Klára Sándor, a former SZDSZ member of parliament and a linguist by profession, has been writing a series of articles on language. She was most likely inspired by Pál Schmitt's efforts at becoming the guardian of Hungarian. Her latest article was on bilingualism, which she defines with reference to someone who lives in a different linguistic environment from his original language. The professional definition of bilingualism thus differs from our everyday notion of it. According to Sándor, a person in a bilingual environment doesn't even have to know his/her second language well for the second language to make its mark on the first regardless of the level of expertise in either language.
The usual examples, also cited by Sándor, are the speech patterns of early, uneducated Hungarian immigrants in the United States who ended up speaking a mixture of Hungarian and English, Hunglish. But the influence of one language on another doesn't have to be that blatant. Let me recount my own experience with the words uttered by László Kövér concerning those Hungarian politicians in the neighboring countries who collaborate with the majority political elite of the countries in which they live. Let me repeat what I had to say about this a few days ago:
Hungary's task is to strengthen those connective tissues that have been weakened in the last ninety years or so. "The political elites of the successor states purposely want to break these connections." It is not only the Romanian and the Slovak politicians who want to weaken the Hungarian minority but "also those political forces that collaborate with the majority politicians. These people claim to be Hungarians but in reality they don't represent them in the political decision-making forums. In fact, they serve the interests of the majority political elite."
In brief, Hungarian politicians who take part in the political life of their countries are traitors to the Hungarian cause. Any kind of cooperation with majority parties is sinful in Kövér's eyes. But where would such an attitude lead? Certainly not to peaceful coexistence! But to brutes this very concept is utterly alien.
It turned out that I really didn't grasp the seriousness of this statement because of a misunderstanding of the Hungarian word "kollaboráns" which Kövér used as an adjective. This construction could be translated only as those people who "collaborate with the majority politicians" In English. But "to collaborate" can mean one of two things: (1) to work together, especially in a joint intellectual effort, or (2) to cooperate treasonably, as with an enemy occupation force in one's country. As it turned out, "kollaboráns," the word Kövér used, unlike the English "collaborator," has only one meaning: "a person who collaborates with the occupying forces" or "a traitor." The English usage overshadowed its Hungarian counterpart in my mind: the same international word is used differently in the two languages.
Thus Kövér looks upon the Slovak and Romanian politicians as representatives of an occupying force and the Hungarian politicians who cooperate with them as traitors.
And here we come to another word he used: "utódállamok," meaning "successor states." My first thought when reading it was that this word is no longer used in Hungary; then I decided that it most likely didn't belong in my linguistic analysis of his speech. After all, in English historical writings the phrase "successor states" in connection with the nation states formed out of the remnants of Hungary is used all the time. However, it seems that my initial gut feeling was correct. This word is avoided in Hungary and therefore Kövér's use of it caught the attention of some of the commentators. Some people came to the conclusion that Kövér's speech was a revisionist outburst given his use of the words "kollaboráns" and "utódállamok." I personally find the former more weighty, but perhaps that's because as a historian I'm very used to the latter.
All in all, I was far too kind to László Kövér, and I wonder how far the Hungarian government can go in this vein before there will be a very serious clash between Hungary and the "successor states." Of course, it is possible that Kövér's talk is simply not being taken seriously. Yesterday, for example, Béla Bugár, the chairman of the Hungarian-Slovak Híd-Most party, just laughed when he was interviewed on the subject by György Bolgár. He said that the whole thing is such nonsense that there is no need to waste time on it. On the other hand, "the occupying forces," that is the Romanian and Slovak governments, might not be so forgiving as the "collaborator" was.