|Closeup of Hungarian keyboard
Closeup view of a Hungarian keyboard
|Hungarian and English|
Hungarian (Hungarian: magyar nyelv listen (help·info)) is a Uralic language, one of the Ugric branch, spoken by the Hungarians. It is the most widely spoken non-Indo-European language in Europe, based on the number of native speakers. Hungarian is the official language of Hungary and is also spoken by Hungarian communities in the seven neighboring countries and by diaspora communities worldwide.
Hungarian is a Uralic language, more specifically an Ugric language; the most closely related languages are Mansi and Khanty of western Siberia (see Khanty–Mansia). Connections between the Ugric and many other languages were noticed in the 1670s and established, along with the entire Uralic family, in 1717, although the classification of Hungarian continued to be a matter of political controversy into the 18th and even 19th centuries. The name of Hungary could be a result of regular sound changes of Ungrian/Ugrian, and the fact that the Eastern Slavs referred to Hungarians as Ǫgry/Ǫgrove (sg. Ǫgrinŭ) seemed to confirm that. As to the source of this ethnonym in the Slavic languages, current literature favors the hypothesis that it comes from the name of the Turkic tribe Onogur (which means "ten arrows" or "ten tribes").
There are numerous regular sound correspondences between Hungarian and the other Ugric languages. For example, Hungarian /aː/ corresponds to Khanty /o/ in certain positions, and Hungarian /h/ corresponds to Khanty /x/, while Hungarian final /z/ corresponds to Khanty final /t/. For example, Hungarian ház [haːz] "house" vs. Khanty xot [xot] "house", and Hungarian száz [saːz] "hundred" vs. Khanty sot [sot] "hundred".
The distance between the Ugric and Finnic languages is greater, but the correspondences are also regular.
It is thought that Hungarian separated from its closest relatives approximately 3000 years ago, probably in the vicinity of the Urals, so the history of the language begins around 1000 BC. The Hungarians gradually changed their way of living from settled hunters to nomadic cattle-raising, probably as a result of early contacts with Iranian nomads. Their most important animals included sheep and cattle. There are no written resources on the era, thus only a little is known about it. However, research has revealed some extremely early loanwords, such as szó ('word'; from the Turkic languages) and daru ('crane', from the related Permic languages.)
A small number of anthropologists dispute this theory. Among others, Hungarian historian and archaeologist Gyula László claims that geological data from pollen analysis seems to contradict placing the ancient homeland of the Magyars near the Urals.
The Turkic languages later had a great influence on the language, especially between the 5th and the 9th centuries. Many words related to agriculture, to state administration or even to family relations have such backgrounds. Hungarian syntax and grammar were not influenced in a similarly dramatic way during these 300 years.
The Hungarians migrated to the Carpathian Basin around 896 and came into contact with Slavic peoples – as well as with the Romance speaking Vlachs, borrowing many words from them (for example tégla – "brick", mák – "poppy", or karácsony – "Christmas"). In exchange, the neighbouring Slavic languages also contain some words of Hungarian origin (such as Serbian ašov – "spade"). 1.43% of the Romanian vocabulary is of Hungarian origin.
The first written accounts of Hungarian, mostly personal and place names, are dated back to the 10th century. Hungarians also had their own writing system, the Old Hungarian script, but no significant texts remain from that time, as the usual medium of writing, wooden sticks, is perishable.
The Kingdom of Hungary was founded in 1000, by Stephen I of Hungary. The country was a western-styled Christian (Roman Catholic) state, and Latin held an important position, as was usual in the Middle Ages. The Latin script was adopted to write the Hungarian language and Latin influenced the language. The first extant text of the language is the Funeral Sermon and Prayer, written in the 1190s. More extensive Hungarian literature arose after 1300. The earliest known example of Hungarian religious poetry is the Old Hungarian 'Lamentations of Mary' from the 14th century. The first Bible translation is the Hussite Bible from the 1430s.
The standard language lost its diphthongs, and several postpositions transformed into suffixes, such as reá 'onto' – 1055: utu rea 'onto the way'; later: útra). Vowel harmony was also developed. At one time, Hungarian used six verb tenses; today, most commonly only two (the future not being counted as one, as it is formed with an auxiliary verb).
The first printed Hungarian book was published in Kraków in 1533, by Benedek Komjáti. The work's title is A Szent Pál levelei magyar nyelven (In original spelling: Az zenth Paal leueley magyar nyeluen), i.e. The letters of Saint Paul in the Hungarian language. In the 17th century, the language was already very similar to its present-day form, although two of the past tenses were still used. German, Italian and French loans also appeared in the language by these years. Further Turkish words were borrowed during the Ottoman rule of part of Hungary between 1541 and 1699.
In the 18th century, a group of writers, most notably Ferenc Kazinczy began the process of language renewal (Hungarian: nyelvújítás). Some words were shortened (győzedelem > győzelem, 'triumph' or 'victory'); a number of dialectal words spread nationally (e. g. cselleng 'dawdle'); extinct words were reintroduced (dísz 'décor'); a wide range of expressions was coined using the various derivative suffixes; and some other, less frequently used methods of expanding the language were utilized. This movement produced more than ten thousand words, most of which are used actively today.
The 19th and 20th centuries saw further standardization of the language, and differences between the mutually comprehensible dialects gradually lessened. In 1920, by signing the Treaty of Trianon, Hungary lost 71% of its territory, and along with these, 33% of the ethnic Hungarian population. Today, the language is official in Hungary, and regionally also in Romania, in Slovakia, and in Serbia.
|Hungary||10,177,223 (2001 census)|
|1,443,970 (census 2002)|
|Slovakia||520,528 (census 2001)|
|293,299 (census 2002)|
|149,400 (census 2001)|
|United States||117,973 (census 2000)|
|Canada||75,555 (census 2001)|
|Total||12-13 million (in Carpathian Basin)|
- Source: National censuses, Ethnologue
Hungarian has about 14-15 million native speakers, of whom nearly 10 million live in present-day Hungary. About 2.5 million speakers live in areas that were part of the Kingdom of Hungary before the Treaty of Trianon (1920). Of these, the largest group lives in Transylvania, the western half of present-day Romania, where there are approximately 1.4 million Hungarians. There are large Hungarian communities also in Slovakia, Serbia and Ukraine, and Hungarians can also be found in Austria, Croatia, and Slovenia, as well as about a million additional people scattered in other parts of the world. For example, there are more than one hundred thousand Hungarian speakers in the Hungarian American community and 1.5 million with Hungarian ancestry in the United States.
Hungarian is the official language of Hungary, and thus an official language of the European Union. Hungarian is also one of the official languages of Vojvodina and an official language of three municipalities in Slovenia: Hodoš, Dobrovnik and Lendava, along with Slovene. Hungarian is officially recognized as a minority or regional language in Austria, Croatia, Romania, Zakarpattia in Ukraine, and Slovakia. In Romania it is an official language at local level in all communes, towns and municipalities with an ethnic Hungarian population of over 20%.
The dialects of Hungarian identified by Ethnologue are: Alföld, West Danube, Danube-Tisza, King's Pass Hungarian, Northeast Hungarian, Northwest Hungarian, Székely and West Hungarian. These dialects are, for the most part, mutually intelligible. The Hungarian Csángó dialect, which is mentioned but not listed separately by Ethnologue, is spoken primarily in Bacău County in eastern Romania. The Csángó Hungarian group has been largely isolated from other Hungarian people, and they therefore preserved a dialect closely resembling an earlier form of Hungarian.
Hungarian has 14 vowel phonemes and 25 consonant phonemes. The vowel phonemes can be grouped as pairs of short and long vowels, e.g. o and ó. Most of these pairs have a similar pronunciation, only varying significantly in their duration. However, the pairs <a>/<á> and <e>/<é> differ both in closedness and length.
|Plosive||p b||t d||k ɡ|
|Affricate||t͡s d͡z||t͡ʃ d͡ʒ||c͡ç ɟ͡ʝ|
|Fricative||f v||s z||ʃ ʒ||h|
The sound voiced palatal plosive /ɟ/, written <gy>, sounds similar to 'd' in British English 'duty' (in fact, more similar to 'd' in French 'dieu', or to the Macedonian phoneme 'ѓ' as in 'ѓакон'). It occurs in the name of the country, "Magyarország" (Hungary), pronounced /ˈmɒɟɒrorsaːɡ/.
Primary stress is always on the first syllable of a word, as with its cousin Finnish and neighboring languages, Slovak (standard dialect) and Czech. There is secondary stress on other syllables in compounds, e.g. viszontlátásra ("goodbye") pronounced /ˈvisontˌlaːtaːʃrɒ/. Elongated vowels in non-initial syllables may seem to be stressed to the ear of an English speaker, since length and stress correlate in English.
Front-back vowel harmony is an important feature of Hungarian phonology.
Single /r/s are tapped, like the Spanish pero; double /r/s are trilled, like the Spanish perro.
Grammar and syntax
Hungarian is an agglutinative language. It uses various affixes, including suffixes, prefixes and a circumfix to define a word's meaning and grammatical function. Unlike English, Hungarian has no prepositions, only postpositions.
There are two types of articles in Hungarian:
- definite: a before words beginning with consonants and az before vowels (behaving just like the indefinite article ’a(n)’ in English)
- indefinite: egy, literally ‘one’.
Nouns can have up to eighteen cases. Some cases are grammatical, such as the unmarked nominative (as in az alma ‘the apple’) and the accusative, marked with the suffix –t (as in az almát). Hungarian does not have a genitive case. The dative case serves the function of the genitive. Unlike English, Hungarian uses postpositions, as in az alma mellett ‘next to the apple’. Noun plurals are formed using the suffix –k (az almák ‘the apples’).
Adjectives precede nouns, as in a piros alma ‘the red apple’. They have three degrees, including base (piros ‘red’), comparative (pirosabb ‘redder’), and superlative ( a legpirosabb ‘reddest’). If the noun takes the plural or a case, the adjective, used attributively, does not agree with it: a piros almák ‘the red apples’. However, when the adjective is used in a predicative sense, it must agree with the noun: az almák pirosak ‘the apples are red’. Adjectives take cases when they are used without nouns: Melyik almát kéred? – A pirosat. 'Which apple would you like? – The red one.'
Verbs developed a complex conjugation system over many centuries. Every Hungarian verb has two conjugations (definite and indefinite), at least two tenses (past and present-future), and three moods (indicative, conditional and imperative), two numbers (singular or plural), and three persons (first, second and third). Two different conjugations are the most characteristic: the "definite" conjugation is used for a transitive verb with a definite direct object. The "indefinite" conjugation is used for an intransitive verb or for a transitive verb with an indefinite direct object. These rules, however, do not apply everywhere. The following examples demonstrate this system:
|János lát. ‘John sees.’ |
(indefinite: he has the ability of vision)
|János lát egy almát. ‘John sees an apple.’ |
(indefinite: it does not matter which apple)
|János látja az almát. ‘John sees the apple.’ |
(definite: John sees the specific apple that was talked about earlier)
Present tense is unmarked, while past is formed using the suffix –t or sometimes –tt: lát 'sees'; látott 'saw', past. Futurity may be expressed in either of two ways: with the present tense, most commonly used when the sentence also defines the time of the future event, for example János pénteken moziba megy – literally ‘John on Friday into cinema goes’, i.e. ‘On Friday, John will go to the cinema’; or using the auxiliary verb fog (En:‘will’) together with the verb’s infinitive (formed using –ni): János moziba fog menni – ‘John will go to the cinema.’ This is sometimes counted as a tense, especially by non-specialist publications.
Verbs have verbal prefixes. Most of them define direction of movement (as lemegy "goes down", felmegy "goes up"). Some verbal prefixes give an aspect to the verb, such as the prefix meg-, which defines a finite action.
Hungarian word order is free, but more semantical than syntactical. Because the object is indicated with a suffix and not its place in a phrase, it and the subject can appear before or after the verb, depending on emphasis.
János lát egy almát. ‘John sees an apple.’
János egy almát lát. (or even Egy almát lát János) ‘John an apple sees.’
Hungarian has a four-tiered system for expressing levels of politeness.
- Ön (önözés): Use of this form in speech shows respect towards the person addressed, but it is also the common way of speaking in official texts and business communications. Here "you", the second person, is grammatically addressed in the third person.
- Maga (magázás, magázódás): Use of this form serves to show that the speaker wishes to distance himself/herself from the person he/she addresses. A boss could also address a subordinate as "maga". Aside from the different pronoun it is grammatically the same as "önözés".
- Néni/bácsi (tetszikezés): This way of politeness is grammatically the same as "önözés" or "magázódás", but adds a certain phrase, an additional verb "tetszik" ("like") to support the main verb of the sentence. For example children are supposed to address adults who are not close friends by using "tetszik" ("you like") as a sort of an auxiliary verb with all other verbs. "Hogy vagy?" ("How are you?") here becomes "Hogy tetszik lenni?" ("How do you like to be?"). The elderly are generally addressed this way, even by adults. When using this way of speaking, one will not use normal greetings, but can only say "(kezét) csókolom" ("I kiss (your hand)"). This way of speaking is perceived as somewhat awkward in certain situations and sometimes creates impossible grammatical structures, but is still widely in use. In such cases the smooth solution is usually using the simple "önözés" formula without "tetszik". Another problem created by this form is that when children grow up into their 20s or 30s, they are not sure of how to address family friends that are their parents' age, but whom they have known since they were young. "Tetszik" would make these people feel too old, but "tegeződés" seems too familiar. There are two ways to avoid this dilemma: one is to use the "tegeződés" in grammatical structures, but show the respect in the title: "John bácsi, hogy vagy?", and the other is using "önözés" to show respect in grammatical structures, while marking the person in a friendly, closer way with the title "bátyám" ("brother").
- Te (tegezés, tegeződés or pertu, per tu from Latin): Used generally, i.e. with persons with whom none of the above forms of politeness is required. Interestingly, the highest rank, the king was traditionally addressed "per tu" by all, peasants and noblemen alike, though with Hungary not having any crowned king since 1918, this practice survives only in folk tales and children's stories. Use of "tegezés" in the media and advertisements has become more frequent since the early 1990s. It is informal and is normally used in families, among friends, colleagues, among young people, adults speaking to children; can be compared to addressing somebody by their first name in English. Perhaps prompted by the widespread use of English (a language without T-V distinction in most contemporary dialects) on the Internet, "tegezés" is also becoming the standard way to address people over the Internet, regardless of politeness.
The four-tiered system has somewhat been eroded due to the recent expansion of "tegeződés".
|adó||tax or transmitter|
|adózik||to pay tax|
|adakozik||to give (practise charity)|
|With verbal prefixes|
|átad||to hand over|
|bead||to hand in|
|felad||to give up, to mail|
|hozzáad||to augment, to add to|
|kiad||to rent out, to publish, to extradite|
|lead||to lose weight, to deposit (an object)|
|megad||to repay (debt), to call (poker), to grant (permission)|
|összead||to add (to do mathematical addition)|
Giving an accurate estimate for the total word count is difficult, since it is hard to define what to call "a word" in agglutinating languages, due to the existence of affixed words and compound words. To have a meaningful definition of compound words, we have to exclude such compounds whose meaning is the mere sum of its elements. The largest dictionaries from Hungarian to another language contain 120,000 words and phrases (but this may include redundant phrases as well, because of translation issues). The new desk lexicon of the Hungarian language contains 75,000 words and the Comprehensive Dictionary of Hungarian Language (to be published in 18 volumes in the next twenty years) will contain 110,000 words. The default Hungarian lexicon is usually estimated to comprise 60,000 to 100,000 words. (Independently of specific languages, speakers actively use at most 10,000 to 20,000 words, with an average intellectual using 25-30 thousand words.) However, all the Hungarian lexemes collected from technical texts, dialects etc. would all together add up to 1,000,000 words.
Parts of the Lexicon can be organized using word-bushes. (See an example on the right.) The words in these bush share a common root and are related though inflection, derivation and compounding and are usually broadly related in meaning.
The basic vocabulary shares a couple of hundred word roots with other Uralic languages like Finnish, Estonian, Mansi and Khanty. Examples of such include the verb él 'live' (Finnish elää), the numbers kettő 'two', három 'three', négy 'four' (cf. Mansi китыг kitig, хурум khurum, нила nila, Finnish kaksi, kolme, neljä, Estonian kaks, kolm, neli, ), as well as víz 'water', kéz 'hand', vér 'blood', fej 'head' (cf. Finnish and Estonian vesi, käsi, veri, Finnish pää, Estonian pea or 'pää).
Except for a few Latin and Greek loan-words, these differences are unnoticed even by native speakers; the words have been entirely adopted into the Hungarian lexicon. There are an increasing number of English loan-words, especially in technical fields.
Another source  differs in that loanwords in Hungarian are held to constitute about 45% of bases in the language. Although the lexical percentage of native words in Hungarian is 55%, their use accounts for 88.4% of all words used (the percentage of loanwords used being just 11.6%). Therefore the history of Hungarian has come, especially since the 19th century, to favor neologisms from original bases, whilst still having developed as many terms from neighboring languages in the lexicon.
Words can be compounds or derived. Most derivation is with suffixes, but there is a small set of derivational prefixes as well.
Compounds have been present in the language since the Proto-Uralic era. Numerous ancient compounds transformed to base words during the centuries. Today, compounds play an important role in vocabulary.
A good example is the word arc:
- orr (nose) + száj (mouth) → orca (face) (colloquial until the end of the 19th century and still in use in some dialects) → arc (face)
Compounds are made up of two base words: the first is the prefix, the latter is the suffix. A compound can be subordinative: the prefix is in logical connection with the suffix. If the prefix is the subject of the suffix, the compound is generally classified as a subjective one. There are objective, determinative, and adjunctive compounds as well. Some examples are given below:
- menny (heaven) + dörög (rumble) → mennydörög (thundering)
- nap (Sun) + sütötte (baked by) → napsütötte (sunlit)
- fa (tree, wood) + vágó (cutter) → favágó (lumberjack, literally "woodcutter")
- új (new) + já (modification of -vá, -vé a suffix meaning "making it to something") + építés (construction) → újjáépítés (reconstruction, literally "making something to be new by construction")
- sárga (yellow) + réz (copper) → sárgaréz (brass)
According to current orthographic rules, a subordinative compound word has to be written as a single word, without spaces; however, if the length of a compound of three or more words (not counting one-syllable verbal prefixes) is seven or more syllables long (not counting case suffixes), a hyphen must be inserted at the appropriate boundary to ease the determination of word boundaries for the reader.
Other compound words are coordinatives: there is no concrete relation between the prefix and the suffix. Subcategories include word duplications (to emphasise the meaning; olykor-olykor 'really occasionally'), twin words (where a base word and a distorted form of it makes up a compound: gizgaz, where the suffix 'gaz' means 'weed' and the prefix giz is the distorted form; the compound itself means 'inconsiderable weed'), and such compounds which have meanings, but neither their prefixes, nor their suffixes make sense (for example, hercehurca 'long-lasting, frusteredly done deed').
A compound also can be made up by multiple (i.e., more than two) base words: in this case, at least one word element, or even both the prefix and the suffix is a compound. Some examples:
- elme [mind; standalone base] + (gyógy [medical] + intézet [institute]) → elmegyógyintézet (asylum)
- (hadi [militarian] + fogoly [prisoner]) + (munka [work] + tábor [camp]) → hadifogoly-munkatábor (work camp of prisoners of war)
Noteworthy lexical items
Points of the compass
- North = észak (from "éj(szaka)", 'night'), as the Sun never shines from the North
- South = dél ('noon'), as the Sun shines from the South at noon
- East = kelet ('rise'), as the Sun rises in the East
- West = nyugat ('set'), as the Sun sets in the West
Two words for "red"
There are two basic words for "red" in Hungarian: "piros" and "vörös" (variant: "veres"; compare with Estonian "verev" or Finnish "punainen"). (They are basic in the sense that one is not a sub-type of the other, as the English "scarlet" is of "red".) The word "vörös" is related to "vér", meaning "blood" (Finnish & Estonian "veri"). When they refer to an actual difference in color (as on a color chart), "vörös" usually refers to the deeper (darker and/or more red and less orange) hue of red. In English similar differences exist between "scarlet" and "red". While many languages have multiple names for this color, often Hungarian scholars assume this is unique in recognizing two shades of red as separate and distinct "folk colours".
However, the two words are also used independently of the above in collocations. "Piros" is learned by children first, as it is generally used to describe inanimate, artificial things, or things seen as cheerful or neutral, while "vörös" typically refers to animate or natural things (biological, geological, physical and astronomical objects), as well as serious or emotionally charged subjects.
When the rules outlined above are in contradiction, typical collocations usually prevail. In some cases where a typical collocation does not exist, the use of either of the two words may be equally adequate.
- Expressions where "red" typically translates to "piros": a red road sign, red traffic lights, the red line of Budapest Metro, red (now called express) bus lines in Budapest, a holiday shown in red in the calendar, ruddy complexion, the red nose of a clown, some red flowers (those of a neutral nature, e.g. tulips), red peppers and paprika, red card suits (hearts and diamonds), red stripes on a flag, etc.
- Expressions where "red" typically translates to "vörös": Red Sea, Red Square, Red Army, Red Baron, Erik the Red, red wine, red carpet (for receiving important guests), red hair or beard, red lion (the mythical animal), the Red Cross, the novel The Red and the Black, redshift, red giant, red blood cells, red oak, some red flowers (those with passionate connotations, e.g. roses), red fox, names of ferric and other red minerals, red copper, rust, red phosphorus, the colour of blushing with anger or shame, the red nose of an alcoholic (in contrast with that of a clown, see above), the red posterior of a baboon, red meat, litmus paper (in acid), cities, countries, or other political entities associated with leftist movements (e.g. Red Vienna, Red Russia), etc.
The Hungarian words for brothers and sisters are differentiated based upon relative age. There is also a general word for sibling, testvér, from test = body and vér = blood—i.e. originating from the same body and blood.
(There used to be a separate word for "elder sister", néne, but it has become obsolete [except to mean "aunt" in some dialects] and has been replaced by the generic word for "sister".)
In addition, there are separate prefixes for up to the eleventh ancestors and tenth descendants (although there are ambiguities and dialectical differences affecting the prefixes for the fourth (and above) ancestors): Apa (father) -> Nagyapa (grandfather) -> Dédapa (great-grandfather) -> Dédnagyapa (great-great-grandfather) Ükapa (great-great-great-grandfather) Üknagyapa (great-great-great-great-grandfather) -> Szépapa (great-great-great-great-great-grandfather)-> Szépnagyapa (great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather) -> Óapa (great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather) -> Ónagyapa (8X great-grandfather) -> Ősapa (9X great-grandfather) -> Ősnagyapa (10X great-grandfather) -> Boldogapa (11X great-grandfather) -> Boldognagyapa (12X great-grandfather)
The words for "boy" and "girl" are applied with possessive suffixes. Nevertheless, the terms are differentiated with different declension or lexemes:
Fia is only used in this, irregular possessive form; it has no nominative on its own (see inalienable possession). However, the word fiú can also take the regular suffix, in which case the resulting word (fiúja) will refer to a lover or partner (boyfriend), rather than a male offspring.
The word fiú (boy) is also often noted as an extreme example of the ability of the language to add suffixes to a word, by forming fiaiéi, adding vowel-form suffixes only, where the result is quite a frequently used word:
|fiáé||his/her son's (singular object)|
|fiáéi||his/her son's (plural object)|
|fiaié||his/her sons' (singular object)|
|fiaiéi||his/her sons' (plural object)|
Extremely long words
- Partition to root and suffixes with explanations:
|meg-||verb prefix; in this case, it means "completed"|
|szent||holy (the word root)|
|-ség||like English "-ness", as in "holiness"|
|-t(e)len||variant of "-tlen", noun suffix expressing the lack of something; like English "-less", as in "useless"|
|-ít||constitutes a transitive verb from an adjective|
|-het||expresses possibility; somewhat similar to the English modal verbs "may" or "can"|
|-(e)tlen||another variant of "-tlen"|
|-es||constitutes an adjective from a noun; like English "-y" as in "witty"|
|-ked||attached to an adjective (e.g. "strong"), produces the verb "to pretend to be (strong)"|
|-és||constitutes a noun from a verb; there are various ways this is done in English, e.g. "-ance" in "acceptance"|
|-eitek||plural possessive suffix, second-person plural (e.g. "apple" -> "your apples", where "your" refers to multiple people)|
|-ért||approximately translates to "because of", or in this case simply "for"|
- Translation: "for your [plural] repeated pretending to be indesecrable"
The above word is often considered to be the longest word in Hungarian, although there are longer words like:
- "like those of you that are the very least possible to get desecrated"
These words are not used in practice, but when spoken they are easily understood by natives. They were invented to show, in a somewhat facetious way, the ability of the language to form long words (see agglutinative language). They are not compound words—they are formed by adding a series of one and two-syllable suffixes (and a few prefixes) to a simple root ("szent", saint). There is virtually no limit for the length of words, but when too many suffixes are added, the meaning of the word becomes less clear, and the word becomes hard to understand, and will work like a riddle even for native speakers.
The Hungarian language was originally written in Old Hungarian runes, superficially similar in appearance to the better-known futhark runes but unrelated. When Stephen I of Hungary established the Kingdom of Hungary in the year 1000, the old system was gradually discarded in favour of the Latin alphabet. Although now not used at all in everyday life, the old script is still known and practiced by some enthusiasts.
Modern Hungarian is written using an expanded Latin alphabet, and has a phonemic orthography, i.e. pronunciation can generally be predicted from the written language. In addition to the standard letters of the Latin alphabet, Hungarian uses several modified Latin characters to represent the additional vowel sounds of the language. These include letters with acute accents (á,é,í,ó,ú) to represent long vowels, and umlauts (ö and ü) and their long counterparts ő and ű to represent front vowels. Sometimes (usually as a result of a technical glitch on a computer) ô or õ is used for ő and û for ű. This is often due to the limitations of the Latin-1 / ISO-8859-1 code page. These letters are not part of the Hungarian language, and are considered misprints. Hungarian can be properly represented with the Latin-2 / ISO-8859-2 code page, but this code page is not always available. (Hungarian is the only language using both ő and ű.) Unicode includes them, and so they can be used on the Internet.
Additionally, the letter pairs <ny>, <ty>, and <gy> represent the palatal consonants /ɲ/, /c/, and /ɟ/ (a little like the "d+y" sounds in British "duke" or American "would you") – a bit like saying "d" with your tongue pointing to your upper palate. (In other words, if Hungarian orthography was totally consistent, <gy> would have been written as <dy> instead.)
Hungarian uses <s> for /ʃ/ and <sz> for /s/, which is the reverse of Polish usage. The letter <zs> is /ʒ/ and <cs> is /t͡ʃ/. These digraphs are considered single letters in the alphabet. The letter <ly> is also a "single letter digraph", but is pronounced like /j/ (English <y>), and appears mostly in old words. The letters <dz> and <dzs> /d͡ʒ/ are exotic remnants and are hard to find even in longer texts. Some examples still in common use are madzag ("string"), edzeni ("to train (athletically)") and dzsungel ("jungle").
Sometimes additional information is required for partitioning words with digraphs: házszám ("street number") = ház ("house") + szám ("number"), not an unintelligible házs + zám.
Hungarian distinguishes between long and short vowels, with long vowels written with acutes. It also distinguishes between long and short consonants, with long consonants being doubled. For example, lenni ("to be"), hozzászólás ("comment"). The digraphs, when doubled, become trigraphs: <sz>+<sz>=<ssz>, e.g. művésszel ("with an artist"). But when the digraph occurs at the end of a line, all of the letters are written out. For example ("with a bus"):
- ... busz-
When the first lexeme of a compound ends in a digraph and the second lexeme starts with the same digraph, both digraphs are written out: jegy + gyűrű = jegygyűrű ("engagement/wedding ring", "jegy" means "sign", "mark". The term "jegyben lenni/járni" means "to be engaged"; "gyűrű" means "ring").
Usually a trigraph is a double digraph, but there are a few exceptions: tizennyolc ("eighteen") is a concatenation of tizen + nyolc. There are doubling minimal pairs: tol ("push") vs. toll ("feather" or "pen").
While to English speakers they may seem unusual at first, once the new orthography and pronunciation are learned, written Hungarian is almost completely phonemic (except for etymological spellings and "ly, j" representing /j/).
Order of words
Basic rule is that the order is from general to specific. This is a typical analytical approach and is used generally in Hungarian.
The Hungarian language uses the so-called eastern name order, in which the surname (general, deriving from the family) comes first and the given name comes last. If a second given name is used, this follows the first given name. This is comparable to the Anglophone custom of middle names.
Hungarian names in foreign languages
For clarity, in foreign languages Hungarian names are usually represented in the western name order. Sometimes, however, especially in the neighbouring countries of Hungary – where there is a significant Hungarian population – the Hungarian name order is retained, as it causes less confusion there.
For an example of foreign use, the birth name of the Hungarian-born physicist, the "father of the hydrogen bomb" was Teller Ede, but he became known internationally as Edward Teller. Prior to the mid-20th century, given names were usually translated along with the name order; this is no longer as common. For example, the pianist uses András Schiff when abroad, not Andrew Schiff (in Hungarian Schiff András). If a second given name is present, it becomes a middle name and is usually written out in full, rather than truncated to an initial.
Foreign names in Hungarian
In modern usage, foreign names retain their order when used in Hungarian. Therefore:
- Amikor Kiss János Los Angelesben volt, látta John Travoltát.
- The Hungarian name Kiss János is in the Hungarian name order (János is equivalent to John), but the foreign name John Travolta remains in the western name order.
Before the 20th century, not only was it common to reverse the order of foreign personalities, they were also "Hungarianised": Goethe János Farkas (originally Johann Wolfgang Goethe). This usage sounds odd today, when only a few well-known personalities are referred to using their Hungarianised names, including Verne Gyula (Jules Verne), Marx Károly (Karl Marx), Kolumbusz Kristóf (Christopher Columbus, note that it is also translated in English).
Some native speakers disapprove of this usage; the names of certain historical religious personalities (including popes), however, are always Hungarianised by practically all speakers, such as Luther Márton (Martin Luther), Husz János (Jan Hus), Kálvin János (John Calvin); just like the names of monarchs, for example the king of Spain, Juan Carlos I is referred to as I. János Károly or the queen of the UK, Elizabeth II is referred to as II. Erzsébet.
Japanese names, which are usually written in western order in the rest of Europe, retain their original order in Hungarian.
Date and time
The Hungarian convention for date and time is to go from the generic to the specific: 1. year, 2. month, 3. day, 4. hour, 5. minute, (6. second)
The year and day are always written in Arabic numerals, followed by a full stop. The month can be written by its full name or can be abbreviated, or even denoted by Roman or Arabic numerals. Except for the first case (month written by its full name), the month is followed by a full stop. Usually, when the month is written in letters, there is no leading zero before the day. On the other hand, when the month is written in Arabic numerals, a leading zero is common, but not obligatory. Except at the beginning of a sentence, the name of the month always begins with a lower-case letter.
Hours, minutes, and seconds are separated by a colon (H:m:s). Fractions of a second are separated by a full stop from the rest of the time. Hungary generally uses the 24-hour clock format, but in verbal (and written) communication 12-hour clock format can also be used. See below for usage examples.
Date and time may be separated by a comma or simply written one after the other.
- 2008. február 9. 16:23:42 or 2008. február 9., 16:23:42
- 2008. feb. 9.
- 2008. 02. 09. or 2008. 2. 9. (rarely)
- 2008. II. 9.
Date separated by hyphen is also spreading, especially on datestamps. Here – just like the version separated by full stops – leading zeros are in use.
When only hours and minutes are written in a sentence (so not only "displaying" time), these parts can be separated by a full stop (e.g. "Találkozzunk 10.35-kor." – "Let's meet at 10.35."), or it is also regular to write hours in normal size, and minutes put in superscript (and not necessarily) underlined (e.g. "A találkozó 1035-kor kezdődik." or "A találkozó 1035-kor kezdődik." – "The meeting begins at 10.35.").
Also, in verbal and written communication it is common to use "délelőtt" (literally "before noon") and "délután" (lit. "after noon") abbreviated as "de." and "du." respectively. Délelőtt and délután is said or written before the time, e.g. "Délután 4 óra van." – "It's 4 p.m.". However e.g. "délelőtt 5 óra" (should mean "5 a.m.") or "délután 10 óra" (should mean "10 p.m.") are never used, because at these times the sun is not up, instead "hajnal(i)" ("dawn"), "reggel" ("morning"), "este" ("evening") and "éjjel" ("night") is used, however there is no exact rules for the use of these, as everybody use them according to their habits (e.g. somebody may has woken up at 5 a.m. so he/she says "Reggel 6-kor ettem." – "I had food at *morning 6.", and somebody woke up at 11 a.m. so he/she says "Hajnali 6-kor még aludtam." – "I was still sleeping at *dawn 6."). Roughly, these expressions mean these times:
|Délelőtt (de.)||9 a.m. – 12 p.m.|
|Dél*||=12 p.m. (="noon")|
|Délután (du.)||12–6 p.m.|
|Éjjel||11 p.m. – 4 a.m.|
|Éjfél*||=12 a.m. (="midnight")|
- * "Dél" and "éjfél" mean these exact times, so using time after them is incorrect. So there is no "Éjfél 0-kor még buliztunk" ("We were still partying at *midnight 0.") or "Dél 12-kor süt a nap." ("The sun shines at *noon 12."). Instead "Éjfélkor még buliztunk." and "Délben süt a nap." is correct.
Although address formatting is increasingly being influenced by Indo-European conventions, traditional Hungarian style is:
1052 Budapest, Deák tér 1.
So the order is 1. postcode, 2., city (most general) 3., street (more specific) 4., house number (most specific). Note that addresses on envelopes should be formatted as follows: Name of recipient/City/Street Address/postcode.
Note: The stress is always placed on the first syllable of each word. The remaining syllables all receive an equal, lesser stress. All syllables are pronounced clearly and evenly, even at the end of a sentence, unlike in English.
- Hungarian (person, language): magyar [mɒɟɒr]
- Formal, when addressing a stranger: "Good day!": Jó napot (kívánok)! [joːnɒpot kivaːnok].
- Informal, when addressing someone you know very well: Szia! [siɒ]
- Good-bye!: Viszontlátásra! (formal) (see above), Viszlát! [vislaːt] (semi-informal), Szia! (informal: same stylistic remark as for "Hello!" )
- Excuse me: Elnézést! [ɛlneːzeːʃt]
- Kérem (szépen) [keːrɛm seːpɛn] (This literally means "I'm asking (it/you) nicely", as in German Danke schön, "I thank (you) nicely". See next for a more common form of the polite request.)
- Legyen szíves! [lɛɟɛn sivɛʃ] (literally: "Be (so) kind!")
- I would like ____, please: Szeretnék ____ [sɛrɛtneːk] (this example illustrates the use of the conditional tense, as a common form of a polite request; it literally means "I would like".)
- Sorry!: Bocsánat! [botʃaːnɒt]
- Thank you: Köszönöm [køsønøm]
- that/this: az [ɒz], ez [ɛz]
- How much?: Mennyi? [mɛɲːi]
- How much does it cost?: Mennyibe kerül? [mɛɲːibɛ kɛryl]
- Yes: Igen [iɡɛn]
- No: Nem [nɛm]
- I do not understand: Nem értem [nɛm eːrtɛm]
- I do not know: Nem tudom [nɛm tudom]
- Where's the toilet?:
- Hol van a vécé? [hol vɒn ɒ veːtseː] (vécé/veːtseː is the Hungarian pronunciation of the English abbreviation of "Water Closet")
- Hol van a mosdó? [hol vɒn ɒ moʒdoː] – more polite (and word-for-word) version
- generic toast: Egészségünkre! [ɛɡeːʃːeːɡyŋkrɛ] (literally: "To our health!")
- juice: gyümölcslé [ɟymøltʃleː]
- water: víz [viːz]
- wine: bor [bor]
- beer: sör [ʃør]
- tea: tea [tɛɒ]
- milk: tej [tɛj]
- Do you speak English?: Beszél(sz) angolul? [bɛseːl / bɛseːls ɒŋɡolul] Note that the fact of asking is only shown by the proper intonation: continually rising until the penultimate syllable, then falling for the last one.
- I love you: Szeretlek [sɛrɛtlɛk]
- Help!: Segítség! [ʃɛɡiːtʃeːɡ]
- It is needed: kell
- I need to go: Mennem kell
Controversy over origins
Mainstream linguistics has demonstrated that Hungarian is part of the Uralic family of languages, related ultimately to languages such as Finnish and Estonian, although it is particularly close to Khanty and Mansi languages located near the Ural Mountains.
- For many years (from 1869), it was a matter of dispute whether Hungarian was a Finno-Ugric/Uralic language, or was more closely related to the Turkic languages, a controversy known as the "Ugric-Turkish war", or whether indeed both the Uralic and the Turkic families formed part of a superfamily of "Ural–Altaic languages". Hungarians did absorb some Turkic influences during several centuries of co-habitation. For example, it appears that the Hungarians learned animal breeding techniques from the Turkic Chuvash, as a high proportion of words specific to agriculture and livestock are of Chuvash origin. There was also a strong Chuvash influence in burial customs. Furthermore, all Ugric languages, not just Hungarian, have Turkic loanwords related to horse riding.
- A fringe theory that is well-known is that the Hungarian language is a descendant of Sumerian. Some nationalist linguists and historians (like Ida Bobula, Ferenc Badiny Jós, dr Tibor Baráth and others) have published this theory. There are some artifacts which they claim support this view (like the Tartaria tablets). Mainstream linguists reject the Sumerian theory as pseudoscience.
- Hungarian has often been claimed to be related to Hunnish, since Hungarian legends and histories show close ties between the two peoples; also, the name Hunor is preserved in legends and (along with a few Hunnic-origin names, such as Attila) is still used as a given name in Hungary. Many people share the belief that the Székelys, a Hungarian ethnic group living in Romania, are descended from the Huns. However, the link with Hunnish has no linguistic foundation since most linguists consider the Hunnic language to be part of the Turkic language family.
There have been attempts, dismissed by mainstream linguists, to show that Hungarian is related to other languages including Hebrew, Egyptian, Etruscan, Basque, Persian, Pelasgian, Greek, Chinese, Sanskrit, English, Tibetan, Magar, Quechua, Armenian, Japanese and at least 42 other languages.
Comparison of some Finno-Ugric words
|Hungarian||Finnish||Estonian||Mordvinic (Erzya dialect)||Komi-Permyak|| English|
| # by the |
|én||minä||mina||мон mon||ме me||I, myself, me||1|
|te||sinä, te (informal)||sina, teie (formal)||тон ton||тэ te||you/thou||2|
|mi||me||meie, me||минь miń||ми mi||we||4|
|ti||te||teie, te||тынь tyń||ти ti||you (plural)||5|
|ez/itt||tämä/täällä||see||те te||тайö tajö||this/here||7|
|az/ott||tuo/tuolla||too||што što||сійö sijö||that/there||8|
|ki?||kuka?||kes?||кие? kije?||коді? kodi?||who?||11|
|mi?||mitä? mikä?||mis?||мезе? meze?||мый? myj?||what?||12|
|egy||yksi||üks||вейке vejke||öтік ötik||one||22|
|kettő||kaksi||kaks||кавто kavto||кык kyk||two||23|
|három||kolme||kolm||колмо kolmo||куим kuim||three||24|
|négy||neljä||neli||ниле nile||нёль ńol||four||25|
|öt||viisi||viis||вете vete||вит vit||five||26|
|nej||nainen 'woman'||naine||ни ni||гöтыр götyr||wife||40|
|anya||äiti||ema||(тиринь) ава (tiriń) ava||мам mam||mother||42|
|fa||puu||puu||чувто čuvto||пу pu||tree, wood||51|
|vér||veri||veri||верь veŕ||вир vir||blood||64|
|haj||hius, hiukset||juuksed||черь čeŕ||юрси jursi||hair||71|
|fej||pää||pea||пря pŕa||юр jur||head||72|
|fül||korva||kõrv||пиле pile||пель peĺ||ear||73|
|szem||silmä||silm||сельме seĺme||син sin||eye||74|
|orr||nenä||nina||судо sudo||ныр nyr||nose||75|
|száj||suu||suu||курго kurgo||вом vom||mouth||76|
|fog||hammas||hammas||пей pej||пинь piń||tooth||77|
|láb||jalka||jalg||пильге piĺge||кок kok||foot||80|
|kéz||käsi||käsi||кедь ked́||ки ki||hand||83|
|szív/szűny||sydän||süda||седей sedej||сьöлöм śölöm||heart||90|
|inni||juoda||jooma||симемс simems||юны juny||to drink||92|
|tudni||tietää||teadma||содамс sodams||тöдны tödny||to know||103|
|élni||elää||elama||эрямс eŕams||овны ovny||to live||108|
|víz||vesi||vesi||ведь ved́||ва va||water||150|
|kő||kivi||kivi||кев kev||из iz||stone||156|
|ég/menny||taivas||taevas||менель meneĺ||енэж jenezh||sky/heaven||162|
|szél||tuuli||tuul||варма varma||тöв töv||wind||163|
|tűz||tuli||tuli||тол tol||би bi||fire||167|
|éj||yö||öö||ве ve||вой voj||night||177|
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Hungarian tongue-twisters|
- History of the Hungarian language
- Hungarian Cultural Institute
- List of English words of Hungarian origin
- Magyar szótár – A Dictionary of the Hungarian Language (a book review)
- Colloquial Hungarian – The complete course for beginners. Rounds, Carol H.; Sólyom, Erika (2002). London; New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-24258-4.
- This book gives an introduction to the Hungarian language in 15 chapters. The dialogues are available on CDs.
- Teach Yourself Hungarian – A complete course for beginners. Pontifex, Zsuzsa (1993). London: Hodder & Stoughton. Chicago: NTC/Contemporary Publishing. ISBN 0-340-56286-2.
- This is a complete course in spoken and written Hungarian. The course consists of 21 chapters with dialogues, culture notes, grammar and exercises. The dialogues are available on cassette.
- Hungarolingua 1 – Magyar nyelvkönyv. Hoffmann, István; et al. (1996). Debreceni Nyári Egyetem. ISBN 963-472-083-8
- Hungarolingua 2 – Magyar nyelvkönyv. Hlavacska, Edit; et al. (2001). Debreceni Nyári Egyetem. ISBN 963-03-6698-3
- Hungarolingua 3 – Magyar nyelvkönyv. Hlavacska, Edit; et al. (1999). Debreceni Nyári Egyetem. ISBN 963-472-083-8
- These course books were developed by the University of Debrecen Summer School program for teaching Hungarian to foreigners. The books are written completely in Hungarian and therefore unsuitable for self study. There is an accompanying 'dictionary' with translations of the Hungarian vocabulary into English, German, and French for the words used in the first two books.
- "NTC's Hungarian and English Dictionary" by Magay and Kiss. ISBN 0-8442-4968-8 (You may be able to find a newer edition also. This one is 1996.)
- A practical Hungarian grammar (3rd, rev. ed.). Keresztes, László (1999). Debrecen: Debreceni Nyári Egyetem. ISBN 963-472-300-4.
- Practical Hungarian grammar: [a compact guide to the basics of Hungarian grammar]. Törkenczy, Miklós (2002). Budapest: Corvina. ISBN 963-13-5131-9.
- Hungarian verbs and essentials of grammar: a practical guide to the mastery of Hungarian (2nd ed.). Törkenczy, Miklós (1999). Budapest: Corvina; Lincolnwood, [Ill.]: Passport Books. ISBN 963-13-4778-8.
- Hungarian: an essential grammar. Rounds, Carol (2001). London; New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-22612-0.
- Hungarian: Descriptive grammar. Kenesei, István, Robert M. Vago, and Anna Fenyvesi (1998). London; New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-02139-1.
- Hungarian Language Learning References (including the short reviews of three of the above books)
- Noun Declension Tables – HUNGARIAN. Budapest: Pons. Klett. ISBN 978-963-9641-04-4
- Verb Conjugation Tables – HUNGARIAN. Budapest: Pons. Klett. ISBN 978-963-9641-03-7
- Abondolo, Daniel Mario: Hungarian Inflectional Morphology. Akadémiai publishing. Budapest, 1988. ISBN 9630546302
- Balázs, Géza: The Story of Hungarian. A Guide to the Language. Translated by Thomas J. DeKornfeld. Corvina publishing. Budapest, 1997. ISBN 9631343626
- Stephanides, Éva H. (ed.): Contrasting English with Hungarian. Akadémiai publishing. Budapest, 1986. ISBN 9630539500
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Anna Fenyvesi: Hungarian Language Contact Outside Hungary, John Benjamins Publishing, Amsterdam, 2005, pp. 11 
- ↑ Lebedynsky, Iaroslav. Les Nomades: Les peuples nomades de la steppe des origines aux invasions mongoles. p. 191
- ↑ Sugar, P.F..A History of Hungary. University Press, 1996: p. 9
- ↑ Maxwell, A.Magyarization, Language Planning and Whorf: The word Uhor as a Case Study in Linguistic RelativismMultilingua 23: 319, 2004.
- ↑ Marcantonio, Angela. The Uralic Language Family: Facts, Myths and Statistics. Blackwell Publishing, 2002: p. 19
- ↑ Daniel Abondolo. 1998. "Introduction," The Uralic Languages, ed. Daniel Abondolo (Routledge). Pp. 1–42.
- ↑ Laszlo Gyula, The Magyars: Their Life and Civilization, (1996) On pg. 37 he states, "This seemed to be an impeccable conclusion until attention was paid to the actual testimony of tree-pollen analyses, and these showed that the linguists had failed to take into account changes in the vegetation zones over the millennia. After analysis of the plant pollens in the supposed homeland of the Magyars, which were preserved in the soil, it became clear to scientists that the taiga and deciduous forests were only in contact during the second millennium B.C., which is much too late to have an impact on Finno-Ugrian history. So the territory sought by the linguists as the location of the putative ‘ancient homeland’ never existed. At 5,000-6,000B.C., the period at which the Uralic era has been dated, the taiga was still thousands of kilometers away from the Ural mountains and the mixed deciduous forest had only just begun its northward advance."
- ↑ Hungary – Early history. Library of Congress (public domain). Retrieved on 2008-06-29.
- ↑ Marius Sala. Vocabularul reprezentativ al limbilor romanice, Editura Ştiinţifică şi Enciclopedică, Bucureşti, 1988
- ↑ Éva Szabó: Hungarian Practical Dictionary, George Blagowidow Publisher, US, 2005, pp. 9 
- ↑ Judit Hajnal Ward: Hungarian Dictionary & Phrasebook, Hippocrene Books, 2006, pp. 1 
- ↑ United States Census Bureau, 2006
- ↑ Szende (1994:91)
- ↑ 14.0 14.1 A nyelv és a nyelvek ("Language and languages"), edited by István Kenesei. Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, 2004, ISBN 963-05-7959-6, p. 77)
- ↑ The first two volumes of the 20-volume series were introduced on 13 November, 2006, at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (in Hungarian)
- ↑ 16.0 16.1 "Hungarian is not difficult" (interview with Ádám Nádasdy)
- ↑ A nyelv és a nyelvek ("Language and languages"), edited by István Kenesei. Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, 2004, ISBN 963-05-7959-6, p. 86)
- ↑ A nyelv és a nyelvek ("Language and languages"), edited by István Kenesei. Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, 2004, ISBN 963-05-7959-6, pp. 76 and 86)
- ↑ 19.0 19.1 19.2 19.3 "Related words" in Finnish and Hungarian. Helsinki University Bulletin. Retrieved on 2008-06-15.
- ↑ A nyelv és a nyelvek ("Language and languages"), edited by István Kenesei. Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, 2004, ISBN 963-05-7959-6, p. 134)
- ↑ The Structure and Development of the Finnish Language, The Uralic and Altaic Series: 1960–1993 V.1-150, By Denis Sinor, John R. Krueger, Lauri Hakulinen, Gustav Bayerle, Translated by John R. Krueger, Compiled by Gustav Bayerle, Contributor Denis Sinor, Published by Routledge, 1997 ISBN 0-7007-0380-2, ISBN 978-0-7007-0380-7, 383 pages. p. 307
- ↑ It's written in chapter Testrészek. Nemzetismeret.hu. Retrieved on 2010-01-31.
- ↑ Berlin, B and Kay, P (1969). "Basic Color Terms." Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press
- ↑ Myths – The Hungarian Identity. Imninalu.net. Retrieved on 2010-01-31. http://www.acronet.net/~magyar/english/96-07/baraeast.html
- ↑ Zsirai Miklós: Őstörténeti csodabogarak. Budapest, 1943.