The Hungarian language reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Jul-2004
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Hungarian language

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The Hungarian language is usually classified as Finno-Ugric. It is spoken in Hungary and in certain areas of Romania, Slovakia, Ukraine, Serbia, Croatia, Austria, Slovenia, all territories acquired after World War I. The Hungarian name for the language is Magyar.

There are about 14.5 million speakers, of whom 10 million live in Hungary.

Hungarian (Magyar)
Spoken in: Hungary and 10 other countries
Region: --
Total speakers: 14.5 Million
Ranking: 66
Genetic
classification:
Uralic
 Finno-Ugric
  Ugric
   Hungarian
Official status
Official language of: Hungary
Regulated by: --
Language codes
ISO 639-1 hu
ISO 639-2 hun
SIL HNG

Classification

Hungarian is generally believed to be a member of the Ugric languages, a sub-group of the Finno-Ugric languages, which in turn are a branch of the Uralic languages.

There are various alternative theories about the origins of Hungarian, but these are dismissed by most linguists owing to a lack of evidence:


Geographic distribution

Hungarian is spoken in the following countries:

Country Speakers
Hungary 10,298,820
Romania
(mainly Transylvania)
1,700,000 - 3,000,000(X)
Slovakia 597,400
Serbia and Montenegro 293,000
Ukraine 187,000
Israel 70,000
Austria 22,000
Croatia 16,500
Slovenia 9,240

(X) of which, according to the 2002 census, 1,450,000 speak it as mother tongue.

Hungarian is also spoken in Australia, Canada, and the USA.

Source:Ethnologue

Official status

Hungarian is the official language of Hungary, and thus an official language of the EU.

Dialects

The dialects of Hungarian identified by Ethnologue are: Alfold, West Danube, Danube-Tisza, King's Pass Hungarian, Northeast Hungarian, Northwest Hungarian, Szekely and West Hungarian.

Sounds

Hungarian pronunciation can mostly be predicted from the written language. There are some sounds which don't exist in English, such as '/ɟ/.

For a complete table of the pronunciation of the Hungarian alphabet, see (in Hungarian, but the table is obvious), which transliterates Hungarian letters into IPA and X-SAMPA characters.

For example the pronunciation of "Magyarország" (Hungary) is /mɑɟɑrorsaːg/, stress on first syllable.

Grammar

The order of words in a sentence is determined not by syntactic roles but rather by pragmatic, i.e. discourse-driven, factors. Words can be compound (as in German) and derived (with suffixes).

The passive voice is almost extinct (it can be found in old literary texts).

Many grammatical and syntactic functions, elements and constructions are based on suffixes. The mark for the plural of a noun is a suffixed -k, preceded by a vowel if the word ends in a consonant. Usually, vowels are inserted between the word and its suffix to prevent a buildup of consonants (and hence to prevent unpronouncable words).

Hungarian has many different cases (esetek). Most common are the Nominative case, Accusative case and Dative case; some express location (inside: Inessive case, on the surface: Superessive case, nearby: Adessive case); some express placement (from inside: Elative case, from the surface: Delative case, from nearby: Ablative case, to inside: Illative case, to the surface: Sublative case, to nearby: Allative case); some express other relations (Terminative case, Essive-formal case, Instrumental-comitative case, Translative case, Causal-final case). There are further cases of restricted use (Locative case, Essive-modal case, Distributive case, Distributive-temporal case, Sociative case). For examples of some of these cases, refer to the article on the Finnish language.

The infinitive of verbs is the radical suffixed by -ni.

Verbs

As a beginning of a more complete vocabulary (szókincs), an extract for the verb "to be" in hungarian, lenni.

Forms are presented in this order:

I, You, He/She/It, We, You, They

én, te, ő, mi, ti, ők

The polite form of Thou is either ön or maga: ön is official and distancing, maga is personal and even intimate. (There are some older forms of you like "kend" which is still used in rural areas.) (As you probably noticed, Hungarian does not have gender-specific pronouns.)

Indicative Mood

PresentTense: vagyok, vagy, van, vagyunk, vagytok, vannak

PastTense: voltam, voltál, volt, voltunk, voltatok, voltak

FutureTense: leszek, leszel, lesz, leszünk, lesztek, lesznek

Conditional Mood

PresentTense: lennék, lennél, lenne, lennénk, lennétek, lennének

ImperativeTense: legyek, legyél (or légy), legyen, legyünk, legyetek, legyenek

Vocabulary

Hungarian vocabulary contains many words borrowed from various Turkic languages, as well as a few words borrowed from the Turkish language, and several hundred loans from German and Slavic languages but has retained its Ugric originality.

The basic vocabulary shares many basic words with Finnish and Estonian (e.g. the numbers egy ~ yksi ~ üks, kettő ~ kaksi ~ kaks, három ~ kolme ~ kolm, négy ~ neljä ~ neli; víz ~ vesi "water"; kéz ~ käsi "hand"; vér ~ veri "blood"; fej ~ pää ~ pea "head" etc.), so linguists classify both as Finno-Ugric languages, a subgroup of the Uralic language family.

Writing system

Hungarian is written using a variant of the Latin alphabet. Hungarian has a phonemic orthography. In addition to the standard letters of the Latin alphabet, Hungarian uses several additional letters. These include letters with acute accents (á,é,í,ó,ú) which represent long vowels, the diaereses ö and ü and their long counterparts ő (unicode Ő and ő) and ű (unicode Ű and ű). Sometimes ô or õ is used for ő and û for ű due to the limitations of the Latin-1 / ISO-8859-1 codepage. Hungarian can be properly represented with the Latin-2 / ISO-8859-2 codepage, but this codepage is not always available. (Hungarian is the only language using the ő and ű codes.) Of course Unicode includes the glyphs, and they therefore can be used on the internet.

Additionally, the letter pairs <ny>, <ty>, and <gy> represent the palatal consonants /ñ/, /tj/, and /gj/ (like the "dy" sound in British "duke" or American "would you"). Hungarian uses <s> for /S/ and <sz> for /s/, which is the reverse of Polish. is /Z/ and <cs> is /tS/. All these digraphs are considered single letters. is also a "single letter digraph", but is pronounced like <j> (English <y>), and mostly appears in old words. More exotic letters are <dz> and <dzs> /dZ/. They are hard to find even in a longer text. Two examples are madzag; edzeni (rope; to train) and dzsungel (jungle).

All R's are trilled, like the Spanish "perro".

Hungarian distinguishes between long and short vowels, where the long vowels are written with accents, and between long consonants and short consonants, where the long consonants are written double. The digraphs, when doubled, become trigraphs: +=. Usually a trigraph is a double digraph, but there are a few exceptions: tizennyolc "eighteen" is tizen + nyolc. There are doubling minimal pairs: tizenegyedik (eleventh) vs. tizennegyedik (fourteenth).

Primary stress is always on the first syllable of a word. There is sometimes secondary stress on other syllables, especially when two words have been combined (like "viszontlátásra" (see you later) pronounced "VEES-ohnt-LAH-tahsh-raw").

While it seems unusual to English speakers at first, once one learns the new orthography and pronunciations, Hungarian is nearly totally phonetic.

Examples

There is a Hungarian Wikipedia at hu.wikipedia.org

External links

Dictionaries

Online Language Courses

More links for learners