Volume 17, Issue 3
  • ISSN 0302-5160
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9781
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SUMMARYThe first descriptive grammar of Greenlandic Eskimo was published in 1760 by Paul Egede, continuing the work of his father, Hans, and his missionary collaborator, Albert Top. Curiously, however, the comparative study of Greenlandic had already been inaugurated in 1745, when Marcus Woldike (1699-1750), professor of theology at the University of Copenhagen, read a remarkable paper to the Ki0benhavnske Selskab af Lcerdoms of Videnskabers Elskere, published next year in the proceedings of that Society. Based on information obtained from the Egedes, Woldike presented a grammar of Greenlandic in summary form and compared Greenlandic to about two dozen other languages on some sixty phonological, morphological, and syntactic criteria. As it turned out, Greenlandic was rather similar to Hungarian, sharing with it a great many features (especially such as Hungarian did not share with European languages such as Icelandic, Norwegian, Danish, English, German, Irish, Welsh, Breton, Latin, Italian, French, Ancient Greek, and Slavonic) and showing preciously few differences. American languages, represented by Tupi, Carib, Huron, Natick, and Algonkin, were found to differ considerably from Greenlandic; and Hebrew, Arabic, and Turkish did not much better. Lapp and Finnish came out as close structural relatives of Hungarian — which amounted to the first published demonstration of the Finno-Ugric hypothesis, antedating Saj-novics's of 1770 and Gyarmathi's of 1799. For Woldike the large-scale agreements especially between Greenlandic and Hungarian were no inexplicable chance coincidences. The explanation he suggested was not typological, drawing on necessary correlations of the structural features shared, but historical. Rather than positing a common Ursprache, as was and continued to be the fashion, however, he invoked diffusion within a Sprachbund, localized, somewhat vaguely, in Tartary, from where the Greenlanders and Hungarians (and Lapps and Finns too) had supposedly migrated to their present habitats.RÉSUMÉLa premiere grammaire descriptive de la langue esquimau groenlan-daise etait publiee en 1760 par Paul Egede, continuant le travail de son pere Hans et son sous-missionnaire Albert Top. Mais, chose curieuse, l'etude comparative du groenlandais avait ete inauguree deja en 1745, quand Marcus Woldike, professeur de theologie a l'universite de Copenhague, faisait une conference remarquable chez la Ki0benhavnske Selskab af Lærdorns of Videnskabers Elskere, publiee l'annee suivante dans les actes de cette so-ciéte. Bien informe par les Egede, Woldike donnait dans son traite une grammaire sommaire du groenlandais et comparait le groenlandais avec deux douzaines d'autres langues sur une soixantaine de criteres phonologi-ques, morphologiques et syntactiques. Resultat: le groenlandais ressemblait beaucoup au hongrois; il y avait beaucoup de caracteres communs (en par-ticulier ceux que le hongrois ne partagait pas avec des autres langues euro-peennes, p.ex. les islandais, norvegien, danois, anglais, allemand, irlandais, gallois, breton, latin, italien, francais, le grec ancien et slavon) et assez peu de differences. On trouvait en outre que les langues americaines, representees par les langues tupi, carib, huron, natick et algonquin, et de meme les hebreu, arabe et turc, differaient considerablement du groenlandais. Les langues lapone et finnoise se revelaient proches parents du hongrois en structure grammaticale — en effet la premiere demonstration de l'hy-pothese finno-ougrienne, en anticipation de Sajnovics 1770 et Gyarmathi 1799. Pour Woldike les concordances grammaticales etendues en particu-lier entre le groenlandais et le hongrois n'etaient pas accidentelles et inex-plicables. L'explication qu'il proposait n'etait pas typologique, s'appuyant sur des correlations necessaires des particularites communes, mais histori-que. Selon Woldike la raison pour les concordances n'etait pas la descendance d'une langue mere commune — explication eternellement populaire —, mais la diffusion de particularites dans un Sprachbund, localise, un peu vaguement, en Tartarie, d'ou les groenlandais et les hongrois (et aussi les lapons et finnois) presumablement se mettaient en route vers leurs habitats presents.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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