The discourse of the Hungarian dirge
MetadataShow full item record
The primary goal of the present dissertation is to show that the Hungarian dirge, an improvised speech-song of grief, is a unit of speech with a set of distinctive features that identify it as text, as an oral folklore genre which has the unified force of a speech act, and as performance. Although some of these features may occupy extralinguistic or paralinguistic levels of discourse in addition to the linguistic levels, they can be addressed by discourse analysis; moreover, these levels prove essential for the characterization of the dirge. These are the levels that primarily carry a poetic quality and a strong emotionality (appearing in the dimensions of singing and crying), serving both community and individual. Improvisation in the textual composition of the dirge is shown to make use of a communally, culturally established set of thematic units which, combined with formulaic entities, aid the individual lamenter in her task. My other goal is to demonstrate how the dirge correlates with various types of context, such as society and culture, ritual, and situation. Being strikingly different from any other type of Hungarian speech, the dirge reveals some aspects of its situation and culture, and also demonstrates that the people in dirge–performing communities may think, behave and express themselves in different ways from those communities that have lost this genre. In this respect, the dirge is not only a linguistic indicator, being shaped by its situation and its cultural conventions, but also a type of behavior that affects the community’s way of thinking. For instance, different Hungarian subcultures, ones still fostering the dirge and others having lost it, evaluate the significance of lamenting behavior in opposing terms, and categorize speaking in different manners. This ought to be related to changes in the society, with regard to norms that do not allow the direct expression of emotions any longer, and also concerning the spread of literacy. Although the loss of the dirge is a regrettable phenomenon, some functional continuity of verbal expression is observed in a type of small talk, the survival of ritualistic complaints in the culture of Hungarians.