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Obituary

Denis Sinor (April 17, 1916–January 12, 2011)

Acta Linguistica Hungarica
Author:
András Róna-Tas
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Kara, G[yörgy]: The Mongol and Manchu Manuscripts and Blockprints in the Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. (Bibliotheca Orientalis Hungarica 47.)

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The article is dealing with the Khitan word pili and suggests its Tibetan origin.

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From the Turkic loanwords in Hungarian the author selected those botanic terms which are peresent in Turkic and/or in Ossetic. Preference was given to those tree names which have palaeobotanic data. Twelve Hungarian tree names display Old Chuvash traits. Out of these names five, or perhaps six, can also be attested in Ossetic: the names of the 'ash tree', 'cornel', 'pear', 'blackthorn', 'bulrush', and 'hazel'. The name of the 'oak' is an Alanian loanword in Hungarian. The name of the 'reed' is not present in Hungarian, but the corresponding Ossetic word is a Turkic borrowing with Chuvash traits. On the basis of these data the author tried to fix a region where Hungarians, Turks, and Alans may have lived together in the 5th-7th centuries.

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The paper offers a sample of a Khitan–English–Chinese Wordlist in preparation by scholars from the People’s Republic of China and Hungary. After a preface on general questions, it deals with the glyphs beginning with a- and b- in the Khitan Small Script. This is followed by Khitan words beginning with the first two letters of the Latin alphabet. The aim of the paper is to open a discussion on a future Khitan Etymological Dictionary.

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In the second part of this series of papers the author investigates the way how the Khitan Small Script rendered the vowels of the Khitan language. The graphic system was tailored to the contemporary Chinese language, nevertheless, it is possible to make conclusions concerning the system of vowels. Three illabial vowels /a/, /e/ and /i/ can be identified, the back vocalic /ï/ can only be supposed. The vowel /o/ is dominant, for traces of /ö/ no sure data can be given. The phoneme /u/ can be clearly detected, the phoneme /ü/ can be supposed. The former opinion that the Khitan had a front:back vowel harmony can be confirmed. The paper presents a few newly deciphered Khitan words. The system of the Khitan word formation is emerging and a few earlier readings have been corrected.

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In the first part of this series of papers the author investigates the peculiarities and structure of the graphs of the Khitan Small Script. The graphs are polyvalent, and their phonetic values are based on and reflect the understanding of the Chinese phonetic system of the period. The list of graphs includes allographs and variants, further graphs with the same phonetic value but having different form(s). Some graphs have dotted and nondotted pairs. The Romanisation of the graphs is a convention by modern Chinese and European scholars. In some cases the phonetic value of a given graph is unknown, but its meaning is known; these are called logographs. Dotted forms and the numeric system are also investigated.

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