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About the Hungarian Language

Almost everybody knows the statement that Hungarian is a very difficult language. Yes, it is true: Hungarian is not similar to other languages (like for example German and Dutch to each other) and it has a different logic. But on the other hand it is a language that you have difficulties at the beginning but as you know more it becomes easier. First you have to get used to some „strange” things and than later you will find it less complicated.


Hungarian is the official language of Hungary. It is spoken by approx. 10 million people in Hungary and an additional 4-5 million around Hungary (at the territory of the formal Hungarian Kingdom) and all over the world where Hungarian emigrants live (for example in Canada and in the USA). It is the fiftieth of the 3000 languages of the world and the thirteenth in Europe.

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The origin of the language

Some hundreds of years ago everybody thought that Hungarian was a language without relatives. It was very obvious that it had no similarity to those languages that were around Hungary, like German and the Slavic languages. This was a very sad story in linguistics, until the end of the 1700s when scientists started to find – first very small – languages that seemed to have some connections to Hungarian. It was an astrologer who went to Lapland and figured out that the language there (Lappish) was quite similar to Hungarian. Later it turned out that there were lots of languages spoken mostly in Russia and Siberia, that also showed some signs of relations.


Now – after more than 200 years of studies of historical linguistics – we know that Hungarian belongs to the Finno-Ugric languages. It is not related to any of the Germanic, Slavic or Latin languages. The biggest languages that are in the Finno-Ugric  languages are Finnish (4.5 million people), Estonian (1 million), Mordvin (1.3 million), Lappish (31000 people). Hungarian is the biggest language in this group (15 million speakers).


The history of the Finno-Ugric languages goes back to 4000 B.C.  At that time the Finno-Ugric people lived in West-Siberia. At around 2000 B.C. these people moved slowly away from their original home: the Finnish towards the North-West and the Ugrics towards West. In this way their language separated into Finnish and Ugric languages. In present the only other existing Ugric languages, and thus the only languages to which Hungarian is closely related, are the small Ostyak and Vogul languages spoken in Siberia.


Hungarian became a separate language approximately at 500 B.C., 2500 years ago. Since that time Hungarian has developed in a different way than its language relatives, and by now it differs that much that its native speakers can not understand any of the related languages.

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