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Hungarian language

Hungarian (Magyar) is a Finno-Ugric language spoken in Hungary and in certain areas of Romania, Serbia, eastern parts of Austria and in northeastern parts of Slovenia, all territories acquired after World War I.

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 words with Finnish (e.g. the numbers egy ~ yksi, kettő ~ kaksi, három ~ kolme, négy ~ neljä and víz ~ vesi), so linguists classify both as Finno-Ugric languages. It has also been claimed to be closely related to Hunnish, as Hungarian legends and histories show the close ties between the two peoples, and both the Huns and the modern day Hunnish people (Székely) lived in Hungary. However, the link to Hunnish is uncertain.

Hungarian has many different cases (esetek), most common are the Nominative case, Accusative case, Dative case, Instrumental case[?], Final case[?], Supressive case[?], Inessive case, Elative case, Terminative case[?], and Delative case[?]. There is also a Formal case and a few other ones. For examples of some of these cases, refer to the article on the Finnish language.

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 combined (as in German) and derived (with suffixes).

The Passive Voice is almost extinct (one can find it in old literary texts).

Many grammatical and syntaxical functions, elements or constructions are based on suffixes. The mark for Plural is a suffixed -k, eventually preceded by a Vowel when the Word ends with a Consonant. Usually vowels get inserted between the word and its suffix to prevent the buildup of consonants (and prevent unpronouncable words).

The Infinitive of verbs is the Radical suffixed by -ni.

Table of contents


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. (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 Mode

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

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

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

Conditional Mode

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

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

Hungarian orthography

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 umlaut letters ö and ü and their long counterparts ő (unicode Ő and ő) and ű (unicode Ű and ű). Sometimes ô or ő is used for ő and ű for ű due to the limitations of the Latin-1 / ISO-8859-1 codepage. (Hungarian is the only language using the ő an ű codes.)

Additionally, the letter pairs <ny>, <ty>, and <gy> represent the palatal consonants /ñ/, /kj/, 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. <zs> is /Z/ and <cs> is /tS/. 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> /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: <sz>+<sz>=<ssz>. 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.

Common phrases

  • Hungarian (person, language): magyar ['mAdyAr]
  • hello: szia ['sia] (informal) (sounds almost exactly like American "see ya") But you only say this to people that you know well. When you address a stranger you use the more formal good day": jónapot (YOnahpot)
  • good-bye: viszontlátásra (formal) (see above), viszlát [vislAt] (semi informal)
  • please: kérem (szépen) [kayrrem saypen]
  • sorry: bocsánat [BOchAnAt]
  • thank you: köszönöm [kYs-Yn-Ym] (pout your lips for a kiss and say "uh")
  • that/this: az [Az] ez [ez]
  • how much?: mennyi? ['mennyee]
  • yes: igen ['igen]
  • no: nem [nem]
  • I don't understand: nem értem ['nEm 'ertem]
  • I don't know: nem tudom [nem tuh-doh-m]
  • where's the bathroom?: Hol van a wc? ['hol vAn A 'vay-tsay]
  • generic toast: egészségedre! [this is tough. Say it like this: EGG-ayss-shay-ged-rreh]
  • juice: gyümölcslé [gyu-molech-lay]
  • water: víz [viz]
  • wine: bor [bor]
  • beer: sör [s-er]
  • milk: tej [tey]
  • Do you speak English?: Beszél Angolul? ['bes-ayl 'An-gol-ul]
  • I love you: szeretlek ['seretlek]

External links




Hungarian-English-Hungarian (http://dict.sztaki.hu/english-hungarian)
Hungarian-English False cognates (http://www.btk.elte.hu/delg/people/core/lazar/falsefriends) (False Cognates)
Hungarian idioms (http://www.netstorm.net/~jason/list.htm) (Idioms)
Hungarian slang (http://www.notam02.no/~hcholm/altlang/ht/Hungarian)

Online Language Courses

Online course harvard.edu/~arubin/ (http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~arubin/hungarian)
Online course hungarotips.com (http://www.hungarotips.com/hungarian/b/)

More links for learners

Course, Vocabularies, Phrases, Literature... (http://www.sprachprofi.de.vu/english/h.htm)

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