History of the Hungarian Language

3rd Jan 2014

The Hungarian language has a long history, which is hard to trace back to its exact beginning. Some have found roots beginning around 3,000 years ago. Depending on the way of life of Hungarians, settled or nomadic, it had a different geographical area of distribution and development. The first language to have a strong influence on Hungarian was Turkish. Many vocabulary and grammar phenomena are still recognizably of Turkish origin.

With the establishment of the Kingdom of Hungary by Stephen I in Europe, Hungarian started its clearly separate development. From that time on, the exclusive impact upon the evolution of the language was reserved for Latin. Hungary was a Christian Kingdom in Europe, and as such it largely used Latin. The influence was so great that Hungarian only gained its official status over Latin in 1844.

During its European development, Hungarian has also been influenced by Slavic languages, as it’s situated in a border area between Eastern (mostly Slavic) and Western Europe. It also came under the influence of the German language.

Some interesting facts and sayings about my native language, Hungarian

Ove Burglund, Swedish physician and translator, stated that: "The Hungarian language is the top product of human logic"

• Jakob Grimm the storyteller said that "Hungarian language is logical and has a perfect structure and surpasses every other language".

• George Bernard Shaw: “After studying the Hungarian language for years, I can confidently conclude that had Hungarian been my mother tongue, it would have been more precious. Simply because through this extraordinary, ancient and powerful language it is possible to precisely describe the tiniest differences and the most secretive tremors of emotions.”

•  Sir John Bowring, English traveller and writer, visited Hungary and published an anthology in English of the work of Hungarian writers and poets. „The Hungarian language goes far back. It developed in a very peculiar manner and its structure reaches back to times when most of the now spoken European languages did not even exist. It is a language which developed steadily and firmly in itself, and in which there are logic and mathematics with the adaptability and malleability of strength and chords. The Englishman should be proud that his language indicates an epic of human history. One can show forth its origin; and all layers can be distinguished in it, which gathered together during contacts with different nations. Whereas the Hungarian language is like a rubble-stone, consisting of only one piece, on which the storms of time left not a scratch. It's not a calendar that adjusts to the changes of the ages. It needs no-one, it doesn't borrow, does no huckstering, and doesn't give or take from anyone. This language is the oldest and most glorious monument of national sovereignty and mental independence. What scholars cannot solve, they ignore. In philology it's the same way as in archaeology. The floors of the old Egyptian temples, which were made out of only one rock, can't be explained. No one knows where they came from, or from which mountain the wondrous mass was taken. How they were transported and lifted to the top of the temples. The genuineness of the Hungarian language is a phenomenon much more wondrous than this.”

•  Did you know that the library of the British Museum's most valuable texts of the Central European book begins: „Az Ephesom helyeknek yrth Zent Pál levelének elsew capitóliuma” was written in Hungarian in 1533?

•  In a study of languages that have preserved most of the elements of the ancient cultural basic words the following results were found: today's English 4%, Latin 5%, Hebrew 5%. Pacific languages 7%, Indian languages 9%, Tibetan Sanskrit 12%, indigenous Turkish 26% and today's Hungarian 68%.

For help with your Hungarian interpreting or translation requirements, or help with any other language, please contact Pearl’s team on 020 7253 7700 or email sales@pearllinguistics.com.

Eszter Keresztesi, East Midlands Interpreting Co-ordinator


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