39th Meeting Szeged, 1996: Report by Hans Nugteren and Marti Roos

Source: International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS) Newsletter, No. 10, Autumn 1996, p. 8.

16 – 21 June 1996

Szeged, Hungary

The Permanent International Altaistic Conference

The 39th Meeting of the PIAC

The PIAC is an informal gathering of scholars, interested in Altaic and Inner Asian studies. Altaic is the collective name for the languages belonging to the Turkic, Mongolic and Manchu-Tungusic language families and the peoples that speak them. The PIAC is also a platform for scholars who conduct research into the relationship of Korean and Japanese with the Altaic languages.

By Hans Nugteren and Marti Roos

Founded in 1957 during the 24th International Congress of Orientalists, the PIAC had its first meeting in Mainz, West Germany, in 1958. Since then the PIAC has convened regularly every year, in many different countries. The administrative organization is run by the Secretary-General, Prof. Denis Sinor from Indiana University in Bloomington, which is the virtual home of the PIAC.

The Central Asiatic journal was founded as a result of the PIAC meetings, and a number of the conference proceedings have been published in it. Each PIAC meeting starts with so-called confessions at which each participant in his turn informs the plenum of his work, projects, and future publications. The confessions are followed by individual readings and discussions.

Prof. Árpád Berta, this year’s conference president, welcomed a large number of about 90 participants from some 20 different countries. Apart from many established PIAC attendants, a considerable number of first time visitors were present. It is important that young scholars continue to find their way to the PIAC.

Topics discussed ranged from oral literature and the description of endangered languages to historical linguistics and the decipherment of ancient documents, from shamanism to political issues, from traditional music to the use of alcoholic beverages by the ancient Turks, and from the illnesses of horses to the death of Chinggis Khan.

It was the second time that Szeged had hosted the PIAC, 25 years after the first time. The impressive number of visitors may be considered proof of the important position of Hungary in the field of Altaic studies. The 39th PIAC coincided with Hungary’s “Millecentenárium” (the Latin word was invented especially for the occasion), i.e. the 1100th anniversars of the arrival of the Magyars in Hungary. This PIAC was sponsored by the Jószef Attila University of Szeged and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. The next PAC will take place in Utah, USA, in June 1997.