‘The Whole of Us Were There’ A Little-known Grammaticalisation Process in Hungarian

Ágnes Bende-Farkas


The first aim of this work is to provide an explanation to an exotic-looking expression used in Transylvania and in the Csángó regional variant of Hungarian. Az egészen lit. ‘the whole-N’ is synonymous to mind ‘all (from a given set)’. This expression is shown to be the product of a grammaticalisation process starting with egész ‘healthy’, ‘whole’, ‘complete’. This was to be expected, as such processes have occurred in several languages, and there is even an ongoing process in present-day German (Haspelmath 1995). Historical records have provided the missing links between the adjective egész and the operator az egészen. Records have revealed that this process in fact followed two diverging tracks, which is a finding of theoretical, as well as empirical, interest. One of these tracks characterises the entire Hungarian linguistic community, and only the last stages of the second track (az egész as a universal determiner of count nouns) are confined to Transylvania and the csángó variant. Yet another track we discovered was the reanalysis of adverbs derived from egész: some of these adverbs entail a so-called individual-oriented reading (paying the money in full entails paying all the money). Such readings could have facilitated the emergence of today’s az egészen, but they are also relevant in their own right.

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