Monday, November 25, 2013

Language Profile: Hungarian

This week we're taking a look at Hungarian, the most widely spoken non-Indo-European language in Europe. It is the sole official language of Hungary, where it is the native language of over 99% of the population. The language also has many speakers in Romania, Slovakia, Serbia, and Ukraine.

Hungarian is a member of the Uralic language family, which includes Estonian and Finnish. The Hungarian name for the language is Magyar, which is also used in English as in reference to the Hungarian ethnic group.

The Hungarian Parliament Building in Budapest.
In terms of its lexicon, Hungarian shares many of its word roots with other Uralic languages. It also contains some Latin, Greek, and English loanwords. Another interesting feature of Hungarian is that it is an agglutinative language, which means that words are formed by joining morphemes together, including many affixes.

The first traces of written Hungarian appeared around the 10th century. For a while, Hungarian used its own writing system, known as Old Hungarian script. The script was a runic alphabet that was written on wooden sticks.

In modern times, the language is written using an extended Latin alphabet. The Hungarian alphabet contains 44 letters, including additional letters such as cs, dz, ly, ny, and sz.

The Hungarian language also employs four different levels of politeness. They vary in levels of formality, with one often used for official texts and business situations, and another used in informal situations as well as religious contexts. However, in recent years this last form has been used in more and more situations, with other levels of politeness losing favor.