Hungarian way of speaking – Introduction

Soon I’ll write some entries about the following topics:

  1. Intonation (hanglejtés)

    Intonation means saying a single word or whole sentences with a certain cadence of your voice. Your voice can rise and fall according to saying question or statements.

  2. Tőhangsúlyos beszéd

    I’ll try to find an adequate translation for it. Even Hungarian teachers don’t talk to the children about this very important phenomenon.

  3. Adding feeling to your speech

    Adding feeling to your speech means saying something with a certain tone of voice. It is much more entwined into Hungarian, then it is in English.

Sentence Structure Part 3

THERE ARE NO SUBORDINATE CLAUSES IN HUNGARIAN.

The best way to show you what I’m talking about is if I give you a German example. Our example means: I’m not going to school because I’m in hospital.

Ich gehe nicht zur Schule, weil ich im Krankenhaus liege.

German subordinate clauses are indicated by inversions after the conjunction. However, the basic German word order is SVO. If we remove the subordinate clause from the sentence, we’ll get an inversed sentence which does not make any sense in itself. It has to be the basic SVO order.

Weil ich im Krankenhaus liege. > incorrect sentence; it should be SVO like this:
Ich liege im Krankenhaus.

There is no such thing in Hungarian because there is no basic word order or inversions. Questions are not formed with inversions because the word order can be changed freely just like in any statement.

Hungarian uses conjunctions to connect two thoughts.

This explanation might seem ridiculous. Of course, it connects two thoughts. But if we take a look at the German example, we see why it is important to stress it. With all the possibilities we can have, let’s take a look at only a few to prove my point.

Nem mehetek iskolába, mert kórházban fekszek.
Nem mehetek iskolába, mert fekszek a kórházban.
Iskolába nem mehetek, mert kórházban fekszek.
Iskolába nem mehetek, mert fekszek a kórházba.

Nem mehetek iskolába = Iskolába nem mehetek; Kórházban fekszek. = Fekszek a kórházban. A different word order changes the importance of a certain part of the sentence, but it doesn’t make it subordinate to anything, especially not to the main clause. The conjunction BECAUSE-MERT simply connects two thoughts. That’s all. And that is true for every Hungarian conjunction.

Another example. Let’s change the word order only in the secondary clause:

I talked to him yesterday, although he couldn’t give me any new information.

Tegnap még beszéltem vele, jóllehet nem tudott új információval szolgálni.
Tegnap még beszéltem vele, jóllehet új információval nem tudott szolgálni.

I said to my colleague that if he was going to the post-office, he could take my letter, too.

Azt mondtam a munkatársamnak, hogy ha postára megy, elvihetné a levelemet is.
Azt mondtam a munkatársamnak, hogy ha megy a postára, a levelemet is elvihetné.

Give my drivers’ licence back or I can’t go to Pest by car.

Add vissza a jogosítványomat, különben nem mehetek autóval Pestre.
Add vissza a jogosítványomat, különben autóval nem mehetek Pestre.
Add vissza a jogosítványomat, különben nem mehetek Pestre autóval.

If we change the word order of the secondary clause, we have as many possibilities as many units there are in the sentence. We’ve talked about in Part 1. If we also change the main clause, the number of possibilities will increase according to how many units the main clause has.

Just a few examples, again. Writing it all down would be exhausting 🙂

Tegnap még beszéltem vele, jóllehet nem tudott új információval szolgálni.
Még beszéltem vele tegnap, jóllehet új információval nem tudott szolgálni.

Azt mondtam a munkatársamnak, hogy ha postára megy, elvihetné a levelemet is.
A munkatársamnak azt mondtam, hogy ha megy a postára, a levelemet is elvihetné.

Add vissza a jogosítványomat, különben nem mehetek autóval Pestre.
A jogosítványomat add vissza, különben autóval nem mehetek Pestre.
A jogosítványomat add vissza, különben nem mehetek Pestre autóval.

Sentence Structure Part 2

In Part 1 it is easy to understand how to form sentences. What you’ve read there is valid for all kinds of sentences: statement, yes or no question, question with an interrogative pronoun, I wish…/If only, exclamatory sentences.

Nonetheless, there are times when it might seem difficult findind the UNITS. By the way, no book will tell you about these units. I call them units so that I can explain sentence structure easier. So what sentences might be difficult? Mainly the sentences having a copula in English because Hungarian does not use the 3rd person sing. and plur. in present tense.

In these three examples we have 6 possibilities for each:

1 SET OF NUMBERS (3 UNITS) x 6 VARIATIONS = 6 POSSIBILITIES

A)
Let’s use an interrogative pronoun first. You can put it at the beginning or at the end of the question.

-Az a hosszú szürke szerszám a fészerben micsoda? -Gereblye.

-What is that long gray tool in the shed? -It’s a rake.

1.Micsoda 2.az a hosszú szürke szerszám 3.a fészerben?
1.Micsoda 3.a fészerben 2.az a hosszú szürke szerszám?
2.Az a hosszú szürke szerszám 1.micsoda 3.a fészerben?
2.Az a hosszú szürke szerszám 3.a fészerben 1.micsoda? > This is our question above.
3.A fészerben 1.micsoda 2.az a hosszú szürke szerszám?
3.A fészerben 2.az a hosszú szürke szerszám 1.micsoda?

B)
Now we don’t have an interrogative pronoun. This sentence has a copula in English, but a noun-predicate in Hungarian.

-Az a hosszú szürke szerszám a fészerben gereblye? -Igen.

-Is that long gray tool in the shed a rake? -Yes, it is.

1.Az a hosszú szürke szerszám 2.gereblye 3.a fészerben?
1.Az a hosszú szürke szerszám 3.a fészerben 2.gereblye? > This is our question above.
2.Gereblye 1.a hosszú szürke szerszám 3.a fészerben?
2.Gereblye 3.a fészerben 1.a hosszú szürke szerszám?
3.A fészerben 1.a hosszú szürke szerszám 2.gereblye?
3.A fészerben 2.gereblye 1.a hosszú szürke szerszám?

C)
In sentence C szürke-gray is an adjective in A and B, but now it is used as a noun.

-Abban a fészerben az a hosszú szürke kerti szerszám? -Igen.

-Is that long gray one in that shed a garden tool? -Yes, it is.

1.Az a hosszú szürke 2.kerti szerszám 3.abban a fészerben?
1.Az a hosszú szürke 3.abban a fészerben 2.kerti szerszám?
2.Kerti szerszám 1.az a hosszú szürke 3.abban a fészerben?
2.Kerti szerszám 3.abban a fészerben 1.az a hosszú szürke?
3.Abban a fészerben 1.az a hosszú szürke 2.kerti szerszám? > This is our question above.
3.Abban a fészerben 2. kerti szerszám 1.az a hosszú szürke?

There is not really a problem with A and B. However, C can be tricky and here’s why: if you don’t realize that the question has a noun-predicate (copula) in it, it might seem like the sentence didn’t finish. Not realizing it, you might also mistranslate the question like this: Is that long gray garden tool in the shed….WHAT? You don’t know what it is.

Correctly:
Is that long gray one in the shed a garden tool? OR
Is that long gray one a garden tool in the shed?

A LITTLE EXCERCISE

The nouns and the verb in this sentence has adjectives and an adverb of manner.

1.A kristálytiszta patak 2.ráérősen torkollik 3.a hegyeken túli tóba 4.egész évben.
1.The crystal-clear creek 2.calmly flows 3.into the lake over the mountains 4.all year round.

4 SETS OF NUMBERS x 6 VARIATIONS = 24 POSSIBILITIES

So here’s a little excercise for you. Write all the 24 possibilities down.

————–

————-

————- …

EXCLAMATORY SENTENCE

Gyere ki a házból! and A házból gyere ki! – Come out of the house.

The first sentence emphasises the action COME, the second one emphasises the place I want you to come out of.

Compare these:

Ne írj nekem leveleket, különben baj lesz.
Don’ write letters to me or there will be trouble.

Fejezd be a sírást és leveleket meg ne írj nekem, különben baj lesz.
Stop crying and letters, don’t write them to me or there will be trouble.

Still about sentence structure, more next time.

Sentence Structure Part 1

The Hungarian way of constructing sentences is extremely flexible, but there are some rules to follow. The parts of sentence can be moved around freely. The parts of speech have a certain order:

  • the indefinite and definite articles always precede the word they refer to:
    a ház, az emelet, egy kirándulás, a kék ég, egy szép nyár…
  • adjectives as attributes (including past participle and present participle) always precede the noun:
    szép lány, ismert ember, rohanó élet
  • adverbs of manner precede the verb:
    magyarul beszél, okosan dönt, gyorsan fut

Other than the rules above, topic-prominent aspect prevails. What you think more important can be placed at the beginning of the sentence. Usually, the new information always precedes the verb unless you want to emphasis the action.

This phenomenon is more interesing with long sentences because short sentences like (The lawyer is a tall man – Az ügyvéd magas ember) leave you with two solutions. Either you put the subject first or you move it at the end:

1.Az ügyvéd  2.magas ember. <> 2.Magas ember  1.az ügyvéd.

I.

3 UNITS

Our basic sentence has 3 UNITS. For simplicity’s sake let’s use Simple Present Tense in English.

1.A fű-The grass 2.nő-grows 3.a réten-on the meadow

How many variations can such a sentence have?

1.A fű 2.nő 3.a réten
1.A fű 3.a réten 2.nő
2.Nő 1.a fű 3.a réten
2.Nő 3.a réten 1.a fű
3.A réten 1.a fű 2.nő
3.A réten 2.nő 1.a fű

We have 6 possibilities depending on which part of the sentence we think is more important. If it’s a yes or no question, it has the same possibilities because questions without a question word just get a question mark and you rise your intonation.

123
132
213
231
312
321

1 SET OF NUMBERS x 6 VARIATIONS = 6 POSSIBILITIES

What happens if we add an adjective to the noun (a fű), an adverb of manner to the verb (nő) and an adjective to the adverb of place (a réten)? Nothing really. As the adjectives and adverbs of manner belong strictly to the word they refer to, they must be considered a single unit.

1.A zöld fű 2. gyorsan nő 3.a napsütötte réten
The green grass grows fast on the sun-lit meadow.

We still have 6 possibilities because the number of units haven’t changed, only they are specified with some attributes.

II.

4 UNITS

Let’s add another unit to our sentence, an adverb of time: tavasszal – at spring. Now we have 4 UNITS. It is easy to see that we always have 3 units to move around compared to which we set as first.

1234
1243
1324
1342
1423
1432

2134
2143
2314
2341
2431
2413

3124
3142
3214
3241
3412
3421

4123
4132
4213
4231
4312
4321

4 SETS OF NUMBERS x 6 VARIATIONS = 24 POSSIBILITIES

1.A fű 2.nő 3.a réten 4.tavasszal
1.A fű 2.nő 4.tavasszal 3.a réten
1.A fű 3.a réten 2.nő 4.tavasszal
1.A fű 3.a réten 4.tavasszal 2.nő
1.A fű 4.tavasszal 2.nő 3.a réten
1.A fű 4.tavasszal 3.a réten 2.nő

2.Nő 1.a fű 3.a réten 4.tavasszal
2.Nő 1.a fű 4.tavasszal 3.a réten
2.Nő 3.a réten 1.a fű 4.tavasszal
2.Nő 3.a réten 4.tavasszal 1.a fű
2.Nő 4.tavasszal 3.a réten 1.a fű
2.Nő 4.tavasszal 1.a fű 3.a réten

3.A réten 1.a fű 2.nő 4.tavasszal
3.A réten 1.a fű 4.tavasszal 2.nő
3.A réten 2.nő 1.a fű 4.tavasszal
3.A réten 2.nő 4.tavasszal 1.a fű
3.A réten 4.tavasszal 1.a fű 2.nő
3.A réten 4.tavasszal 2.nő 1.a fű

4.Tavasszal 1.a fű 2.nő 3.a réten
4.Tavasszal 1.a fű 3.a réten 2.nő
4.Tavasszal 2.nő 1.a fű 3.a réten
4.Tavasszal 2.nő 3.a réten 1.a fű
4.Tavasszal 3.a réten 1.a fű 2.nő
4.Tavasszal 3.a réten 2.nő 1.a fű

III.

5 UNITS

1.A fű 2.nő 3.a réten 4.tavasszal 5.nagy örömünkre
The grass grows on the meadow at spring to our great pleasure.

12345
12354
12543
12534
12435
12453
13245
13254
13425
13452
13524
13542
14235
14253
14325
14352
14523
14532
15234
15243
15324
15342
15423
15432
21345
21354
21435
21453
21534
21543
23145
23154
23415
23451
23514
23541
24135
24153
24315
24351
24513
24531
25134
25143
25314
25341
25413
25431
31245
31254
31425
31452
31524
31542
32145
32154
32415
32451
32514
32541
34125
34152
34215
34251
34512
34521
35124
35142
35214
35241
35412
35421
41235
41253
41325
41352
41523
41532
42135
42153
42315
42351
42513
42531
43125
43152
43215
43251
43512
43521
45123
45132
45213
45231
45312
45321
51234
51243
51324
51342
51423
51432
52134
52143
52314
52341
52413
52431
53124
53142
53214
53241
53412
53421
54123
54132
54213
54231
54312
54321

5 SETS OF NUMBERS x 24 VARIATIONS = 120 POSSIBILITIES

1.A fű 2.nő 3.a réten 4.tavasszal 5.nagy örömünkre
1.A fű 2.nő 3.a réten 5.nagy örömünkre 4.tavasszal
1.A fű 2.nő 5.nagy örömünkre 4.tavasszal 3.a réten
…it would take way too much time to list all. The numbers above tell everything.

SUMMARY:

1 SET OF NUMBERS (2UNITS) x 2 VARIATIONS = 2 POSSIBILITIES

1 SET OF NUMBERS (3 UNITS) x 6 VARIATIONS = 6 POSSIBILITIES

4 SETS OF NUMBERS (4 UNITS) x 6 VARIATIONS = 24 POSSIBILITIES

5 SETS OF NUMBERS (5 UNITS) x 6 VARIATIONS = 120 POSSIBILITIES

I’ll continue with more examples.

Roots H-, H-V, Har; H-R

Root H-, H-V, HaR

When it comes to weather and temperature you can think of some words as a group. It is the root H-. I keep writing the consonants in capitals.

Hi is an abstract root for Hideg – cold
is an abstract root for HűVös – cool
means snow > HaVas is snowy
means heat > HeVes fierce (man), heated (debate)
Ha is an abstract root for HaRmat – dew

A hó hő hatására elolvad. – Heat causes snow to melt.
Hűvös az idő, de nem hideg. – It’s a cool weather, but it’s not cold.

A heves vita közepette nem vették észre a virágról lehulló harmatot.
While having a heated debate, they didn’t notice the dew falling from the flower.

Root H-R for decaying

HeRvad – to wither;
A virágok
elhervadnak. – Flowers wither.

KoRhad – to rot, to decay;
A kidőlt fa
elkorhad. – The fallen tree rots away.

SoRvad – to waste away, to recede;
A fogad
elsorvad, ha nem húzzák ki. – Your teeth will recede if it is not removed.

The Hungarian Alphabet – Rovásírás

Not so long ago Hungarian people had their own alphabet just like the Chinese and the Japanese. Nowadays we refer to it as runic alphabet, but given the fact that in our modern days we use the Latin writing system, it is more appropriate to simply call it Hungarian alphabet.

Our ancestors originally carved these letters into wood sticks, then on their houses, buildings and probably books. I say ‘probably books’ because a lot of them were burnt after the Christians had arrived.

The Hungarian writing was exercised by both priests and ordinary people. Among others, we’ve found needle cases and other mundane objects decorated with these letters, which proves that the average people could write and read.

When the farmer carved these letters into the wood sticks, he was holding the stick with his left hand, so he started to write with his right hand. When he turned the stick, he continued to write from left to right, but fundamentally it is an alphabet written from right to left.

There was no need to use compound letters like we do today: sz, ny, ly, cs, etc. We have to do that because we have 40 letters in our alphabet and when our ancestors were forced to use the Latin writing, they had to figure out how to write a sound they had a character for in the Hungarian alphabet. Hence older family names like Weöres, Batthyhányi, Széchenyi…We pronounce them as Vörös, Battyányi, Szécsenyi. And that’s how we would have written any word back in the day because there is a character for every sound without letter combinations.

The rules of writing for the Hungarian alphabet are:

  1. Generally speaking, start writing from right to left.
  2. The omission of vowels was common especially the e-é vowels because originally these vowels were used to say the alphabet: eb, ec, ecs, ed, ef, eg, egy…(today we say bé, cé, csé, dé, ef, gé, gyé…). As the consonants express the meaning of the word, it is no problem omitting the vowels.
  3. You can omit the vowels when it does not hinder you from understanding the word, but always write it when back-vowels and front-vowels change in the same word and you always write it at the end of the word.
  4. The sounds w, x, y, q are transcribed with v, ksz, i, kv. Not part of the alphabet.
  5. The sounds dz, dzs are also not part of it, so they are written as in the Latin writing: d+z, d+zs
  6. The indication of long vowels is a recent development. Our ancestors didn’t make a distinction in writing, only in speech.

Here’s the alphabet from right to left:

m ly l k j í i h gy g f é e d cs c b á a

m L l k j í i h G g f é e d C c b á a

zs z v ű ü ú u ty t sz s r p ő ö ó o ny n

Z z v ű ü ú u T t S s r p ő ö ó o N n

Variations for o-ó, ö-ő and ü-ű can be found as we go back further in time. Check the Internet if you like for sites like that. Let’s see some texts. Keep in mind that the Hungarian alphabet goes from right to left.

Text with each character written out:

aNál moráh kanna sé NoSSa Ge reSGe tlov, tlov men loh, tlov reSGe

Egyszer volt, hol nem volt, volt egyszer egy asszony és annak három lánya.
Once upon a time there was a woman and she had three daughters.

Same text with vowel omission where possible:

aNál moráh knna s NoSSa G rSG tlv, tlv mn lh, tlv rSG

Egyszer volt, hol nem volt, volt egyszer egy asszony és annak három lánya.
Once upon a time there was a woman and she had three daughters.

The interesting thing about this alphabet is that you can use ligatures, that is you can combine these characters. It is your hand writing, if you will. The computer does not write ligatures, so I wrote it myself. Note that there are vowel omissions and ligatures in it.

wp_20170114_001

Note that there are two versions of K = k and K. Linguist believe that it’s due to vowel harmony. The first is believed to be EK or KE like meredek kederem (steap), the second one is AK or KA like akna anK (mine). Some linguists say that the second ”deep-vowel” K was only used for expressing the plural form, but there is no evidence to that. It is simpler to use the first k k. Look at this:

Linguists saying there is Ek and AK would write KAKUKKOK (cuckoos) like this:

kokkukaK

Linguists saying that K is only for plural would write it like this:

Kokkukak

Root M-G and More

The Hungarian roots can be used like this:

-keeping the consonants and shading with vowels: magyar = megyer
-mutating the consonants: KöR (circle) > GuRul (to roll)
-using the inversion of the root: MaG (seed) <> GaM (no meaning in itself today)

The first solution can have the same meaning or it can shade the original meaning. In case of magyar-megyer it is the same meaning. Our ancestors used megyer just as magyar.

The second solution implies that consonants can be turned into other consonants. For example the M at the end of a word often changes into NG, ND, N to shade the meaning of that word. Or in case of kör-gurul the words express the same kind of thing, that is a circular motion and K often mutates into G.

I’d like to talk about the third solution in details because the inversion of the root can have the same meaning, it can shade the meaning or it can express the opposite of the base root. Look at this example: CsaVar – FaCSar. What happened in csavar? The root Cs_V was reversed and the V mutated into F, which is also very common. As a result, the two verbs have the opposite meaning. Csavar means to twist, facsar means to wring. The first implies – fundamentally – a motion inwards, the second a motion outwards.

Another example can be megy (to go) – jön (to come). Would you tell about these verbs that they are inversions? This is how it goes: MeGY <> GYeM > GYeN > GYüN > JöN.

So what is it about MaG<> GaM? They imply the same thing: something spherical that has a seed in it or it has the shape of a seed. The vowels and the consonants can change to shade the meaning. The root GaM has no meaning today, but its derivatives do. I’ll keep writing the consonants carrying the meaning in capital letters, so that you see the root better.

MaG – seed

Derivatives of MaG are:

MáK – poppy-seed
MaKK – acorn
MaGYar – Hungarian
MaGyal – holly
MaGzat – embryo
MáGlya – bonfire
MaGas – tall
and possibly NaGY – big
MeGGY – sour cherry
MeGYe – county (Originally means earth, ground. Ancient villages were circular, probably that’s the reason for this word)

The inversion of MaG is GaM. Take a look at the words that originated from it:

GuMó = GüMő – tuber
GoMB – button
GoMBa – mushroom
GoMBóc = GöMBőc – dumpling or something ball-shaped
GöMB – orb
GoMBolyag – skein, hank
GoMolyog – to wreathe
GöMBölyű – round, spherical
GuBó – cocoon
GőG – haughtiness (originally means something empty, spherical, inflatable)
GöNGYöleg – bundle, bale
GYöNGY – pearl
GYüMölcs – fruit

Other examples from our Kun ancestors. The Kuns liked to change the Hungarian consonants like this: G, GY > D, ND, NG, NT, MD, K; D > T.

áGas > áKas = today’s word is eke = plough

We had a word like KiJó. Nowadays we say KíGYó (snake). The inversion of KíGY is GYíK. GYíK means lizard. Animals belonging to the same kind of species, so to say. With consonant mutation GYíK became CSíK (streak, stripe). Obviously lizards and snakes look like a streak from the distance.

Other examples would never really ”show themselves” if we wouldn’t know their origins. Such roots are: ék, kő, üt, tű. Kő (stone) is the inversion of éK (wedge). It is obvious that a stone, especially a sharp one resembles a wedge. With a wedge you can hit things, and so some consonant and vowel mutations will allow us to create the verb üT (hit). The inversion of üt is Tű (needle). And a needle still looks like a small wedge. Out of the root éK, our eKe (plough) was born.

Another phenomenon is when the consonant H modifies the original root. Such root is aL (below, beneath). If you put an h at the beginning of the word, it becomes HaL (fish). Where do fish live? Under the ocean.

A HaL aLul van. – The fish is beneath.

The poetic way of thinking of our ancestors allowed them to identify fish with death:

HaL (fish-noun) – megHaL (to die-verb) – HaLLgat (to listen, to be silent)

What does a person do who died? If someone dies at sea, you say: That man perished at sea = Az az ember tengerbe HALT. And what does a dead person do? He’s silent like a fish, that is HaLLgat. This is how these words developed: aL (beneath) > HaL (fish-to die) > HaLott (dead) > HaLLgat (to be silent, to listen). Also, if someone’s listening to you while you’re speaking, they’re silent.

So much for now. I’ll try to write more.

Bye! 🙂