Language

Origins of the Hungarian Language

Hungarian (Magyar) is a member of the Uralic language family. It is the largest of the Uralic languages in terms of the number of speakers and the only one spoken in Central Europe. Its closest relatives are Khanty and Mansi, minority languages of Russia, spoken 2,000 miles away, east of the Ural mountains in north western Siberia. It is estimated that Hungarian has been separated from Khanty and Mansi for about 2,500-3,000 years.

Hungarian (Magyar) is a member of the Uralic language family. It is the largest of the Uralic languages in terms of the number of speakers and the only one spoken in Central Europe. Its closest relatives are Khanty and Mansi, minority languages of Russia, spoken 2,000 miles away, east of the Ural mountains in north western Siberia. It is estimated that Hungarian has been separated from Khanty and Mansi for about 2,500-3,000 years.

Linguists believe that the ancestors of modern Hungarians first migrated westward from the eastern slopes of the Ural mountains into the steppes of southern Russia in the 4th-6th centuries, and eventually moved further westward into the Danube basin west of the Carpathian Mountains in the 9th century. Over the centuries, the Hungarians have become assimilated into the surrounding European cultures. Only their language testifies to their origin in Asia.

Hungarian is spoken by 9,840,000 people in Hungary

It is the country’s official language used in education and government administration. It is one of the official languages of the European Union.
There are sizable populations of Hungarian speakers in Romania, the Czech and Slovak Republics, the former Yugoslavia, Ukraine, Israel, and the U.S. Smaller pockets of Hungarian speakers live in Canada, Slovenia, and Austria. The total number of speakers of Hungarian worldwide is 12,605,590 (Ethnologue).

The dialects of Hungarian identified by Ethnologue are: Alföld, West Danube, Danube-Tisza, King’s Pass Hungarian, Northeast Hungarian, Northwest Hungarian, Székely and West Hungarian. These dialects are, for the most part, mutually intelligible.
The Hungarian Csángó dialect, which is mentioned but not listed separately by Ethnologue, is spoken primarily in Bacău County in eastern Romania. The Csángó Hungarian group has been largely isolated from other Hungarian people, and they therefore preserved features that closely resemble earlier forms of Hungarian.

Hungarian uses vowel harmony to attach suffixes to words. That means that most suffixes have two or three different forms, and the choice between them depends on the vowels of the head word. There are some minor and unpredictable exceptions to the rule.

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