About the Hungarian Language

Hungarian belongs to the Finno-Ugric language family, which also includes Finnish and Estonian.  It is not at all related to the Indo-European languages which surround it and is very different both in vocabulary and grammar.  It is spoken in Hungary and by the Hungarian minorities in seven neighboring countries.  The Hungarian name for the language is Magyar.
There are about 14 million native speakers, of whom some 10 million live in modern-day Hungary.  Some two and a half million speakers live in areas that were part of the Kingdom of Hungary before World War I.  Of these, the largest group lives in Romania, where there are approximately 1.5 million Hungarians.  Hungarian speakers are also to be found in Slovakia, Serbia, Croatia, Ukraine, Austria, and Slovenia, as well as about a million people scattered in other parts of the world, including over a hundred thousand in the United States.

The different dialects of Hungarian can be heard mostly in rural areas in Hungary and the neighboring countries.  These dialects are mutually intelligible and differ mostly in the pronunciation of their vowels. 

The “standard” Hungarian, which you will hear in the Pimsleur course, is based on the North-Eastern dialect and is spoken in the entire territory of Hungary.

Hungarian is an “agglutinative” language, which means that grammatical relations (past tense, possession, plural, etc.) are expressed by adding suffixes and prefixes to words.  The vowels of the suffixes change according to the dominating vowels of the word they are attached to.  This important feature of Hungarian is called “vowel harmony.”

Hungarian is written in the Roman-based alphabet.  In addition to the Roman characters, the Hungarian alphabet contains several consonants made up of two or three letters, and vowels with umlauts or accent marks.  The modern Hungarian alphabet has a total of 44 letters.

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Hungarian-Speaking Countries