Hungarian language/Alphabet

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See also the corresponding artice on Wikipedia.

The alphabet[edit | edit source]

letter a á b c cs d dz dzs e é f g gy h i í j k l ly m n ny o ó ö ő p r s sz t ty u ú ü ű v z zs
name a á csé dzé dzsé e é ef gyé i í el ely em en eny o ó ö ő er es esz tyé u ú ü ű zsé
Some consonants look like two (or three) English symbols and represent a single Hungarian letter.
Long vs. short
The alphabet lists all the short and long vowels, but not the long consonants[1]. Nonetheless each letter has a long variant, which alters the meaning of the word. Long vowels are indicated by acute (ˊ) or double acute (˝) -- the only diacritic in Hungarian. Long simple consonants are written doubled (fusson); long digraph consonants have only their first letter doubled (messze). Thus, long digraphs are written as followed:
ccs (=cs+cs), ddz (=dz+dz), ddzs (=dzs+dzs), ggy (=gy+gy), lly (=ly+ly), nny (=ny+ny), ssz (=sz+sz), tty (=ty+ty), zzs (=zs+zs)
unless they are cut from each other at the end of the line, in which case they are written separately (visszavisz-sza). It may happen that two identical digraph consonants meet in a compound word on the roots' boundary, but from grammatical view that is not a long consonant and is written accordingly (nynyak).
Foreign letters
Note that there are no q, w and x letters in the (official) Hungarian alphabet because they do not occur in native Hungarian words. Also there is no y letter on its own, but it occurs in digraphs gy, ly, ny and ty. In exceptional cases, unusual letters may occur in Hungarian words, such as the x in Xénia (name), or ch in pech (=hard luck) being a single letter pronounced as in German. Other similar words, such as szex (=sexuality, sexual intercourse), are widely spread and used, but they eventually have their own translation without foreign letters[2].
When sorting words alphabetically, diacritic is not taken into account, unless it is the only difference between the two words, in which case the acute comes later. For example: kád, kar, kár, kor, kór, kos, kör are alphabetically sorted[3]. Long consonants are treated like two short ones, and digraphs are taken into account. For example: egzotikus, egyéb, lócukor, loccsan, locsog are alphabetically sorted. Note that distinct consonants may accidentally look (and may or may not sound) like digraphs, but those are treated as separate letters when sorting.

Pronunciation[edit | edit source]

Vowels[edit | edit source]

short long
a ɒ like a in car but shorter á like a in the German "guten Tag"
e ɛ[4] like a in man é like é in the French enchanté but longer
i i like i in gift í like ea in please
o o like o in no ó like oo in door
ö ø like eu in the French bleu ő øː like ö in the German schön
u u like u in put ú like oo in cool
ü y like ü in the German über ű like üh in the German Führer

The pronunciation of a vs. á and e vs. é noticeably differ from each other, while the others only differ in duration.

Vowels in groups like ie, eu etc. are always pronounced independently.

Consonants[edit | edit source]

Simple consonants
b like b in bed
c like ts in tsunami (except for cs)
d like d in door (except for dz, dzs)
f like f in finger
g like g in guitar (except for gy)
h like h in how; may be silent at the end of some words
j like y in you
k like c in cat
l like l in let (except for ly)
m like m in man
n like n in need (except for ny)
p like p in pet
r like r in the German rot
s like s in sugar (except for cs, sz, zs, dzs)
t like t in tow (except for ty)
v like v in Vienna
z like z in zero (except for dz, dzs, sz, zs)
cs like ch in child
dz like dz in adze
dzs like j in juice
gy like dj in adjust
ly like y in you (exactly as for j)
ny like n in news
sz like s in sit
ty like t in Tuesday
zs like s in visual

The letters j and ly are pronounced exactly the same. The latter is less common. There is no general rule by which the spelling of an unknown word containing j or ly could be deduced.

It is not unusual that a simple consonant is accidentally followed by such a digraph that it looks like a long digraph (meggyón, vasszeg). In that case the pronunciation may and may not be affected.

Stress[edit | edit source]

Primary stress is always on the first syllable of a word. Elongated vowels in non-initial syllables can also seem to be stressed to the ear of an English speaker, since length and stress correlate in English.

Footnotes[edit | edit source]

  1. The Slovak language, for example, has two long consonants ĺ and ŕ and the alphabet explicitly lists them.
  2. I believe that the number of generally accepted words containing x is comparable to the number of words containing dz or dzs.
  3. Even though I've seen a dictionary which took kör before kos.
  4. I took ɛ from phonetic transcriptions on Wikipedia and Wiktionary. It is important to notice that the e/é from Slavic languages and the Spanish and Italian e (which are sometimes noted ɛ too) are clearly between the Hungarian short e and long é.