Branka Ivusic “Seven Languages in One (Manu)Script”

Seven Languages in One (Manu)Script

The presentation will focus on the manuscript A.F. 437 in the Austrian National Library. It is an Ottoman multiple-text manuscript, a so called mecmua, and contains more than 300 individual texts not only in Ottoman-Turkish, Arabic and Persian but also in German, Hungarian, Latin and a variety of Central South Slavonic. Moreover the “European” language samples consist for the most part of Lutheran religious texts. All of them were written in Arabic characters and by one hand only, supposedly by the anonymous compiler, who was very likely a convert to Islam. As will be shown by the examination of its linguistic and codicological features the mecmua was most probably produced in the North Western parts of the late 16th century Ottoman Empire, i.e. Hungary or the Western Balkans, and thus is one early example of the use of Arabic script in Southeast Europe. Although it is a quite exceptional case of scripts, languages and manuscript cultures in contact, being “European” and “Oriental” at the same time, the examination of its genesis and function can shed some light on intellectual and cultural exchange in one of the most interesting contact areas of the Early Modern Period.

Branka Ivusic is a comparative linguist with a main research interest in language contact phenomena. During the last years, she has been mainly studying language contact and the use of Arabic script in the early modern Balkans and adjacent areas. Her PhD thesis focuses on an Arabic script manuscript from the Ottoman Empire containing texts in various languages of Central and South-East Europe. While deficient in some aspects, Arabic script sources in languages otherwise employing other writing systems often allow for insight in linguistic features obscured by writing conventions of the accustomed writing systems, as is shown by my research.


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