Sir John Bowring's (1792-1872)
love for the Hungarian language
The Hungarian language: origin, relationships, characteristics
English-Hungarian vocabulary of psychology and psychotherapy
Other home pages
This is the home page of Angela
Molnos (under construction) prepared with the technical assistance of Csaba Koncz. It
is about the Hungarian language. Though it is addressed to Hungarian speakers only, we
will try to provide some information to those who do not speak it, but are nevertheless
interested. If you are one of these friends, please register in our guestbook, or send in
your address to Angela [email@example.com],
so that we can let you know when there is something new for you.
The English philologist, Sir John Bowring (1792-1872) was a polyglot and a great enthusiast of the Hungarian language which he had learned too. He translated a number of Hungarian poems into English, and published them under the title "The poetry of the Magyars" in 1830. In the foreword and introduction of the book he wrote the following:
"The Magyar language stands afar off and alone. The study of other tongues will be found of exceedingly little use towards its right understanding. It is moulded in a form essentially its own, and its construction and composition may be safely referred to an epoch when most of the living tongues of Europe either had no existence, or no influence on the Hungarian region." (Preface, p.vi)
"After a long period of inertness and almost of oblivion, the language and literature of Hungary seem starting into a new and vigorous existence. A band of distinguished writers have appeared with the present generation, whose privilege it has been at once to will and to effect the regeneration of their native idiom, which had been sinking under the indifference of some and the attacks of others. Its history has been marked by many vicissitudes. Originating in an age too remote to be defined or even discovered, and receiving from time to time infusions from the various tribes and tongues who have visited or been visited by the Magyar race, it has yet retained all its essential peculiarities, and offers to the inquirer some of the most curious topics of research." (Introduction, p.iii).
Today Hungarians speak a language which is increasingly
deteriorating into an unfortunate mixture of their mother tongue and waves of
international technical and economic terms, abbreviations, sloppy structures. This new
language is offensive to both languages Hungarian as well as English: in it the English
words and expressions get twisted and distorted beyond recognition. Sir John Bowring would
be very sad to read it and even sadder to have to listen to it: the Hungarian intonation
and pronunciation too is about to lose its whole original beauty. But perhaps the trend
can be still reversed. We hope so. These pages intend to make a small contribution in the
In 1770 John Sajnovics published his findings about the possible origins of the Hungarian language. His work served as the basis of the official Finno-Ugric theory according to which Hungarian belongs to the Ugric branch of the Finno-Ugric stock. The only other languages in Europe belonging to this stock are Finnish and Estonian. Hungarian is more closely related to the other languages of the Ugric division, namely Vogulian and Ostyak, spoken by tribes in the Ob and Iris regions of northwestern Siberia. The theory was not easily accepted by the learned Hungarian public and well-founded alternative theories have been proposed. The debate has flared up in recent decades.
Hungarian is spoken in Hungary and in the surrounding regions of the Carpathian basin which were part of it up to 1919. Then the country was partitioned by the treaty of Trianon which left less than one third of its territory. Hungarian is also spoken by first and second generations of Hungarians settled abroad in nearly every country of the world. It is estimated that as many Hungarians live outside as within the country. The last great wave of emigration took place after the crushing of the 1956 revolution against the Soviet occupation and the communist dictatorship, followed by the subsequent retortions.
Hungarian differs from Western European languages to some
extent in phonetics, somewhat in phrase-structure and very markedly in morphology.
Morphological variations are carried out almost wholly by means of suffixes. The typical
word consist of a stem and one or more of a large number of suffixes. Most suffixes obey
the laws of vowel harmony: a stem that contains a back vowel (such as á) requires
suffixes with back vowels (váll "shoulders"; vállunk "our
shoulders"; vállamon "on my shoulders"), and a stem that contains a front
vowel requires suffixes with front vowels (kéz "hand"; kezünk "our
hand"; kéznél "at hand"). The Latin alphabet is used with the addition of
some digraphs (cs, dz, dzs, gy, ly, ny, ty, sz, zs) representing specific sounds. One or
two acute accents mark the vowel length: í, ó, o, ű. Short vowels are written without
acute accents: i, o, ö, ü. In the case of á and a, é and e respectively, the acute
accent distinguishes two different sounds, i.e. vowels. The stress falls on the first
vowel of a word. Grammatical gendre and prepositions are unknown. Instead, there are a
great number of suffixes. The verb may indicate not only person, number, tense, and mode,
but also the presence or the absence of an object.
Benkő Loránd & Imre Samu (1972). The Hungarian language. Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó.
Hall, Robert A. Jr. (1944). Hungarian grammar. Supplement to Language: Journal of the Linguistic Society of America. Reprinted by Kraus Reprint Corporation, New York, 1966.
Lotz, János (1939). Das ungarische Sprachsystem. Stockholm: Ungarisches Institut.
Molnos Angéla (1997). English-Hungarian vocabulary of psychology and psychotherapy
Journal of Hungarian Studies: http://www.acronet.net/~magyar
Legends from the Hungarian saga by