palazzo Bonvicini, where the Twenty-Eighth Meeting of the Permanent International Altaistic Conference (PIAC) took place between July 8th—14th.

This was the second time that the PIAC was organized in Italy (and the first time in Venice) jointly by the Department of Euro-Asiatic Studies and its Uralo-Altaistic Section, together with the Centro-Linguistico Interfacoltà of the University of Venice. According to the sphere of interests of the two organizers, the central themes of the conference were “Venice and Italy in their Relationship with the Altaic World” and “The Problems of Bilingualism and Diglossia: Linguistic Education in the Altaic World”, though the topics were not exclusive. While papers on Turkology were few, which may be due to the fact that the Fifth International Congress of Turkology would be held the same year, it was interesting to see the growing interests in Manchu studies.

After the opening dinner in the Trattoria S. Toma on the July 8th, the opening session of the conference was held in the building of Ca’ Dolfin on the following day. After the general welcome by the University authorities, A. Csillaghy, the President, and D. Sinor, the General Secretary of the PIAC, greeted the participants. Then W. Heissig, the Honorary President of the PIAC, in his paper The Present State of Research in Mon­golian Epics and the Oral Tradition, gave an overview of Mongolian epics that have preserved an archaic state of Mongolian society. In other papers to follow, S. Jagchid spoke about Chung-tu, the Central of the Yuan, T. Kocaoğlu discussed the word ančaqlï, meaning ’so much, so great’, in the modern Khoresmian written language, while D. Devahuti, in her paper Tentative Remarks on Possible Direct Hindu Contacts with the Early Turkic Peoples, mentioned translations of the Rāmāyaṇa, traces of Ś́īva-worship in Central Asia and Hindu archeological remains along the Karakorum highway. The af­ternoon session, held in the Palazzo Bonvicini, was devoted to the “confessions” under the chairmanship of D. Sinor.

In the following three days, some interesting papers dealt with the given theme of the conference. I. Rachewiltz (Dante’s Aleppe a Tartar Word in Tartarus?) suggested that the world aleppe in Dante, which refers to Satan, was ultimately the Mongolian word elbe that had reached Dante through Turkic mediation. D. Sinor drew the Altaic background of the motif of the dog-headed king — Attila and the King of Hungary — found in Italian literature. E. Tryjarsky talked about a new edition of an Armeno-Kipchak Chronicle of Venice. Three other papers discussed the given topic, namely, G. Bellingeri: Zone e imperi “altaici” secondo un mappamondo del XVI° secolo, N. Di Cosmo: Florio Beneveni, un italiano al servizio di Pietro il Crande, e le sua missione a Khiva, and M. P. Weidlich: Philatelic Exposure to Italian Art in Mongolia.

Many papers were read that discussed other topics of Altaic studies in the field of Turkology: S. Abbiati-Sivazliyan: Uno studio dei russismi nell’ opera giornalistica dell’ azerbaigiano Zärdabi, Ch. F. Carlson: Towards a Differentation of Common Turkic Synonyms, Ching-Lung Chen: Concepts Regarding Numbers, Colours and the Cardinal Points among the Turkic Peoples, N. Z. Gadžieva: Metodika rekonstrukcii tjurkskogo archetipa, and M. M. Tatar: From Substrate-Languages to Loan Words: Today’s Caatans in Mongolia. In the field of Mongolian studies, J. Miyawaki (Historical Significance of the Biography of Jaya Paṇḍita) compared the Oirat version of the text to its later Khalkha Mongolian translation, emphasizing its significence as a source of seventeenth-century Oirat history. Chieh-hsien Ch’en in his paper, The Manchu Emperor K’ang-hsi and Father Ripa (Based Mainly on the Chinese Archival Materials) spoke about the relationship between K’ang-hsi and the Italian missionaries, Father Matteo Ripa and Father Pedrini, and the papal envoy, Carolus Mezzabarba. Jesuit influence in the sphere of astronomy, maping and medicine on the Manchu Emperor K’ang-hsi, as seen from his letters addressed to his crown prince In Ceng were discussed by H. Okada.

Chinese written documents write much about the Po-hai Kingdom, but nothing is known about their language. Therefore, the Old Japanese furuki ‘sable skins, furs, for clothing’, a Po-hai loan-word in Old Japanese that came with the fur-trade to Japan, provides an item of information about the Po-hai language, argued R. A. Miller (A Po-hai Word). He further assumed that the word can be explained from the Tungusian languages. Considering the evidence of the orthography of literary Manchu and Modern Manchu (Šive) where vowel length is a redundant feature and its occurrence is structurally restricted, Baeg-in Seong (Vowel Length in Manchu) argued that this was the case in 17th—18th century Manchu as well.

More general aspects of Altaic studies were dwelt upon by V. M. Solntsev (On the Typology of Language Unions (Sprachbünde)) and H.-P. Vietze (Oriental Studies and Philology), while I. F. Vardul discussed a problem of Japanese linguistics (Accent and Word-Bounding in Japanese).

Hungarian Altaistics were represented at the conference by G. Fehér (Hungarian National Museum) and a small group of young researchers — including E. Lénárt (University of Venice) — who all graduated from the University of Szeged. É. Csáki (Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences) in her paper Middle Mongolian Loan-Words in the Volga-Kipchak Languages, discussed a few Mongolian loan-words in Kazan-Tatar and Bashkir, and she emphasized their importance in the research on the chronology of the complicated linguistic history of the Volga-Kipchak languages. Little is known about the possible Volga-Bulgarian borrowings in Bashkir. J. Torma (University of Szeged) considered the phonetic criteria of these words, discussing in detail the Bashkir word bïyma ‘felt boots’ and its dialectal forms. A. Molnar (University of Szeged) attempted to determine the exact meanings and functions of Old Turkic qām ‘diviner, healer’, yātči ‘rai- magician’ and bügü ‘a wise man’ — all connected with Old Turkic Shamanism.

During the afternoon session on July 12th, a round-table discussion was held under the chairmanship of Ms. E. Zuanelli Sonino on the second central topic of the conference. The discussion was opened by A. Csillaghy, and there followed talks by J. Torma, V. M. Solntsev, D. Sinor, H. P. Vietze and contributions by many others.

In the closing session of the 28th PIAC on Saturday, July 13th, the Indiana University Prize for Altaic Studies — usually referred to as the “PIAC Medal” — was awarded to the distinguished Finnish scholar, A. Joki. V. P. Solntsev invited the next PIAC to be held in Tashkent, between September 15th—21th, 1986.

Participants to the conference were invited on a boat-trip to the islands of the Venetian Lagoon (Murano, Burano and Torcello), and on another trip to some Venetian Villas near Castelfranco. Beyond doubt, the 28th PIAC was organized in a somewhat more “secular” atmosphere than the previous one in the Dominican Monastery at Walberberg, but this PIAC was an excellent opportunity to summarize, and on certain points to reconsider how strong and manifold were the contacts between Italy, particularly Venice, and the Altaic World, to mention only the unique manuscript of the Codex Cumanicus, which was also visited by the participants in the Marciana Library.

Finally, Venice needs no praise for her beauty, which was amply complemented by the hospitality of the Venetian hosts of the conference. Thanks are due to A. Csillaghy, President of the 28th PIAC, and to his staff, particularly G. Stary and N. Di Cosmo, for all their efforts to make this conference a remarkable event of Altaic studies.

Ádám Molnár