The Definition of the Exemplum

The database takes the so called GAHOM-group's exemplum definition for its basis. One of the most important characteristics of this definition is that it interprets the exemplum as a rhetorical function: the exemplum is a mode of persuasion based on various types of narratives for the purpose of teaching a lesson. In spite of this fact there are certain differences between the methods of the GAHOM-group's researchers and the approach offered by this thesis. The Hungarian material—as it contains far less texts than the French material—offers the possibility to observe the usage of the mediaeval exempla in a higher resolution. There are so many collections of exemplum available for the French researchers that for them it is considered a secondary task to collect the exempla inserted in the sermons.

On the other hand the Hungarian exempla are mostly found in composite codices and are often inserted in specialised contexts; moreover there is only one codex that can be considered a collection of exemplum, the so called Példák könyve. In the case of the stories that are present in composite codices and are already accommodated to a certain text it is really hard to define what we call an exemplum. Basically any story can occur in text in the function of exemplum if it is suitable to be used as a proof for something. It can be a miraculum, a part of a legend or an entire legend. Besides it can be asserted that the functional definition of the exemplum already contradicts itself in the case of the collections of exempla: the exempla found in them actually are not exemplum in a rhetorical sense because in that context their goal is not the conviction of someone but to give material to convince.

Regarding the peculiarities of the Hungarian material we suggest to put aside the functional definition when we establish the Hungarian corpus, and we should examine not the exempla but the stories that can assume the role of exemplum. Practically it means the examination of the entirety of the mediaeval narrative material written in Hungarian.

The Exempla in the Old Hungarian Linguistic Records

At the moment the database contains 152 exempla which means approximately a 30–40% preparedness. The database makes it easy to compare the exempla in the old Hungarian linguistic records: it is served by the keywords linked to the exempla, the data of the catalogues and the information provided about the Hungarian parallels.

At this time the Database of the Old Hungarian Exempla doesn't have the ambition to process the entirety of the Hungarian mediaeval narrative material, but we do declare that our material of exempla must be examined from this point of view. The definition of the typical exemplum is precarious in its every detail: several borderline cases prove that the outlines of the corpus are very uncertain.