The group of Finno-Ugric languages also includes Finnish, Estonian, Lappic (Sámi) and some other languages spoken in the Russian Federation. Out of these it is Khanty and Mansi that are the most closely related to Hungarian. The Hungarian name for the language is magyar.
Speakers and dialects
Magyar is spoken by approximately 13 million people. Most of its speakers live in Hungary (around 10 million) and Romania (around 1.5 million), but it is also spoken in Slovakia, the northern part of Serbia (Vojvodina), Ukraine and other countries. Hungarian is the official language of the Republic of Hungary and one of the official languages of the European Union (EU). It is also an official language of the Autonomous Republic of Vojvodina (Serbia) and of some places in the Republic of Slovenia. Hungarians call their language Magyar.
Hungarian has several dialects but they are not too different to make understanding difficult. The only such example may be the dialect of the Csángós of Romania. That dialect is an old and archaic version of the language.
Hungarian literary language is based on the Northeastern Dialect.
Grammar and words
Hungarian grammar is different from the grammar of Indo-European languages.
Hungarian has no grammatical gender. For example, there are no separate words for 'he' and 'she' but there is one pronoun ('ő'). Instead of prepositions (like English 'from' or 'with'), Hungarian has suffixes (little words stuck to the end of main words). 'From Budapest' becomes 'Budapestről', and 'with Alexandra' becomes 'Alexandrával' in Hungarian. Another feature of the language is vowel harmony. This means that suffixes must tone in (harmonize) with the vowel of the main word. To over-simplify it, if they have an 'a' in the word then the suffix will also contain an 'a' ('fa' - 'tree' and 'fával' - 'with a tree'), and if their word has an 'e' then its suffix too will get an 'e' (teve - 'camel' and 'tevével' - with a camel). In Hungarian they must put the stress always on the first syllable (the beginning) of the words.
Although Hungarian is not an Indo-European language, its lexicon (all the words of the language together) has many words from Slavic and Turkic languages, and also from German.
Hungarian is written in the Latin alphabet. Some letters have accents (dots or commas above them) so while the English alphabet has 26 letters, Hungarian has 44. The writing of Hungarian is largely phonetic. This means that each letter has its own pronunciation, and it is easy to read any text once you've learned how the letters are pronounced.
The history of the language
The earliest known written Hungarian words are to be found in a Latin document, the Foundation Charter of the Abbey of Tihany (1054). The Funeral Oration and Prayer (1192-95) and Old Hungarian Lament of Mary (13th century) are the earliest known continuous Hungarian texts. In the 16th century the first printed Hungarian texts came out. Modern Hungarian literary language appeared in the 18th and 19th centuries. Hungarian replaced Latin as the official language of Hungary first between 1844 and 1849 and then in 1867.
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