11th Meeting Hørsholm, 1968: Report by E. Schütz

Source: Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae, Tomus XXII (2), pp. 273–277 (1969)

The 11th Session of the Permanent International Altaistic Conference (PIAC)
in Hørsholm, Denmark, 2–6 June, 1968

The idea of an annual meeting of altaists was first formed eleven years ego, at the 24th international congress of orientalists, in Munich. The underlying motive was that congresses, because of the great number of participants, offer no opportunity for informal talks, thus they are rather like parades of the science. Oriental studies, however, are a field of science which by its very nature requires that its scholars living in different countries be permanently informed of the new ideas and works in progress.

It was due to a group of enthusiastic altaists that the idea was put into practice already in the following years and the PIAC met in Mainz. The ensuing sessions were arranged in a different country in each year; in Great Britain, Finland, Germany, Holland, Italy and the Unites States. The next, 12th session is going to be held at Berlin, in the German Democratic Republic, in the summer of 1969.

At the time of the foundation Prof. Dr. W. Heissig was elected secretary-general and his commission was renewed at three more sessions. The general assembly then increased the term of the office to five years and elected Prof. D. Sinor whose commissions has since been repeatedly extended.

Participants come from all over the world, but wherever the session is held, the greatest number of specialists comes, because of the travelling expenses, naturally from the neighbouring countries. This means that there is a certain fluctuation of participants, nevertheless those who have taken part in any of the sessions are bound to reappear at this excellent forum of discussion. A special advantage of the PIAC is that it always welcomes young scholars still at the beginning of their career thus greatly assisting young scientists in joining international scientific life.

At the beginning the meetings took the form of free discussions and this has remained the greatest attraction of the PIAC up to the present. Since Altaic studies represent a unity of various branches of science, the PIAC has been trying to introduce new forms of organisation, in order to find, from time to time, the common ground for discussing the problems of this vast field. For several years it chose a central topic, in cultural history, ethnography, economic history, etc. (e. g. the role of the horse in the steppes of Eurasia, hunting with Altaic peoples, names of dignities, etc.) and the lectures were grouped around this central topic. The sphere of interest was concentrated and therefore the discussions were even more fruitful. This form of organisation, however, had its limitations and was, because to some extent it disfavoured discussions in comparative phonetics and grammar, considered too narrow by the linguists. The organizational flexibility of the PIAC may be well indicated by the fact that it decided two [274] years ago in favour of an entirely unrestricted choice of topics by majority vote (each scientist having participated in two sessions has the right to vote). This flexibility will in all probability guarantee the encouragement of new ideas of organization as well as of topics also in the future.

The 11th session of the PIAC was held in Denmark, on the premises of the university of Hørsholm, on 2–6 June, 1968. The organizing committee, working under the chairmanship of Iben R. Meyer, the altaist of renown and with the assistance of Prof. K. Thomsen provided, with the generous support of the Danish Ministry of Education, ideal circumstances for a successful session. Considering the limited time, from about 50 participants 18 delivered lectures. The lectures covered several fields of Altaistics and the scientists delivering them partly reported on their developing ideas, their work in progress and recent research, and partly introduced independent studies. The lectures, as usual, were followed by substantial discussions and fruitful talks during the breaks. Because of the multitude of topics it seems reasonable to review the lectures in the order of their delivery.

In her lecture entitled “Historisches aus alttürkischen Handschriften” Prof. Dr. A. v. Gabain (Hamburg) explained that Chinese and Moslem sources proved to be insufficient in themselves for the research of the ancient history of East-Turkestan and she suggested to draw upon a source of a hitherto neglected linguistic group. Interesting evidence is provided e. g. by place-names: the pair of forms Biš-balyqPanjikent may mean that the traces of the Sogdian urban culture survived and had an influence in the Uigur empire. On the other hand, deviations in the names of Uigur sovereigns and office-bearers indicate that the high urban culture of the Qočo empire was largely different from the steppe culture. The trends of the relations can be traced on the basis of literary translations. The cultural evidence of loan-words has not yet been fully exploited, either.

Prof. N. A. Baskakov (Moscow) analysal an interesting morphological example of the complex relationship existing between Altaic languages. There is a verbal suffix which in Mongolian appears in the form -ǰee/-čee; -ǰi/-či (- ǰuqui etc.), whereas in some Turkic languages (Kirghiz, Tuva, Khakass) it takes the forms -ǰyq/-čyq etc. In several varieties this suffix serves for the expression of various perfective shades of meaning. It was collated with the past tense suffix -dy already by Ramstedt. Although there might. according in N. A. Baskakov, be a genetic relationship between these suffixes of similar form and meaning, the form -čyq is a relatively new loan in the above mentioned Turkic languages.

In her paper Prof. V. I. Cincius (Leningrad) dealt with the Common Altaic root *püre-|i- meaning “child, fruit, semence; to bear, to be born, to germinate”, for which we have the following main items in different Altaic languages: Mong. üre, hüre < *püre “child, fruit, result”, Evenki huril “children”, hute “child”, Nanai purul “children”, pi-kte “child”, puri-či- “to bear a child”, Bashkir and Tatar ür- “to sprout”, Turkish üri- “to breed”, etc.

Assist. Prof. G. Bayerle (Indiana University, Bloomington, USA) presented a paper on the classification of Ottoman Tapu Registers. The Ottoman cadastral surveys (tapu defters) are vast aggregates of detailed information concerning demographic data, agricultural production and everyday life of the Ottoman countryside. The need for a catalogue of these defters is evident when one becomes aware of the fact that these registers had been scattered around in various archives and libraries of fourteen European countries. Recently developed computer techniques make the preparation of such a catalogue with a multiple classification base feasible.

Prof. D. Sinor (Indiana University, USA) stressed the importance for the historical study of Altaic languages of foreign-language glosses contained in travel books. He [275] mentioned as an example the book titled “Travels from St. Petersburg to Pekin, 1719–1722” written by the English physician John Bell, and examined the Mongolian (and some Northern Tungusic) fragments recorded by the clever amateur linguist from the lexical and phonetic point of view.

After having compared the writing systems of Asia Minor and Central Asia, Prof. G. Clauson (London) advanced the view according to which the assembling of the Turkish runic writing was ordered by a western Turk Kagan living in the second half of the 6th century and the alphabet was made up by a Sogdian. He maintained that the runic letters had represented not only plosives but the respective fricatives as well. The comparison reveals that the individual letters were re-shaped for the sake of symmetry and the alphabet was complemented with further letters. In assembling the alphabet points of cryptography were also considered, in order to make the reading of the signs more difficult for unauthorised persons.

Assistant Professor Şükrü Elçin (Ankara) read a paper on Ottoman-Turk popular stories. These have been rather neglected by Turkish literary history, many of them are still unpublished, although they contain a fair amount of realistic elements. Ş. Elçin introduced six such stories describing life in Istanbul in the 7th century, most of which relate love-affairs with servant girls, since the morals of the age did not permit talking about the women of the family in such stories. The stories were propagated by “meddah” story-tellers, their authors are mostly unknown, some of them, however, are probably the work of Tifli, the minion of Sultan Murat.

Assistant Professor A. Róna-Tas (Budapest—Szeged) divided in his lecture “Some problems of Ancient Turkic” the era of the Ancient Turkic state of language into two periods. He explained that while in the first period there were only Ancient Turkic dialects, the second is characterized by the presence of separate Turkic languages. Characteristic of the latter period is that the boundaries of the dialectal phenomena did not coincide, so the isoglosses cross each other. On the basis of the isoglosses of the main phonetic phenomena (-ð- -z- / -t- / -y- // -ǰ- / -y- , etc.) we can reconstruct the relative position of the Turkish and Ancient Turkic dialects. This discovery is a key to the solution of the problems of rhotacism and lambdacism as well as of several other questions of the history of the Turkish language.

Dr. J. Matuz (Freiburg i. Br.) introduced the late 16th century chronicle of the Ottoman-Turk defterdar Seyfi Çelebi thoroughly discussing all parts of Asia except the areas belonging at that time to the Ottoman empire. The chronicle contains several interesting references to the Kalmucks (qalmaq). The critical edition of the chronicle with commentaries and with a French translation is now being published by the Bibliothèque Arch. et Hist. de l’Institut Français d’Archéologie d’Istanbul.

Dr. H-P. Vietze (GDR, Berlin) discussed the prospects of system-theory, information theory, automation theory and mechanical information. He outlined the present state of mechanical translation in general with special emphasis on the work carried on by the group of Altaists within the framework of the Academy of Sciences of the GDR in this field. These methods are especially profitable in establishing the minimum word-stock and the distribution of graphemes, phonemes and morphemes, and are incomparably more productive than the non-automatic methods. At present these methods are being employed in the composition of a Mongolian dictionary and a word-ending vocabulary.

Assoc. Prof. G. Hazai (GDR, Berlin) read a paper written with the collaboration of Dr. P. Zieme. He called attention to the significance of the statistical method in accomplishing the historical grammars of Turkic languages, explaining its advantages as opported to the traditional methods of examination. He proved his statements by examples from the Osmanli and the Uigur language (Osmanli: –yor praesens, -ačak [276] futurum; the characteristic criteria of the Uigur n– and -y- dialects). In his opinion the statistical approach is becoming more and more important in the description of the groups of records, in the exact definition of the concepts Old-Osmanli, Middle-Osmanli and Alttürkisch.

Assoc. Prof. Ilse Cirtautas (Indiana Univ., USA) paid homage to the memory of Abdullah Qahor. She is going to write a study on the outstanding Uzbeg poet.

G. Bethlenfalvy (Budapest) described the tradition regulating the language and pronunciation of Mongol lamas in reading the Tibetan language. Knowledge of these rules will certainly facilitate the study of the Tibetan loan-words of the Mongolian language, from which only those different from the regular forms or known from data earlier than the appearance of the system can be directly collated with Tibetan dialects.

Dr. L. Lőrincz (Budapest) examined a peculiar feature of Mongolian folklore. In the latter there is no great gap between prose and verse. Many poems contain prosaic insertions, while prose works often have parts written in verse. There are also works of folklore in which prose and verse are in equal proportion. Dr. Lőrincz discussed a piece titled Charachȯchȯlbaatar which represents a transitional category between heroic epic and heroic tale. According to Dr. Lőrincz part of the heroic poems disintegrated and was transformed into heroic tales.

The various data and hypotheses concerning the burial-place of Chingis Khan and his sons were analysed by Prof. J. A. Boyle (Manchester). Regarding the burial-place of Ögedei he cited a hitherto ignored passage written by Rašīd-ad-Dīn. The tomb is to be found probably in the vicinity of the West Sinkiang yurt of Ögedei, according to Prof. Boyle in the Saur range, perhaps on the slopes of the Mu-su shan, whereas the three rivers (i.e., in Prof. Boyle’s opinion, two) mentioned in the source may be the two affluents of the river named Kenderlyk today. Carpini and Rubruck crossed this land during their journey.

Dr. L. Bese (Budapest) dealt mainly with the morphological aspect of the conjugation of the Middle-Mongolian period. He arrives at the conclusion that, beside simple tense suffixes, in Middle-Mongolian various tense suffix + tense suffix, tense suffix + tense suffix + tense suffix and tense suffix + mode suffix combinations existed. Dr. Bese examined the problem of ambivalent morphemes in the conjugation and established co-variances. He assumes that vowels burdened to a lesser extent were bound, in Middle Mongolian, by some form of vocalic harmony in the suffixes.

Prof. O. Pritsak (Harvard Univ.) offered a new explanation for the Khasar town name جلع (var. ھب باغ ) mentioned in the Hudûd al-Âlam and by Al-Bakri, read usually as Khan-balyq (Minorski: Qut-balyq). He traces the syllable Hab back to the Mongolian word ab < hab ‘witchcraft’ (Tungusic pap, Manchu faf), so that the Khazar word hab hypothesized in this case would have preserved the ancient h sound.

Prof. Dr. W. Heissig reported on a Mongolian manuscript found in a Tokyo library in 1966. The work was written by a Kharachin Mongol named Lubsangčondan, alias Lou čiǰen. Lubsangčondan lost all his property during the revolutionary movement in 1891. He became a monk and joined a Peking monastery, where, in 1914 he wrote a detailed amount of the customs of the eastern Mongolian tribes living in the province of Jehol (Mongγol-on ǰang aγali-yi tobčilan bičigsen debter). The manuscript is extremely significant for historical folklore research.

The accounts heard at the session are, according to the organizers, to be published in the forthcoming issue of the Danish Acta Orientalia, probably in the beginning of 1969.

In each year the PIAC session ends with the ceremonial act of awarding the medal founded by the Indiana University to one of the most outstanding representatives of international Altaic science. This year’s general assembly awarded the medal to Professor [277] Louis Ligeti, member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. It was presented to him by Secretary General D. Sinor in Budapest, at the centre of the Institute of Cultural Relations.

E. Schütz