The origins of the Hungarian Language

Hungarian has official status in Hungary. It is also one of 24 official languages used in the European Union. It is also prominent in Slovakia, the western part of the Ukraine, in the North areas of Serbia, Croatia, and Slovenia, and in the southern part of Poland. Due to the Treaty of Trianon, there were many ethnic Hungarians being displaced from their homes and communities, and these have resulted in many Hungarian communities in a variety of areas around the globe.

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Hungarian belongs to the Uralic language family. Hungarian is a peculiar language in that linguists have not been sure for a while how to classify the language exactly due to its unique characteristics. Earlier, it was considered part of the Turkic Language family. However, most recently, it has been classified in the Uralic language family. Other languages in this family include Finnic languages such as Finnish. The academic battle over whether Hungarian is a Turkic language or a Uralic/Ugric language was called the Ugric-Turkic battle. Vocabulary influences, however, stem from a variety of sources, including Latin, Greek, Germanic languages, Slavic languages, and more. However most of these loanwords have been assimilated into the language; that is they have adopted Hungarian characteristics of word formation, spelling, and pronunciation. VEQTA can provide a translator from Hungarian to English that is perfectly bilingual.

Before a Hungarian language was distinguished, Hungarian dialects seem to have separated from other Ugric languages in the first half of the 1st millennium BCE. At this time, many speakers of these dialects were nomadic pastoralists, going from land to land, and this roaming lifestyle influenced the spread of Hungarian dialects and eventually, the development of Old Hungarian, the next stage of linguistic development.

In the 10th century, the nomadic lifestyle of Hungarian speaking peoples settled and there was a principality that had been established in the areas that would become known as present-day Hungary as well as surrounding areas. In the 11th century, the Kingdom of Hungary was established as the Papal State recognized Stephen I as the first King of the new Christian Kingdom. In this Kingdom then, Old Hungarian was spoken, and Hungarian was used for administration and official use.

However, a majority of Hungarian lands soon fell under Ottoman and Habsburg rules, with certain regions remaining independent. The land under the Habsburg kings was called the Kingdom of Hungary, however in all these lands, the Latin language gained prominence. Especially through the 11th to 15th centuries, Latin was a prime language of literature, religion, and law, while Hungarian was only used in certain circumstances.

Middle Hungarian emerged around the 16th to 17th century. The first Hungarian book was published in 1533 and by the end of the 17th century, with the addition of loan words from French Italian, and German, Middle Hungarian bears a striking resemblance to the Hungarian that is spoken today. Other changes included changes to the pronunciation system; vowels evolved and both long and short vowels emerged.

At the end of the 18th century, we see the emergence of Modern Hungarian. However, at this time, the vocabulary of Hungarian had not caught up with scientific developments. Scientific terminology was hard to express, but a group of scholars gathered for a ‘language renewal,’ where new terminology was coined and introduced into the language, and older words were revived in order to express a wider range of concepts, both for everyday linguistic transaction as well as for more scholarly pursuits. This renewal led to an overall standardization of the language which continued throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, which resulted in the variety of Hungarian dialects in the area becoming much more similar.

In terms of writing, Old Hungarian was formerly written from right-to-left, similar to Arabic and Persian. This was evident in Old Hungarian rules. However, through the prevalence of Latin in the Medieval ages, a Latin alphabet had been adapted and this alphabet continues to be used for Modern Hungarian. The Modern Hungarian alphabet contains the standard Latin letters with additions that have been formulated just for Hungarian. These include letters to represent long vowels (e.g., á, é, í, ó, and ú), and letters to represent fronted vowels (ö and ü), which are similar to German.

Hungarian may be unique to speakers of Romance and more Germanic languages because it is an agglutinative language; affixes are combined together with words to express nuanced meanings that, in a Romance language, single words would represent. This is more similar to languages like Japanese or Korean, but shares similarities to closer relatives of Hungarian like Finnish. However, the primary word order of Hungarian is subject-verb-object.

Nowadays, in addition to being the official language of Hungary and the European Union, it also holds this status in Vojovodina in Serbia, as well as in Hodos, Lendava, and Hodos in Slovenia. It is a recognized language in many other regions where there are large Hungarian speaking communities. Whether you need a Hungarian translation service for only a few pages or million or if you have millions of words you need to translate Hungarian to english – Get in touch today!

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