Who speaks Hungarian?
Magyar nyelv is an Uralic language, part of the Ugric group.
Hungarian is the most widely spoken non-Indo-European language in Europe, followed by Finnish and Estonian. It is the official language in Hungary; it is also spoken by Hungarian communities in the seven neighboring countries, and by Diaspora communities worldwide. More precisely, there are large, majority Hungarian territories in Slovakia, Serbia and Ukraine; Hungarian speakers can be found in Croatia, Austria, and Slovenia, and about a million additional people scattered in other parts of the world, especially in the United States, speak Hungarian beside the languages of the countries they live in.
Where does Hungarian come from?
The oldest Hungarian documents (some proper names and isolated words in Latin and Byzantine texts) date from the X century, but the first complete text (The Funeral Sermon: Halotti Beszéd) date from the XIII century. Hungarian became a literary instrument in the XVI century; until taht period religious, literary and scientific texts were in fact written in Latin. This trend partly remained throughout the centuries, and even in the XVIII century foreign scientific works for the use of Hungarian scholars were translated into Latin rather than in Hungarian.
What are the main linguistic features of Hungarian?
Among the main features, typical of almost all Finno-Ugric languages, the following are included:
- vowel harmony, which distinguishes three groups of vowels: (1) the lower back (a, á, o, ó, u, ú), (2) the front high (e, ö, ő, ü, ű) and (3) the neutral medium (ë, é, i, í) which may agree with either the first and the latter;
- the accent is always on the first syllable;
- as concerns morpholgy, words express grammatical categories and functionsby agglutination rather than inflection;
- there is no grammatical gender;
- there are both a definite and an indefinite article;
- nominal morphology displays a very complex declination system (twenty cases) implemented through suffixes and postpositions;
- Verbs belong either to the "subjective", "undefined" conjugation (when there is no direct object), or to the "objective", "defined" conjugation (when there is a direct object, overtly expressed or not);
- a large variety of affixes are available for the formation of derived verbs.
Hungarian has a very composite lexicon, with many words derived from the various languages with which it came into contact in the course of its history: numerous are the Turkish, Iranian, Slavic, German, Latin and even French and Italian words. Today we can distinguish eight major dialects spoken throughout the country.
- Enciclopedia Grolier