Language facts: Hungarian

Apr 8, 2016

Hungarian (Magyar) is an official EU language and has about 14.5 million native speakers, mostly in Hungary and the diaspora – mainly in seven neighboring countries (e.g. Romania, Serbia, Ukraine or Slovakia, the latter where Hungarian even has a status of second language in the areas inhabited by Hungarian minority), but also worldwide.

Hungarian is a non-Indo-European language, a member of the Finno-Ugric group (like Finnish and Estonian, though not mutually intelligible) and Uralic family of languages. Hungarian is therefore related to languages like Khanty or Mansi, used by people living in Western Siberia, Ural region or around the Ob river (Russia).

Nomadic language

Ural is in fact considered the homeland of Hungarians, who (although formerly settled) slowly turned into nomadic people. Because of the history of Hungarian people (nomadic background plus the era of the Hungarian empire), the Hungarian vocabulary has borrowed quite a lot of words from Turkic languages, Slavic languages, German and even old Persian (possibly due to early contacts with Iranian nomads).

Hungarian is an agglutinative language – words consist of morphemes determining the meaning, but remain unchanged after forming a word – opposite to fusional languages represented by most of the European languages. Hungarian uses suffixes and prefixes extensively instead and features vowel harmony.

Alphabet

Hungarian uses the Latin alphabet, with several extra letters: accented vowels (á, é, í, ó, ö, ő, ú, ü, ű), digraphs – two characters representing a single letter (cs, dz, gy, ly, ny, sz, ty, zs) and even a trigraph (dzs). Characters with diacritical marks are considered separate letters. Vowels that differ only in length are treated the same when ordering words. Example: O and Ó are not distinguished in ordering, neither are Ö and Ő, but the latter two follow the O's.

A Á B C Cs D Dz Dzs E É F G Gy H I Í J K L Ly M N Ny O Ó Ö Ő P (Q) R S Sz T Ty U Ú Ü Ű V (W) (X) (Y) Z Zs a á b c cs d dz dzs e é f g gy h i í j k l ly m n ny o ó ö ő p (q) r s sz t ty u ú ü ű v (w) (x) (y) z zs

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