In the second volume of a Festschrift for Oswald Szemerényi published in 1979, I found Adam Makkai’s paper ‘Latinate Diglossia in Finno-Ugric’ that is one of the few examples of ‘speculative linguistics’ I know. Latin was almost like a native language for the Hungarian gentry in Austro-Hungarian times, but eventually the Language Purification Movement came out on top. Makkai writes:
Yet things could have taken a different turn and Latin could only be vigorously alive; it could, in fact, have penetrated the language deeply enough to create yet another brand of Eastern Romance. Admittedly this is somewhat speculative and there were, as we now know, more forces against such pidginization and later creolization than for it, but that it could have happened diachronically can be shown from the synchronic situation in Hungarian today.
The synchronic situation to which the author refers is the speech of the oldest generation at the time of writing, which was a product of the Austro-Hungarian education regime. Makkai tape-recorded the following judgments of a Hungarian academic, aged 75, about an American colleague:
Micsoda implauzibilis szituacio! Ez a pasas nem gavaller, hanem szadista frater. Patriotismus es szolidaritas? Semper fidelis? Numquam fidelis… Nem kapiskalja, hogy aquila non captat muscas. Palam et publice impertinens, agressziv, kleptomaniakus, retorikaja extrem es abszurd. Antifeminista, antiszocialis, kriminalis tendenciai vannak. Hogy antialkoholista es antimorfinista is? Ja, noch schön… aber… imposszibilis teoriakat fabrikal, obskurus, misztikus obfuszkaciokkal alteralja a szocialis milieu-t… Intolerabilis antiracionalista, aki denigralja az universzitas-beli akademikusok konfraternitasat, amor patris-at, optimizmusat…
‘What an impossible situation! This guy/character [from French passager] is no gentleman [from Spanish caballero] but a sadistic gangster [from Latin frater ‘friar’]. (regarding) patriotism and solidarity? Always faithful? (why, he is) never faithful… He doesn’t understand [from Italian capisco] that ‘ the eagle doesn’t catch flies’ [Lat. proverb of high frequency in Hung.]. In full public view [frequent Latinism in Hung.] he is impertinent, aggressive, kleptomaniacal [from Gk. ‘to steal’], his rhetoric is extreme and absurd. He is an antifeminist, he is antisocial, and he has criminal tendencies. That he is also an antialcoholic and an antimorphinist? Well, that’s the saving grace…but… [German interjection] he fabricates impossible theories; keeps altering the social milieu [French] with obscure and mystical obfuscations… He is an intolerable antirationalist who denigrates the fraternity of university academics, their love [of their] country and their optimism’
Makkai makes the interesting point that after Latin declined in popularity, and ‘pure’ Hungarian formations became the standard, the younger generations could hardly understand classically educated old people.
The last sections of the paper are mainly in jest, example texts in the conjectured Romance language that Hungarian might have become. Nonetheless, the matter reminded me of a remark by Anthony Fox in his textbook Linguistic Reconstruction: An Introduction to Theory and Method
A more radical conclusion is drawn by Trubetzkoy (1939), who suggests that, since features may be shared by unrelated languages, the idea of a language family as a group of languages derived from a single source is actually unnecessary. Terms such as ‘Indo-European’ merely cover groups of languages sharing a number of features, and as a result it is possible for a language which acquires the appropriate features to become Indo-European.
The Trubetzkoy work is ‘Gedanken ueber das Indogermanenproblem’, Acta Linguistica, 1: 81–9. I haven’t read it yet, but I would like to find it soon and see how this seventy year-old idea of languages changing families jives with contemporary notions about genetic affiliation and contact phenomena.