26 Sep /16

Hungarian Language Facts

Hungarian Language
Hungarian Language Facts and Figures – EVS Translations

Being a member of the Uralic family of languages and originating in Western Siberia, Hungarian language, linguistically, has very little in common with neighbouring languages, which are all Indo-European. Within Europe, Hungarian has the most in common with Finnish and Estonian.

Though Latin was made the official language of Hungary in the 11th century, Old Hungarian, which likely descended from the Orkhon script or Turkic runic script used by the Göktürk Turk Empire of the 6th to 8th century, was still commonly used when Latin could not adequately express a concept, such as proprietary rights.

Interestingly, though Latin was accepted soon after the establishment of the Hungarian principality, the first official document of Hungary was largely written in Greek. Containing mostly Greek as well as some place names in Hungarian and some in Slavic, the “Charter of the nuns of Veszprémvölgy” dates to 997.

Though almost 6 decades older than the aforementioned charter, the “Establishing charter of the abbey of Tihany,” dating to 1055, is the first Hungarian document to go beyond place names and actually delve into the language itself. Written mostly in Latin and currently residing in the abbey of Pannonhalma, the documents contains 3 full Hungarian sentences, with 58 words and 33 suffixes.

Hungarian language is anti-evolution. Well, sort of. Unsurprisingly, languages change over time, based on internal and external factors. For example, when compared to Old English, Modern English contains less than 4% of its original etymons. Latin and Hebrew contain no more than 5%. Hungarian, however, retains almost 70%.

To see one of the oldest fragments of Hungarian, it is necessary to go to Nova Scotia, in Canada. Yarmouth County Museum is home to an odd Runic stone: whereas most Runic stones are written using the Runic alphabet, this particular one is carved in Old Hungarian, thus causing it to be long misunderstood. Carved by a Hungarian named Tyrkir around the year 1000 (almost 500 years before Columbus) while accompanying some of the first Viking voyages to the New World, the inscription reads “Ericson járt e hejen is sok társával.” (“Ericson also visited this place with his peers.”)

For those accustomed to the order, flow, and structure of typical Western languages, Hungarian can seem pretty strange. For starters, there is no gender and no prepositions. There is no definitive word order, other than to show emphasis, so, a typical Hungarian sentence would be ordered as follows: subject, object, verb, other parts. Additionally, instead of writing pronouns when used as a subject, they are generally taken from the verb conjugation.

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