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To mark 20 years of the Theoretical Linguistics program at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary, our friends there celebrated with remarkable panache:


  1. Bill Benzon said,

    December 1, 2010 @ 8:22 pm

    Who's singing the wonderful falsetto at 1:52?

    A most heartening performance.

  2. iching said,

    December 1, 2010 @ 9:39 pm

    Nagyon szép!

  3. Faith said,

    December 1, 2010 @ 10:39 pm

    I am astonished by all the good voices as well as the fact that they seem so comfortable performing. Does Hungary have some kind of singing culture that makes it possible for regular folks to do this kind of thing?

  4. David Beaver said,

    December 2, 2010 @ 12:09 am

    @Bill Benzon: Could be wrong about this, but I think phonologist/morpho-syntactician Miklós Törkenczy.

  5. Max said,

    December 2, 2010 @ 12:45 am

    Transcript please?

  6. Erik Zyman Carrasco said,

    December 2, 2010 @ 12:49 am

    My favorite line: "They bind and c-command." w00t!

    Also, is this group of linguists known for functionalist approaches? I ask because of the lines "But if you just believe / There's a usage-based approach."

    ( For anyone who's interested, the lyrics may be found here: )

  7. Fred said,

    December 2, 2010 @ 4:11 am

    The solo at 1:52 is not Miklós Törkenczy singing falsetto, but Ágnes Füle; at least that's what the list of soloists seems to imply.

    Nem rossz!


  8. Fred said,

    December 2, 2010 @ 4:14 am

    @ Faith:

    I know that's true for many Eastern European countries, especially in the Baltics. Nearly every second Estonian has sung in a choir, and nearly everybody knows lots of songs by heart. I don't know a single one, except some Estonian ones I learnt over there. I'm not sure about Hungary, but the average Hungarian definitely knows more songs than the average West European.

  9. maidhc said,

    December 2, 2010 @ 4:53 am

    Nice. But I think it's somewhat funny that there are pop filters in front of the microphones. Wouldn't linguists be pretty much the only people in the world, who if you told them "by the way, don't pop your Ps", would actually be able to do it?

  10. C Thornett said,

    December 2, 2010 @ 5:40 am

    Perhaps they have all had the advantage of being taught to sing at school by the Kodaly method. (Zoltan Kodaly, Hungarian composer, ethnomusicologist, music educator and much more–a linguist as well, according to Wikipedia)

  11. a. said,

    December 2, 2010 @ 6:21 am

    @Bill Benzon, @David Beaver: that really is Miklós Törkenczy! although the voice is not his, it's just a joke.

  12. M Soskuthy said,

    December 2, 2010 @ 6:40 am

    Let me clear this up: the person you see at 1:52 is indeed Miklos Torkenczy, but it's not his voice. The singing comes from the amazing Agnes Fule (and it's not a falsetto), who you can occasionally see in the background. This was Miklos's wish, who wanted to share his overflowing enthusiasm with the world, but was afraid of the damage he might cause with his own voice.

  13. László Kálmán said,

    December 2, 2010 @ 7:00 am

    @David: "Could be wrong about this, but I think phonologist/morpho-syntactician Miklós Törkenczy." You're right, that's him, but dubbed, the singer is Ágnes (Ági) Füle, one of the students who organized the whole clip, she's a great singer.

  14. Dan Lufkin said,

    December 2, 2010 @ 10:13 am

    Good point about song in European culture. I've seen many competent translators, able to handle a German real-estate contract flawlessly, but who never get the references to any of the hundreds of songs (and poems, too) that the average German soaks up in childhood. (Not that such references commonly show up in real-estate contracts — I mean just in conversation or e-mail.)

    Translators also often don't know the names of common birds and flowers and what to say when you spill something under various circumstances.

  15. oliverio said,

    December 2, 2010 @ 11:24 am

    @Dan Lufkin
    I think that not knowing names of common birds and flowers in another language than the mother tongue is in part normal , except for people that are interested in them . What you may think to be common species can be localized to the area where you live in . And let's not speak about regional names of species , i've recently seen names of fishes fished in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean sea and it can be confusing. When i have no dictionaries at hand, it's often hard to know the right translation of a species name to my native language.

  16. Rod Johnson said,

    December 2, 2010 @ 11:44 am

    I was mesmerized by the orange gloves and could hardly focus on anything else.

  17. David Beaver said,

    December 2, 2010 @ 12:25 pm

    @László: a (female) student singing for a (male) professor. A metaphor for the ages.

    @ Everyone else: László Kálmán is one of the people who welcomed me to Hungary for a conference in the summer 20 years ago, which I guess means that I was present sometime between the conception and birth of the program now being celebrated. In the video, László kicks the whole show off, and takes a second, rather more pointed solo at 2:06-2:19.

  18. Julia Deak said,

    December 2, 2010 @ 1:28 pm

    I think the Kodaly method of music education in Hungarian probably helps. It teaches little kids solfege and how to sing in tune by using traditional folk songs and hand gestures for the different notes. When a crowd of Hungarians sings Happy Birthday or something, it's usually much better in tune than a group of Americans doing the same. Plus, everyone knows that linguists are often musical, right?

  19. Julia Deak said,

    December 2, 2010 @ 1:33 pm

    I think this song also retains some funny overtones for most Hungarians who remember the parody: Pial a fold…(which rhymes with 'we are the world' and glosses roughly as "all the world are alcoholics", which is kind of true in Hungary)

  20. Julio Villa said,

    December 2, 2010 @ 2:18 pm

    I played it at the beginning of today's class (The Science of Linguistics, University of Connecticut) and my kids loved it!

    Bravo for the Hungarian bunch of 'singuists'

  21. Dan Lufkin said,

    December 2, 2010 @ 5:05 pm

    In re birds — Well, I was thinking of a popular Danish novel published some time ago that had a talking canary in the English version.

  22. László Kálmán said,

    December 2, 2010 @ 6:30 pm

    @Julio Villa: "Bravo for the Hungarian bunch of 'singuists'" – thanks, but we prefer to call ourselves "chinguists" because many of us had false starts when trying to sing "linguists" instead of "children"

  23. Bill Benzon said,

    December 2, 2010 @ 6:36 pm

    Thanks for the identification on the singer. I DID wonder about the possibility of dubbing, and there was a note in the lower right corner indicating that something might not be what it seemed.

    Again, a wonderful performance from the land that gave us John von Neumann (the Einstein of 20th Century), George Cukor, Julius Boros, Bela Bartok, and the Gabor sisters. Oh, and Reuven Tsur.

  24. Miklós Törkenczy said,

    December 3, 2010 @ 6:38 am

    If you want to hear/see the Voice, Ágnes Füle, sing as her own physical self, you should watch this:!
    (starting at 0:46)

    The quality of the recording does not do justice to Ági's amazing singing, but it's worth listening to. (First lines: Oh Happy day, oh a happy day, when Bloomfield was …)

  25. László Kálmán said,

    December 3, 2010 @ 11:11 am

    @David: "a conference in the summer 20 years ago, which I guess means that I was present sometime between the conception and birth of the program now being celebrated." Yeah! The conference was in August, and we officially started teaching in September. (As a matter of fact, we had started giving courses during the previous semester -I personally taught a course on non-linear phonology-, but the students were not sure back then if they get a credit for the Spring courses. From September on, the courses were credited, and I think the students (among others, Péter Rebrus and Krisztina Polgárdi) finally got credits for the Spring courses as well.

  26. Reinhold {Rey} Aman said,

    December 3, 2010 @ 3:52 pm

    @ László Kálmán:

    @Julio Villa: "Bravo for the Hungarian bunch of 'singuists'" – thanks, but we prefer to call ourselves "chinguists" because many of us had false starts when trying to sing "linguists" instead of "children"

    Dear Prof. Kálmán: Calling yourselves "chinguists" is too self-deprecatory. It looks like a blend of Spanish chingar ("to fuck") + linguists; thus, "chinguists" = "fuckin' linguists." ;-)

    @ Bill Benzon:

    Again, a wonderful performance from the land that gave us John von Neumann (the Einstein of 20th Century), George Cukor, Julius Boros, Bela Bartok, and the Gabor sisters. Oh, and Reuven Tsur.

    And Peter Lorre, né László Löwenstein.

  27. Mark Mandel said,

    December 3, 2010 @ 6:15 pm

    @david et al.: Top right of frame at 1:52++:

    you should not believe your ears here! :)
    (see the description)

    … which credits

    Miklós Törkenczy (Ágnes Füle)

    All of which aside, it's a HOOT!

  28. Rod Johnson said,

    December 3, 2010 @ 9:51 pm

    I thought the Einstein of the 20th century was… Einstein.

  29. Sára Tóth said,

    December 4, 2010 @ 10:55 am

    I am an old student of some of the singers. Thanks for this! As to the comments about the singing culture in Hungary, I can't help being pessimistic. Many members of this choir here belongs to my own generation (I'm in my forties). When we were graduating from secondary school, and were singing a serenade to our teachers (which means visiting all of them during the night and singing to them), we stood up as a choir in the middle of the night, a musician from the class was conducting, and we sang madrigals and other pieces to our teachers in three and four voices!!!!!!!
    This Kodály culture seems to be disappearing. When my husband's secondary students visited us with the same purpose, they weren't able to hit the same note when they began their song.
    Alas. I wish I was mistaken.

  30. magyarok az Egyesült Királyságban said,

    December 20, 2010 @ 10:59 am

    nice singing and outstanding English pronunciation
    Funny how Hungarian people don't have a recognised English accent (like let's say slavic language speakers have) but somehow you know if you meet a fellow hungarian abroad:)

    great video

  31. Panu said,

    January 8, 2011 @ 6:27 am

    One thing: theoretical linguistics for 20 years, i.e. since the demise of Communism? I know that Communists had all kinds of grudges against scientific theories younger than Marx, but did that extend to modern linguistic theories too?

  32. Meszaros Daniel said,

    March 31, 2013 @ 7:26 am

    I came to Australia at the age of four and am now tring to rejuvenate my much forgotten Hungarian. Its grammar is a monster. I have your verb book.
    You are obviously successful when you are present to ask questions but I find the language in this book to be the most obscure and convoluted of any text book I have ever encountered, even though I completed five years at university. I am completely defeated, for instance, by the Voice Assimilation paragraph on page five. Most of the explanations are similarly unintelligible and incredibly hard to decipher.
    I have given up and am using another book.
    Sorry tobe a wet blanket but no book has ever left me so frustrated.

    Good luck with the students in your classes.

    Meszaros Daniel

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