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The Jászság #10 – A mysterious language uncovered

June 6, 2018

After the Jassic people’s final conversion from Paganism to Catholicism during the 1500’s, their language went extinct. For more than 300 years, it was forgotten and unknown, with scholars and researchers only guessing. Some believed that they spoke Hungarian, but a Russian scholar in 1899 (Lamansky) said that they were descendants of the Alans. This statement was made after a study of Jassic first names in contemporary documents and was quickly adopted by Hungarian researchers.

 

However, Antal Fekete Nagy uncovered a document at the National Archive of Hungary in 1957 which was initially believed to contain Pecheneg words. The document, dated January 13, 1422 and written in Buda (the Western part of today’s Budapest) was indeed a list of words and their translations in Latin and Hungarian for some, but upon further study by Gyula Németh, it was found that the words were Jassic.

 

“I’ve been working with medieval documents for thirty years and I’m able to read the contemporary scripts pretty well, however, I wasn’t able to understand the contents of this one. This is why it started to interest me, this is why I picked it up. What could this be? Seeing a couple of Turkish words, I thought these could be a Pecheneg word list. I sent it over to Prof. Gyula Németh, the lead professor of the [Hungarian Academy of Sciences’] Turkish language department. A couple of days later, I received a phone call telling me to come as soon as possible as the document was not a Pecheneg word list, but something more valuable: we have uncovered the first Jassic word list!”

- Antal Fekete Nagy, 1957

 

 Part of the original document from 1422 (Source)

 

Németh went ahead and analyzed the contents and found that the words (about 40 nouns and expressions) shared similarities with words in the Ossetian language. These similarities were so upfront that some of them were almost exactly identical to their Ossetian counterparts. This find proved to be crucial in understanding the early history of the Jassic people and also proved that they were indeed ethnically different from the Cumans, whose language (a Turkish language, documented in the Codex Cumanicus) was vastly different.

 

Sources:

 

https://library.hungaricana.hu/hu/view/MEGY_JNSZ_Kozl_46_neprajzi/?pg=68&layout=s

https://library.hungaricana.hu/hu/view/SzolnokMegyeiNeplap_1957_12/?pg=112&layout=s

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