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Hungarian language

Hungarian language

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Pronunciation: IPA: [ˈmɒɟɒr̪]
Spoken in: Hungary and areas in Romania, Slovakia, Serbia, Ukraine, Croatia, Austria, and Slovenia
Total speakers: 13 million 
Ranking: 57
Language family: Uralic
Writing system: Latin alphabet (Hungarian variant
Official status
Official language of: Hungary, European Union, Slovenia (regional language), Serbia (regional language), Austria (regional language), Various localities in Romania, Some official rights in Ukraine, Croatia and Slovakia
Regulated by: Research Institute for Linguistics of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences
Language codes
ISO 639-1: hu
ISO 639-2: hun
ISO/FDIS 639-3: hun 
Hungarian language
Alphabet, including ő ű and
cs dz dzs gy ly ny sz ty zs
Phonetics and phonology
Vowel harmony
Grammar, including
noun phrases and verbs
T-V distinction
Regulatory body
English words from Hungarian
Hungarian pronunciation of E.
Hungarian name
Old Hungarian script (runes)

Hungarian (magyar nyelv listen ) is a Finno-Ugric language, and more specifically a Ugric language, unrelated to the other languages of Central Europe. As one of the small number of modern European languages which do not belong to the Indo-European language family, it has always been of great interest to linguists. It is spoken in Hungary and by the Hungarian minorities in seven neighbouring countries. The Hungarian name for the language is magyar [ˈmɒɟɒr̪].

There are about 13 million native speakers, of whom 9.5-10 million live in modern-day Hungary. Some two million speakers live in areas that were part of the Kingdom of Hungary before World War I. Of these, the largest group live in Romania, where there are approximately 1.4 million Hungarians (see Hungarian minority in Romania). Hungarian-speaking people are also to be found in Slovakia, Serbia, Ukraine, Croatia, Austria, and Slovenia, as well as about a million people scattered in other parts of the world (see Geographic distribution).


[edit] Classification

The beginning of the history of Hungarian language as such (and so the proto-Hungarian period) is set to 1000 B.C., when – according to current scientific understanding – it separated from its closest relatives, the Ob-Ugric languages.

Hungarian is a member of the Ugric languages, a sub-group of the Finno-Ugric language family, which in turn is a branch of the Uralic languages. Connections between the Ugric and Finnic 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. Today the Uralic family is considered one of the best demonstrated large language families, along with Indo-European and Austronesian.

[edit] Sound correspondences

There are numerous regular sound correspondences between Hungarian and the other Ugric languages. For example, Hungarian á 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 "house" vs. Khanty xot "house", and Hungarian száz "hundred" vs. Khanty sot "hundred".

The distance between the Ugric and Finnic languages is greater, but the correspondences are also regular. The relationship is most obvious when comparing all the Ugric languages with all the Finnic languages, for then individual idiosyncrasies are averaged out, but here we will just compare Hungarian with Finnish and Estonian.

  • Hungarian [f] corresponds to Finnish and Estonian [p] (just like English [f] in father corresponds to Latin [p] in pater):
Hungarian Finnish Estonian meaning
fa puu puu tree
fél pelätä pelgama to fear
fészek pesä pesa nest
  • Hungarian [k] corresponds to Finnish and Estonian [k] before front vowels:
Hungarian Finnish Estonian meaning
könny kyynel küünistama tear
kéz käsi käsi hand, arm
kivi kivi stone
  • Hungarian [h] corresponds to Finnish and Estonian [k] before back vowels (just like English [h] in hound corresponds to Latin [k] in canis)
Hungarian Finnish Estonian meaning
hal kala kala fish
ház kota koda house (Hung.), hut (Finn. and Est.)
húgy kusi kusi urine
  • Hungarian [t] corresponds to Finnish and Estonian [t] at the beginning of a word:
Hungarian Finnish Estonian meaning
tél talvi talv winter
tud tuntea teadma, tundma to know
tavasz touko teki (derived from 'tekkima') spring
  • In the middle of words Hungarian [z] corresponds to Finnish [t] (which can alterate with [s]) and Estonian [d] or [t] (which is also able to alterate with [s]):
Hungarian Finnish Estonian meaning
ház kota koda house (Hung.), hut (Finn.)
kéz käsi : käte- käsi : käte- hand, arm
fazék pata pada pot

This is just a sample. Even in the small number of words above, other regular sound correspondences can be seen, such as Hungarian [l] corresponding to Finnish and Estonian [l].

[edit] Geographic distribution

Hungarian is spoken in the following countries as a mother tongue:

Hungary9.5-10 million (census 2001)
(mainly Transylvania)
1,443,970 (census 2002)
Slovakia520,528 (census 2001)
(mainly Vojvodina)
293,299 (census 2002)
(mainly Zakarpattia)
149,400 (census 2001)
United States117,973
Canada75,555 (census 2001)

Sum 12-13 million
Source: National censuses, Ethnologue

About a million more Hungarian speakers live in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States, Venezuela, and in other parts of the world.

[edit] Official status

Image:Dist of hu lang europe.png
Regions in Europe where the Hungarian language is spoken. Based on recent censuses and on the CIA World Factbook 2006
Image:Vojvodina languages2002.png
Hungarian language in Vojvodina, Serbia (2002 census)

Hungarian is the official language of Hungary (Hungarian: Magyarország), and thus an official language of the European Union (Hungarian: Európai Unió).

Hungarian is also one of the official languages of Vojvodina (Hungarian: Vajdaság) and an official language of three municipalities in Slovenia: Hodoš (Hungarian: Hódos), Dobrovnik (Hungarian: Dobronák) and Lendava (Hungarian: Lendva), along with Slovene.

Hungarian is officially recognized as a minority or regional language in Austria, Croatia, Romania and Slovakia.

In Romania and Slovakia, it is an official language at local level in all communes, towns and municipalities with an ethnic-Hungarian population of over 20%.

[edit] Dialects

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 not listed by Ethnologue, is spoken mostly in Bacău County, Romania. The Csángó minority group has been largely isolated from other Hungarians, and they therefore preserved a dialect closely resembling medieval Hungarian.

[edit] Phonology

Main article: Hungarian phonology

Hungarian has 14 vowel phonemes and 25 consonant phonemes. The vowel phonemes can be grouped as pairs of long and short vowels, e.g. o and ó. Most of these pairs have a similar pronunciation, only varying in their duration; the pairs <a>/<á> and <e>/<é> differ both in closedness and length, however.

Consonant length is also distinctive in Hungarian. Most of the consonant phonemes can occur geminate.

The sound voiced palatal plosive /ɟ/, written <gy>, is unlike any in English. It occurs in the name of the country, "Magyarország" (Hungary), pronounced /ˈmɒɟɒrorsaːg/.

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 sometimes secondary stress on other syllables, especially in compounds, e.g. "viszontlátásra" (goodbye) pronounced /ˈvisontˌlaːtaːʃrɒ/.

Front-back vowel harmony is an important feature of Hungarian phonology. See the details about Hungarian language in the linked article.

[edit] Grammar

Main article: Hungarian grammar

Hungarian is an agglutinative language. Word order is extremely flexible, quite often changing word order has no effect on the sentence or just puts slightly more emphasis on one part or the other. Other times, however, the change can convey a major semantic difference. For example, "a kutya" means "the dog" and "ugat" means "barks". The sentence "A kutya ugat" is a generic statement meaning "Dogs bark". Changing the word order to "Ugat a kutya" changes the meaning to "The dog is barking" where the dog is a specific one, specified implicitly or by previous text. Pronoun subjects are generally absorbed into the verb (when they occur explicitly it is generally to give special emphasis to the subject: 'te vagy az utolsó "you are the last one").

[edit] Suffixes

Most grammatical information is given through suffixes. For example: at the table = az asztalnál (space relation), at 5 o'clock = öt órakor (time relation). There are more than twenty-five case endings (some authors cite more than forty); these are conjugated only according to the root word's back- or front-vowel group, however.

Some suffixes (with vowel harmony versions shown) are as follows:

        Suffix             Case or Function
  • -(o)t / -(e)t / -(ö)t - accusative (the case of object nouns)
  • -ban / -ben - inessive ('in', existing in an enclosed place)
  • -ba / -be - illative ('into', moving into an enclosed place)
  • -ból / -bõl - elative ('out of', moving from an enclosed place)
  • -nak / -nek - dative ('to, for')
  • -val / -vel - instrumental ('with, using')
  • -t(a)lan / -t(e)len - 'oppositeness' (like the English prefixes -un, -in /-im, etc.) or without (lacking) some quality
  • -va / -ve - deverbal adverb (similar to English suffix -ly)
  • -(cs)ka / -(cs)ke / - diminutive
  • - active participle (similar to English gerund suffix -ing)
  • -ász(ik) / -ész(ik) - 'to catch, collect something' (e.g. hal, "fish" > halászik, "to (catch) fish")
  • -i (-y) - 'of, from or belonging somewhere' (e.g. Budapest > budapesti, "of / from Budapest" (If it is not a name or first word in sentence, you must write it lower case.)) Note: the -y form only occurs in surnames, e.g. Eszterházy, Almássy, etc.

[edit] Prefixes

There is one adjectival prefix (leg- for superlatives), as well as many verbal prefixes, including:

The following 13 are the most common ones, taught in elementary school (in this order):
  • be- - into
e.g.: bevásárolni - to shop
e.g.: beállítani - to tune
  • ki- - out of
e.g.: kidobni - to trash/dump
e.g.: kiállítani - to send sy. out (of a match for example)
  • le- - down
e.g.: leszögezni - to assert (lit. 'to nail down')
e.g.: leállítani - to stop
  • fel- - up
e.g.: felépíteni - to build sg (to finish)
e.g.: felállítani - to erect (a building...)
  • meg- - repeatedly/extendedly/completing it/while transforming it(??), the concept has no real English equivalent
e.g.: megjavítani - to mend
e.g.: megtalálni - to find
e.g.: megállítani - to stop
  • el- - away from
e.g.: elítélni - to sentence (in court)
e.g.: elállítani - to mistune
  • át- - across, through
e.g.: átállítani - to retune/switch
e.g.: átázni - to get soaked/wet through
  • rá- - onto
e.g.: ráállítani - to ask sy. to start surveillance on sy. else
e.g.: rányitni - to open the door on sy
  • ide- - to here
e.g.: ideérkezni - to arrive here
e.g.: idejutni - to get here
  • oda- - to there
e.g.: odafigyelni - to pay attention
e.g.: odaállítani - to make sy. guard a place
  • szét- - apart
e.g.: szétosztani - to distribute, to divide (up)
e.g.: szétszedni - to take apart/down/to pieces
  • össze- - together
e.g.: összeveszni - to argue(??)
e.g.: összeállítani - to compile/to get back together
  • vissza- - back to the start
e.g.: visszaadni - to give back
e.g.: visszaállítani - to re-establish, to restore
See more at Hungarian grammar (verbs).

[edit] Definite and indefinite conjugations

An unusual feature of Hungarian are the 2 verb conjugations. The "definite" conjugation is used for a transitive verb with a definite object. The "indefinite" conjugation is used for an intransitive verb or for a transitive verb with an indefinite object. See also Definite and indefinite conjugations.

[edit] Lexicon

Giving an exact 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 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<ref name="kenesei-p77">A nyelv és a nyelvek ("Language and languages"), edited by István Kenesei. Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, 2004, ISBN 9630579596, p. 77)</ref> (but this may include redundant phrases as well, because of translation issues). The new desk lexicon of Hungarian language contains 75,000 words<ref name="kenesei-p77" /> and the Comprehensive Dictionary of Hungarian Language (to be published in 18 volumes in the next twenty years) will contain 110,000 words. <ref>The first two volumes of the 20-volume series were introduced on 13 November, 2006, at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (in Hungarian)</ref> The default Hungarian lexicon is usually estimated to comprise 60,000 to 100,000 words.<ref name="nadasdy-interview">"Hungarian is not difficult" (interview with Ádám Nádasdy)</ref> (Independently of specific languages, speakers actively use at most 10,000 to 20,000 words<ref name="kenesei-p86">A nyelv és a nyelvek ("Language and languages"), edited by István Kenesei. Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, 2004, ISBN 9630579596, p. 86)</ref>, with an average intellectual using 25-30 thousand words.<ref name="nadasdy-interview" />) However, all the Hungarian lexemes collected from technical texts, dialects etc. would all together add up to 1,000,000 words.<ref name="kenesei-pp76-86">A nyelv és a nyelvek ("Language and languages"), edited by István Kenesei. Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, 2004, ISBN 9630579596, pp. 76 and 86)</ref>

Example with kör
Hungarian English
kör circle
köröz to be after sb
körös has a circular shape

circles on its surface

kering circulate, orbit
kerge [a word for] silly

Hungarian words are built around so-called word-bushes. (See an example on the right.) Thus, words with similar meaning often arise from the same root.

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 numbers kettő 'two', három 'three', négy 'four' (cf. Finnish kaksi, kolme, neljä, Estonian kaks, kolm, neli, Mansi китыг kitig, хурум khurum, нила nila), as well as víz 'water', kéz 'hand, arm', vér 'blood', fej 'head' (cf. Finnish and Estonian vesi, käsi, veri, Finnish pää, Estonian pea or 'pää).

The proportion of the word roots in Hungarian lexicon is as follows: Finno-Ugric 21 %, Slavic 20 %, German 11 %, Turkic 9.5 %, Latin and Greek 6 %, Romance 2.5 %, Other of known origin 1 %, Other of uncertain origin 30%.<ref name="kenesei-p134">A nyelv és a nyelvek ("Language and languages"), edited by István Kenesei. Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, 2004, ISBN 9630579596, p. 134)</ref> Except for a few Latin and Greek loan-words, these are undiscernible for native speakers; they were entirely adapted into Hungarian lexicon. There are an increasing number of English loan-words, especially in technical fields.

[edit] Word formation

Words can be compound (as in German) and derived (with suffixes).

There are also compound words using verbs which have their individual meanings, for example egyedülálló single (e.g. person), whereas egyedül álló means something which stands alone.

[edit] Noteworthy lexical items

[edit] Two words for "red"

There are two basic words for "red" in Hungarian, piros and vörös (variant: veres; compare with Estonian 'verev'). (They are basic in the sense that one is not a sub-type of the other, like e.g. scarlet is a kind of red.) The word vörös is related to vér "blood". When they refer to an actual difference in colour (as on a colour chart), vörös usually refers to the deeper hue of red. According to Berlin, B and Kay, P (1969) Basic Color Terms, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, Hungarian is unique in having two basic colour words for red.

However, the two words are also used independently of the above in collocations. Piros is first taught to children, as it is generally used to describe inanimate, artificial things, or things seen as cheerful or neutral, while vörös typically refers to animate or nature-related 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 doesn't exist, the use of either of the two words may be equally adequate.


  • Expressions where "red" typically translates to piros: a red road sign, the red line of the Budapest Metro, a holiday shown in red in the calendar, the red nose of a clown, some red flowers (those with a "cold" property, e.g. tulip), red peppers and paprika, red cards (hearts and diamonds), red traffic lights, red light district, red stripes on a flag, etc.
  • Expressions where "red" typically translates to vörös: red army, red wine, red carpet (for receiving important guests), red hair / beard, red lion (as a mythical animal), the Red Cross, The Red and the Black, the Red Sea, redshift, red giant, red blood cells, red oak, some red flowers (those with a "passionate" property, e.g. rose), red fox, names of ferric and other red minerals, red copper, rust, red phosphorus, the colour of blushing with anger or shame, etc.

[edit] Kinship terms

In Hungarian there exist separate words for brothers and sisters depending on relative age:

relative age
brotheröcsbátyfivér or
sisterhúgnővérnővér or

(There existed 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".)

Besides, separate prefixes exist for up to the 5th ancestors and descendants:

(OR ük-ükszülő)
(OR ük-ükunoka)

On the other hand, no lexical items exist for "son" and "daughter", but the words for "boy" and "girl" are applied with possessive suffixes. Nevertheless, the terms are differentiated with different declension or lexemes:

boy/girl (-friend)

Fia is only used in this, irregular possessive form; it has no nominative on its own. However, the word fiú can also take the regular suffix, in which case the resulting word (fiúja) will be synonymous with barátja ("his/her boyfriend").

[edit] Extremely long words

  • Megszentségteleníthetetlenségeskedéseitekért
Partition to prefix, root, and suffixes: meg-szent-ség-telen-ít-hetetlen-ség-es-kedés-e-i-tek-ért
Translation of the elements
meg- modifies the meaning of a verb; means repeated, extended or completed
szent - saint
-ség - English -ness suffix
-telen - negation, English un- prefix
-ít - constitutes a verb from a noun
-hetetlen - negation, approximately translates to "the impossibility of [place of the verb]"
-ség - constitutes a noun from a verb
-es - constitutes an adjective from a noun
-kedés - refers to a constant (an sometimes annoying) habit; English: repeated
-e - expresses possession by a single person (simple example: hegye - his mountain)
-i - constitutes plurality; only directly after -e (simple example: hegyei - his mountains)
-tek - suffix of plural your (simple example: hegyetek - your mountain)
-ért - approximately translates to because of (simple example: a tettért - because of the deed)
Translation: "for your [plural] repeated pretending to be undesecratable"
  • Legeslegmegszentségteleníttethetetlenebbeiteknek
"to those of you whom it is the very least possible to have desecrated"
  • Töredezettségmentesítőtleníttethetetlenségtelenítőtlenkedhetnétek
"you [plural] could constantly mention the lack [of a thing] that makes it impossible to make someone make something defragmenter-free"

These words are not used in practice (and hard to understand even for native speakers), but only invented to show, in a somewhat facetious way, the ability of the language to form long words. 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" in the first two and "tör" in the third).

See also: Hungarian tongue-twisters.

[edit] Writing system

Main article: Hungarian alphabet
> Before 1000 AD, Hungarian had another writing system. The first Christian king, Saint Stephen, decided to destroy the old system. However, it survived the centuries, so it is known but not used. For more information about this writing system, see Old Hungarian script.

Hungarian is written using a variant of the 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 additional letters. These include letters with acute accents (á,é,í,ó,ú) which represent long vowels, with umlauts (ö and ü) and their long counterparts ő 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 code page, though these are not part of the Hungarian language. 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.) Of course, Unicode includes them, and they therefore can be used on the Internet.

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

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"). Also like saying d with your tongue pointing to your upper palate. Hungarian uses <s> for /ʃ/ and <sz> for /s/, which is the reverse of Polish. <zs> is /ʒ/ and <cs> is /ʧ/. All these digraphs are considered single letters. <ly> 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> /ʤ/. They are hard to find even in a longer text. Examples are madzag ("string"), edzeni ("to train (athletically)") and dzsungel ("jungle").

Single R's are tapped, like the Spanish "pero"; Double R's and initial R's are trilled, like the Spanish "perro".

Hungarian distinguishes between long and short vowels, where the long vowels are written with acutes, and between long consonants and short consonants, where the long consonants are written double. The digraphs, when doubled, become trigraphs: <sz>+<sz>=<ssz>, but when the digraph occurs at the end of a line, all letters are written out:

... busz-

Usually a trigraph is a double digraph, but there are a few exceptions: tizennyolc "eighteen" is tizen + nyolc. There are doubling minimal pairs: tol (push) vs. toll (feather or pen).

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

[edit] Name order

The Hungarian language uses the so-called eastern name order, in which the family name comes first and the given name comes last. However, as a rule, names are represented in the western name order when used in foreign languages. Thus for example Edward Teller, the Hungarian-born physicist, is known in Hungary as Teller Ede. 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 modern usage, foreign names retain their order when used in Hungarian. Therefore:

  • Kiss János, amikor Los Angelesben járt, látta John Travoltát.

translates to

  • When János Kiss went to Los Angeles, he saw John Travolta.

Pre-20th-century foreign personalities have often had their names Hungarianized even in recent times: Verne Gyula (rather than Jules Verne), Marx Károly (rather than Karl Marx) and Engels Frigyes (rather than Friedrich Engels). Other exceptional forms include Kolumbusz Kristóf (Christopher Columbus), Luther Márton (Martin Luther), Husz János (Jan Hus) and Kálvin János (John Calvin).

See also: Hungarian name.

[edit] Vocabulary examples

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 [mɑɟʝɑr]
  • Hello!:
    • Formal, when addressing a stranger: "Good day!": Jó napot (kívánok)! [joːnɑpot kivaːnok]
    • Informal, when addressing someone you know very well: Szia! [siɑ] (it sounds almost exactly like American colloquialism "See ya!")
  • Good-bye!: Viszontlátásra! (formal) (see above), Viszlát! [vislaːt] (semi-informal), Szia (informal: same stylistic remark as for "Hello!" )
  • Excuse me: Elnézést! [ɛlneːzeːʃt]
  • Please:
    • Kérem (szépen) [keːrɛm seːpɛn] (This literally means "I'm asking (it/you) beautifully", as in German Danke schön, "I thank (you) beautifully". See next for a more common form of the polite request.)
    • Legyen szíves! [lɛɟʝɛn 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)
  • Sorry!: Bocsánat! [botʃaːnɑt]
  • Thank you: Köszönöm [køsønøm]
  • that/this: az [ɑz], ez [ɛz]
  • How much?: Mennyi? [mɛɲɲi]
  • How much does it cost?: Mennyibe kerül? [mɛɲɲibe kɛryl]
  • Yes: Igen [iɡɛn]
  • No: Nem [nɛm]
  • I don't understand: Nem értem [nɛm eːrtɛm]
  • I don't know: Nem tudom [nɛm tudom]
  • Where's the toilet?:
    • Hol van a vécé? [hol vɑn ɑ veːtseː] (vécé/veːtseː is the Hungarian pronouncation of the English abbreviation of "Water Closet")
    • Hol van a mosdó? [hol vɑn ɑ moʃdoː] – more polite (and word-for-word) version
  • generic toast: Egészségünkre! [ɛɡeːʃʃeːgynkrɛ] (literally: "To our health!")
  • juice: gyümölcslé [ɟʝymøltʃleː]
  • water: víz [viːz]
  • wine: bor [bor]
  • beer: sör [ʃør]
  • tea: tea [tɛɑ]
  • milk: tej [tɛj]
  • Do you speak English?: Beszél angolul? [bɛseːl ɑngolul] 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! [ʃɛgiːtʃeːg]

[edit] Controversy over origins

Mainstream linguistics holds that Hungarian is part of the Uralic family of languages, related ultimately to languages such as Finnish and Nenets.

  • For many years (from 1869), it was 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". 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. Nonetheless, the science of linguistics shows that the basic wordstock and morphological patterns of the Hungarian language are solidly based on a Uralic heritage.
  • There have been historical attempts to link Hungarian with e.g. Etruscan, Japanese, Turkic, and Sumerian. Such alternative theories are only advocated by non-specialists today. See Pseudoscientific language comparison.
  • Hungarian has often been claimed to be related to Hunnish, since Hungarian legends and histories show close ties between the two peoples (although the name Hunor, preserved in legends and still used as a given name in Hungary, can also show a link with Khanty). Some people believe that the Székelys, a Hungarian ethnic group living in Romania, are descended from the Huns. However, the link with Hunnish is uncertain, and it is not even known which languages the Huns spoke.

[edit] See also

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[edit] References


[edit] External links

[edit] Linguistic chapters from the Encyclopaedia Humana Hungarica (1–5)

[edit] Dictionaries

[edit] Online Language Courses

[edit] More links for learners

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Hungarian language

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