Szilágyi, Sándor N. Letter to Constantin Olteanu, 1988. Manuscript
Sándor Szilágyi N.’s letter to Constantin Olteanu (Central Committee of the Romanian Communist Party), memo, 6 folios, typewritten, registered document, 14th November, 1988. In the Géza Domokos heritage, LIV. 3/43.
The Kriterion publishing house was founded in 1969 with the aim of publishing books in the languages of the minorities in Romania. The functioning of the Kriterion, and its institutional endurance among sistematic attempts aimed a tits abolishion can be safely considered a unique cultural achievement under the Romanian communist dictatorship. The publishing house used to publish in nine minority languages, and worked with a staff fully committed to publishing books of good quality.
The memo signed by editor Sándor Szilágyi N. illustrates well the methods, arguments and style of defensive measures employed by the staff of the publishing house against censorial interventions. The circumspect, scientifically and politically sensitive approach to the issues in question, the whole system of the argumentation played important role in the struggles with cenzorial prohibitions. The style of communication that combined the expected and tolerated discoursive elements and outstanding argumentatives kills many times proved to be crucial to the functioning of the publishing house.
This time, Szilágyi approached CC RCP secretary Constantin Olteanu as a party member, linguist and editor of the Kriterion publishing house, and framed his intentions of submitting the memo as a civic duty. The reason of his intervention: in April 1988, an ordinance came in to effect, according to which it was prohibited to publish the names of Romanian localities in the languages of national minorities, rather it had to be used the Romanian version of these names irrespective of the general language of the text.
The well edited text submitted by Szilágyi was written in a fine Romanian language, and contained psycholinguistic and linguistic arguments, as well as arguments of political and ideological nature. By employing a psycholinguistic approach, and offering a wide variety of historical, international, local and actual examples, Szilágyi proves that the mixing of languages can have a humorous or satirical intent or effect. Meanwhile he acquits the decision makers of the ordinance with the argument that the artificiality, the ludicrous character can be identified only by the native speakers/readers of the language, and not by the Romanian decision makers, who are unable to spot the unwanted overtones created by introduction of Romanian words in Hungarian, Serbian, German and other texts. From a linguistic point of view, Szilágyi highlights certain stylistic and grammatical challenges (for instance, differing gender of proper nouns in different languages) while applying the new rules. He also emphasizes that the inevitable and non-influenceable psychological reactions related to the use of mixed languages undermine the propaganda work. Moreover, it results in exactly the opposite effects: disrespectful usage of the Romanian language, bitterness, and frustration. The later attitudes emerge, according to Szilágyi’s argument, because the rule does not apply to localities outside Romania. Finally, he notes that this “not thoroughly considered” resolution brought at a lower decisional level goes against the provisions of the Constitution that guarantee the use of the mother tongue, which on its own turn implies the usage of the proper nouns too.
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- Kiss, Ágnes