Hungarian language

Finno-Ugric language of Hungary, with substantial minority populations in Slovakia, Transylvania in Romania, and northern Serbia.

Hungarian has about 14.5 million speakers worldwide
more than any other Uralic language
including 400,000–500,000 in North America. The earliest known text in Hungarian dates from the late 12th century; a continuous literary tradition begins in the 15th century. Contact with Turkic, Iranian, and Slavic languages, and, more recently, High German dialects and Latin, has given Hungarian many loanwords.

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      member of the Finno-Ugric group of the Uralic language family, spoken primarily in Hungary but also in Slovakia, Romania, and Yugoslavia, as well as in scattered groups elsewhere in the world. Hungarian belongs to the Ugric branch of Finno-Ugric, along with the Ob-Ugric languages, Mansi and Khanty, spoken in western Siberia.

      The language has been written in a modified Latin alphabet since the 13th century AD, and its orthography was stabilized from the 16th century with the introduction of printing. Characteristic of Hungarian orthography are the acute accent (ó ) marking long vowels—doubled in the case of long front rounded vowels (ő )—and special representations for sibilant sounds (e.g., sz corresponds to English s, but s corresponds to English sh).

      Surrounded by non-Uralic languages, Hungarian has borrowed many words from such sources as Iranian, Turkic, Caucasian, Slavic, Latin, and German. Its phonology and grammar are, however, typically Uralic. Characteristic of its sound system is vowel harmony. Vowels are classed into three groups depending on position of articulation: back vowels (a, á, o, ó, u, ú ), front rounded vowels (ö, ő, ü, ű ), and front unrounded vowels (e, é, i, í ). Back vowels and front rounded vowels may not occur together in the same word. Consonant clusters in Hungarian are simple and usually do not occur at the beginning of words. Stress (accent) is always on the first syllable of the word.

      Hungarian grammatical categories are usually marked by the use of suffixes; e.g., ver-et-het-né-lek “I might cause thee to be beaten” is composed of ver “beat” + et “cause” + het “may” + (a conditional marker) + lek “I thee.” In many cases vowels in suffixes shift to match those of the stem in order to maintain vowel harmony (e.g., ház-ban “in the house” versus ember-ben “in the man”). See also Finno-Ugric languages.

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Universalium. 2010.

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