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Hungarian language


Hungarian (magyar nyelv) is a Finno-Ugric language, unrelated to the other languages of Central Europe. As one of the small number of modern European languages which do not belong to the Indo-European language family it has always been of great interest to linguists. It is spoken in Hungary and by the Hungarian minorities in seven neighbouring countries. The Hungarian name for the language is magyar .

There are about 13.1 million speakers, of whom 9.5 million live in modern-day Hungary. Some two million speakers live in areas that were part of the Kingdom of Hungary before World War I. Of these, the largest group live in Romania, where there are approximately 1.4 million Hungarians. Hungarian-speaking people are also to be found in Slovakia, Ukraine, Serbia, Croatia, Austria, and Slovenia, as well as about a million people scattered in other parts of the world.

Classification

The beginning of the history of Hungarian language as such (and so the proto-Hungarian period) is set to 1000 B.C., when – according to current scientific understanding – it separated from its closest relatives, the Ob-Ugric languages.

Hungarian is a member of the Ugric languages, a sub-group of the Finno-Ugric language family, which in turn is a branch of the Uralic languages. Connections between the Ugric and Finnic languages were noticed in the 1670s and established, along with the entire Uralic family, in 1717, although the classification of Hungarian continued to be a matter of political controversy into the 18th and even 19th centuries. Today the Uralic family is considered one of the best demonstrated large language families, along with Indo-European and Austronesian.

Geographic distribution

Country Number of speakers
Hungary 10,177,223
Romania (mainly Transylvania) 1,443,970
Slovakia 520,528
Serbia (mainly Vojvodina) 293,299
Ukraine (mainly Zakarpattia) 149,400
United States 117,973
Canada 75,555
Israel 70,000
Austria (mainly Burgenland) 22,000
Croatia 16,500
Slovenia (mainly Prekmurje) 9,240

Official status

Hungarian is the official language of Hungary, and thus an official language of the European Union.

Hungarian is also one of the official languages of Vojvodina and an official language of three municipalities in Slovenia (Hodoš/Hodos, Dobrovnik/Dobrónak and Lendava/Lendva), along with Slovene.

Hungarian is officially recognized as a minority or regional language in Austria, Croatia and Slovakia.

In Romania and Slovakia, it is an official language at local level in all communes, towns and municipalities with an ethnic-Hungarian population of over 20%.

Dialects

The dialects of Hungarian identified by Ethnologue are: Alföld, West Danube, Danube-Tisza, King's Pass Hungarian, Northeast Hungarian, Northwest Hungarian, Székely and West Hungarian. These dialects are, for the most part, mutually intelligible. The Hungarian Csángó dialect, which is not listed by Ethnologue, is spoken mostly in Bacau County, Romania. The Csángó minority group has been largely isolated from other Hungarians, and they therefore preserved a dialect closely resembling medieval Hungarian.