What a long, strange trip it’s been….


This week I have finally made it through FSI Unit 5 and moved on to FSI Unit 6.  Unit 6 vocabulary seems to be related to sightseeing around Budapest.  A fun pair of words I have discovered are állat which means animal and állatkert which means zoo.  This literally means “animal-garden” which conjures up some interesting mental images!

The days of the week are also taught which are:

vasárnap (Sunday)

hétfő

kedd

szerda

csütörtök

péntek

szombat (Saturday)

Again, totally unrelated to any other language I have studied!

I am very interested in the history of Hungary and how the Hungarians have remained so culturally and linguistically isolated from their European neighbors.

Up until the 1800’s it was regarded as fact that Hungarians were descendants of the Huns and Turks.

In fact, Hungary was originally part of Pannonia, a well documented province of the Roman Empire.  The Huns, indeed were among the first invaders to break up the province but were shortly thereafter followed by the Ostragoths, Lombards and Gepids.   Despite the fact that Attilla remains a common and honorable Hungarian name,  it doesn’t appear that the Huns stuck around in Hungary for very long.

The Avars, a nomadic tribe originating in Central Asia were the next group to arrive and in 560, founded the Avar Khaganate.  This large state lasted for over 250 years until eventually being broken up by Franks, Bulgars and Slavs.

Finally, in 895 under the leadership of Árpád, a new group of people, known as the Magyars invaded the region and settled in the area.  Modern-day ethnic Hungarians still show a genetic linkage to this nomadic tribe.

There are numerous, but unproven theories of the origin of the Magyars.  The most widely-accepted has them originating in the central regions of the Ural Mountain range about 6000 years ago.  By the 4th-6th centuries C.E. they had migrated into the Volga river basin and by the 9th century had established strong alliances with the Bulgars and other neighboring tribes.  It is thought that many Turkic and Slavic words were assimilated into Hungarian during this period.

The Carpathian Basin which later became the Kingdom of Hungary was a proverbial “melting pot” .  There were numbers of Slavs, Romanians and Germans living there. Hungarians made up the  largest single group in the area, but, oddly enough,  there were always more non-Hungarians  than Hungarians in Hungary.

Since the kingdom was a western-styled Christian (Roman Catholic) state, Hungarian adopted the Latin alphabet and was, over the next few centuries,  heavily influenced by Latin.  During this period the verb tenses were greatly simplified and the post-position  cases were assimilated onto words.   During the Ottoman occupation of Hungary between 1541 and 1699, even more Turkish words crept into Hungarian.

Origin of word roots in Hungarian
Uncertain 30%
Finno-Ugric 21%
Slavic 20%
German 11%
Turkic 9.5%
Latin and Greek 6%
Romance 2.5%
Other known 1%

From A nyelv és a nyelvek (“Language and languages”), edited by István Kenesei. Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, 2004, ISBN 963-05-7959-6, p. 134)

Over the latter centuries of the last millennium , the language which was felt to endanger Hungarian the most was German.  The surrounding regions were mostly German-speaking, as was printing, entertainment  and, of course, the Hapsburg administration.   All educated Hungarians were expected to speak German.

After the First World War and the Treaty of Trianon, new borders were drawn and present-day Hungary was formed.  Sadly, the kingdom of Hungary lost 72% of its land and 64% of its population.  I believe my ancestors left Hungary during this period.   The silver lining of the breakup was that now in Hungary, for the first time in centuries,  Hungarian was the majority language .   However, nearly 10 million ethnic Hungarians now found themselves living outside of Hungary in foreign lands, speaking a foreign language.     Even today about 20% of Hungarian speakers live outside of Hungary!   One can understand from this how the Hungarian language has evolved to be such an important, even hallowed, symbol of Hungarian cultural and national identity.   I am proud to be a descendant of these people and am excited to learn more of this enduring language of my ancestors!

EDIT 8/31 –   This was a response from @ Chung.  Very Interesting!!  (at least to a language dork like myself! )

Actually six of these words are related in varying degrees to words in languages that you know or have studied.

– vasárnap comes from a compound of “vásár” (market) and “nap” (day). “Vásár” is very likely a borrowing from an Indo-Iranian language (cf. Middle Persian (Pahlavi): vacar and Farsi بازار (bâzâr)). “Bazaar” and “vásár” thus share a common origin while being loanwords.

– hétfő is a compound of “hét” week and “fő” “head” (i.e. Monday is the “head of the week”). “Hét” as you have learned also means “seven” and this word was borrowed into Proto-Finno-Ugric from some Indo-European language (probably an Indo-Iranian one). “Hét” is thus related to words such as “seven”, “hepta”, “shtat(ë)” etc.

– szerda is a borrowing from a Slavonic language (cf. Serbo-Croatian sr(ij)eda). The word’s origin lies in the Indo-European word for “middle” or “heart” with the Slavonic source holding a figurative sense referring to the middle of the week. Cognates of the word include: “heart”, “coeur”, “corazón” etc.

– csütörtök is a borrowing from a Slavonic language (cf. Czech čtvrtek). In turn, the word’s origin lies in the Indo-European word for “four” with the Slavonic source being a derivative of the number (i.e. to represent the fourth day of the week) Cf. Albanian: katër; Czech: čtyři; Farsi: ćáhār; Latin: quattuor.

– péntek is also a borrowing from a Slavonic language (cf. Czech: pátek). This word’s origin lies in the Indo-European word for “five” with the Slavonic source being a derivative of the number (i.e. to represent the fifth day of the week) Cf. Albanian: pesë; Czech: pět; Farsi: panj; Latin: quinque.

– szombat is another borrowing from Slavonic (cf. Polish: sobota). This word in turn entered Ancient Greek from Ancient Hebrew (cf. modern Hebrew shabbath) and then got passed on further to other Indo-European languages and then to Hungarian. Szombat is related to other loanwords such as sabbath, Samstag, samedi, sábado etc.

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3 thoughts on “What a long, strange trip it’s been….

  1. Hello.
    I enjoy reading your blog. It’s great that you are learning Hungarian. I am also a language lover.
    I would appreciate if you can reupload the Persian DLI Cds
    since they have been already deleted from Rapidshare.

    Thanks in advance

  2. To be precise, Hungarian péntek is a borrowing from Common Slavic. It still shows the vowels that are long gone in most Slavic languages. The word borrowed was something like pętək, where ę was nasal e. It turned into just e in most Slavic languages (Slovene petek, Std. Croatian/Serbian petak) but it became я (ja) in Russian (пятница).

    The same holds for szombat (there was nasal o as well once in Slavic…)

    There are many words in Croatian/Serbian that are borrowed from Hungarian, some of them are quite astonishing.

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