Reviews - What do customers think about The Uralic Languages: Description, History and Foreign Influences (Handbuch Der Orientalistik Achte Abteilung Handbook of Uralic Studies Vol 1)?
Still the standard handbook for study of the Finno-Ugrian/Uralic languages Sep 14, 2009
THE URALIC LANGUAGES ed. Denis Sinor was published by Brill in 1988 and continues to be *the* handbook for the study of the Finno-Ugrian and Samyoed languages. While Routledge's 1998 book of the same title in its Language Family Series is more recent, it treats these languages in less depth and generally from only a synchronic perspective. This volume edited by Sinor, however, has it all.
The book is split into four main parts. The first consists of papers on the present-day languages: Samyoed (Peter Hajdu), Lapp/Saami (Mikko Korhonen), the Baltic-Finnic languages (Aimo Turunen), Cheremis/Mari (Alho Alhoniemi), the Mordvinic languages (Alo Raun), Zyrian/Komi (Karoly Redei), Votjak/Udmurt (Sandor Csucs), Ob-Ugric (Laszlo Honti), and Hungarian (Istvan Szathmari). Here the perspective is mainly synchronic. The second part consists of histories of individual languages, rigorous diachronic descriptions: Samoyed (Tibor Mikola), Lapp/Saami (Mikko Korhonen), Baltic Finnic (Seppo Suhonen), Vola Finnic (Gabor Bereczki), Permian (Karoly Redei), Ob-Ugric (Bela Kalman) and Hungarian (Samu Imre). The third main part is a comparative look at the language family as a whole, consisting of a chapter on synchronic general features (Bernard Comrie), historical phonology (Pekka Sammallahti) and historical-comparative morphosyntax (Alo Raun).
The fourth and final portion of the book contains papers on relations with other linguistic groups: Baltic-Finnic with its neighbors in general (Aulis J. Joki), Finno-Ugrian contacts with Baltic (Seppo Suhonen), Slavic influences in Finno-Ugrian languages (Gyula Decsy), the oldest Indo-European loanwords in Uralic (Karoly Redei), Iranian influences (Eva Korenchy), Germanic influences (Sandor Rot), the problem of the Ural-Altaic relationship (Denis Sinor), Turkic influences (Andras Rona-Tas), Uralic and Tungusic (Istvan Futaky), and the history of Uralic languages (Bo Wickman).
Because space here is limited, I will give only a few reasons why this volume is so essential for anyone working with this language family. Pekka Sammallahti's paper on historical phonology is still the best presentation of the current state of thought, and hardly a day goes my in my Uralic studies department (University of Helsinki) that someone doesn't refer to it. Also, some of the papers here are useful reductions of books written in other languages that the reader might not yet know. For example, if you cannot read Mikko Korhonen's JOHDATUS LAPIN KIELEN HISTORIAAN in the original Finnish, his paper here summarises the main points for English readers. Ditto for Alho Alhoniemi's chapter on Mari/Cheremis, which is drawn from the same research as his Finnish-language grammar.
Sure, a few of the matters here have been superseded by more recent research. Readers interested in Nenets, for example, would do well to see the materials published by Tapani Salminen in the 1990s. Nonetheless, in the main this volume is still representative of current thought, and deserves careful reading and frequent consultation by all linguists interested in the Finno-Ugrian languages or its neighbors in contact with it.