Old Hungarian — 600? AD, Hungary

Hungarian Runes "e"

Hungary, despite being solidly in Europe, has had a long history of trade with and conquest by Central Asian peoples.  It is not entirely clear where Hungarians came from — or more specifically, where the people who brought the Hungarian language came from — but the Hungarian language has a number of Turkic loan words.

Hungarians also appeared to be influenced by Orkhon (“Turkic runes”).  An ancient writing system called either “Old Hungarian”, “Hungarian Runes”, or “Hungarian rovas” (from the Hungarian word for “to carve”) appeared at some poorly-understood point, probably around 600.  All the glyphs in Orkhon that represent similar sounds in Hungarian are similar in Orkhon.  For non-Turkic sounds, the Old Hungarian glyphs appear to be novel, or perhaps from Greek.  However, there are factions which contend that Old Hungarian came from Greek and others that contend that Orkhon derived from Old Hungarian.

There are three dialects of the Hungarian Runes: two in Hungary and one in Kazakhstan.  The existence of the Kazakh variant is another strong argument for the origin of the script to lie in Central Asia.

This script was quite successfully stamped out in Hungary (which perhaps accounts for why the origins of the Hungarian people are somewhat unclear?) in favour of Latin, starting around 1000 AD by Christian leaders.  (The Christian leaders associated the Old Hungarian with paganism.)  The eradication was not perfect, however, as some remote regions continued to use runes until the mid 1800s.  It remained popular perhaps in part because the Hungarian runes actually represent the Hungarian sounds better than Latin script does.  (Some people say that literacy in Hungary dropped with the coming of the Latin script.)  Old Hungarian has enjoyed a little bit of a revival in modern times.

Old Hungarian was written right to left, or occasionally boustrophedonically. While Old Hungarian is an alphabet, the writers would occasionally drop vowels if doing so did not make the word ambiguous.

Old Hungarian script used three vertical dots to denotes word boundaries.

Links: Wikipedia, Omniglot, Ancient Scripts, Upon Reflection, Hungarian Heritage, Origins of Hunnish Writing claims that Turkic runes descended from Hungarian runes, RovasPedia




About ducky

I'm a computer programmer professionally, currently working on mapping applications. I have been interested non-professionally for a long time in the effect on society on advances in communications technology -- things like writing, vowels, spaces between words, paper, etc.
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2 Responses to Old Hungarian — 600? AD, Hungary

  1. varpho says:

    thanks for writing about this script i’m very interested in. 🙂 and i’d like to rise some questions:
    1. what do you mean by a Kazakhstani “dialect” of the script?
    2. what “sort order” did the Old Hungarian script had? [i’ve only seen two “sort orders” so far – a normal Latin one, sometimes from right to left, and an order of glyphs according to their shapes, but the latter wasn’t really a “sort order”, rather an order in which the characters were to be learned.]

  2. ducky says:

    Hi! Nice to see that I’m not alone here.

    1. There is a related script that was use in Kazakhstan. I just added RovasPedia to the links; it has some on the Kazakh script. There is also some discussion (but no history) of the Kazakh script on the Unicode page for the unified Rovas scripts: http://std.dkuug.dk/jtc1/sc2/wg2/docs/n4110.pdf

    2. You are right, I was wrong. I was thrown by looking at pages where the glyphs were presented right-to-left, and if you read that, it looks completely unlike A, B, C! I have fixed the text, thank you. The Unicode sort order (referenced right above) is: a, á, b, mb, c, nc, cs, d, nd, e, ë, é, f, g, gy … which is very Latin-ish.

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