Regular sound correspondences between Hungarian and other Uralic languages

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There are numerous regular sound correspondences between Hungarian and the other Uralic languages. For example, Hungarian á corresponds to Khanty o in certain positions, and Hungarian h corresponds to Khanty x, while Hungarian final z corresponds to Khanty final t. These can be seen in Hungarian ház ("house") and Khanty xot ("house"), or Hungarian száz ("hundred") and Khanty sot ("hundred").

Hungarian and Khanty are closely connected, either genealogically or as part of a language area. The distance between Hungarian and the Finnic languages is greater, but the correspondences are also regular. The relationship is most obvious when comparing all Uralic languages together, for then individual idiosyncrasies are averaged out, but here we will just compare Hungarian with Finnish and Estonian (two Finnic languages).

Stop consonants[edit]

Word-initially[edit]

One important innovation of Hungarian is the lenition of the stop consonants *p *k in initial position.

  • Hungarian /f/ corresponds to Finnish and Estonian /p/ (compare English fish to Italian pesce):
Hungarian Finnish Estonian meaning
fa puu puu tree
falat pala pala bit, bite
fél pelätä pelgama to fear
fészek pesä pesa nest
felhő pilvi pilv cloud
fon punoa punuma to plait
pää peä head
  • Before front vowels (e é i í y ä ö ő ü ű), Hungarian /k/ corresponds to Finnish and Estonian /k/:
Hungarian Finnish Estonian meaning
könny kyynel küünistama tear
kéz käsi käsi hand, arm
kivi kivi stone
  • Before back vowels (a á o ó u ú), Hungarian /h/ corresponds to Finnish and Estonian /k/ (as English /h/ in hound corresponds to Latin /k/ in canis)
Hungarian Finnish Estonian meaning
hal kala kala fish
ház kota koda house (Hung.), hut (Finn. and Est.)
húgy kusi kusi urine

The third stop inherited from Proto-Uralic, *t, did not undergo such a change.

  • Hungarian initial /t/ corresponds to Finnish and Estonian /t/:
Hungarian Finnish Estonian meaning
tél talvi talv winter
tud tuntea tundma to know
tavasz touko spring

Word-medially[edit]

In the middle of words (note that due to the loss of the word final vocals in the Old Hungarian period these are now at the end of the words), Hungarian has also lenited original stops, but in a different fashion.

  • Hungarian /p k/ correspond to Finnish and Estonian geminate stops /pp kk/:
Hungarian Finnish Estonian meaning
após appi father-in-law
epe sappi sapp gall
lapos lappea lapp flat
lök lykätä : lykkää- lükkama to push
  • Hungarian /t/ corresponds to the Finnish and Estonian two-stop cluster /tk/:
Hungarian Finnish Estonian meaning
köt kytkeä kütke to bind, to join (Estonian: "halter", a derivative)
tat (dialectal) tõtkes tench

(No examples where a word with original *tt would have survived in both Hungarian and Finnic are known, but cases testifying for the development of *tt to /tt/ in Finnic and /t/ in Hungarian can be set up with the help of the other Uralic languages.)

  • Hungarian /d/ corresponds to Finnish and Estonian /nt/ (which may alternate with /nn/):
Hungarian Finnish Estonian meaning
ad antaa andma to give
ideg jänne : jäntee- nerve (Hung.; a derivative), string, sinew (Fi.)
odú ontelo õõnes hollow
tud tuntea tundma to know

(Again, with the help of the other Uralic languages, the analogous developments *mp *ŋk → Hungarian /b g/, Finnic /mp ŋk/ could be supported.)

  • Hungarian /v/ corresponds to Finnish and Estonian /p/:
Hungarian Finnish Estonian meaning
kevés kepeä kebja few (Hung.), light (Finnic)
sovány hupe-ne- huba thin (Hung.)
  • Hungarian /z/ corresponds to Finnish and Estonian /t/ (which can alternate with /d/ or zero, and becomes /s/ before /i/):
Hungarian Finnish Estonian meaning
ház kota koda house (Hung.), hut (Finnic)
kéz käsi : käden : käte- käsi : käe : käte- hand, arm
fazék pata pada pot
méz mesi : meden : mete- mesi: mee : mete- honey
  • Hungarian zero, here always preceding a long vowel, corresponds to Finnish and Estonian /k/ by itself (which may alternate with zero or /h/) and as the first member of a consonant cluster:
Hungarian Finnish Estonian meaning
íny ien : ikene- ige palate (Hung. & Es.), gums (Fi.)
joki jõgi river (only in placenames in Hung.)
máj maksa maks liver
néz nähdä : näke- nägema to see
ősz syksy sügis autumn

Sibilant consonants[edit]

Two different regular correspondences can be found in Hungarian for Finnish and Estonian /s/. The first is Hungarian /s/:

Hungarian Finnish Estonian meaning
száz sata sata hundred
szív sydän süda heart
szem silmä silm eye
száj suu suu mouth
fészek pesä pesa nest

The second is Hungarian zero:

Hungarian Finnish Estonian meaning
eszik : ev- syödä sööma to eat
epe sappi sapp gall
ín suoni soon sinew, (Finnic also) vein
öl syli süli bosom

These two correspondences represent two different original consonants. /s/ : /s/ is reconstructed as originating in Proto-Uralic *ś, while ∅ : /s/ is reconstructed as Proto-Uralic *s. Both correspondences can be seen simultaneously in the word for "autumn" (see above under *-k-), from Proto-Uralic *sükśi.

Sonorant consonants[edit]

  • Hungarian liquid consonants /l r/ correspond to Finnish and Estonian /l r/:
Hungarian Finnish Estonian meaning
ár ora ora awl (Hung., Es.), thorn (Fi.)
alatt alla all under
él elää elama to live
hal kuolla koolema to die
 : lev- liemi leem liquid (Hung.), broth (Finnic)
nyal nuolla noolima to lick
nyíl nuoli nool arrow
váll olka õla shoulder

Examples also include 'bit', 'to fear', 'cloud', 'fish', 'winter', 'flat', 'to push', 'bosom' listed above.

  • Hungarian nasal consonants /m n ɲ/ correspond to Finnish and Estonian /m n n/:
Hungarian Finnish Estonian meaning
mi mikä : mi- 'mis what
megy : men- mennä minema to go
meny miniä minia daughter-in-law
mony (dialectal) muna muna egg, testicle
négy neljä neli four
név nimi nimi name

Further examples include (/m/:) 'honey', 'liver', 'eye', (/n/:) 'to plait', 'to see', 'sinew', (/ɲ/:) 'tear', 'palate', 'arrow', 'to lick' listed above. Word-internally a correspondence Hungarian /v/ : Finnic /m/ is also found, as seen in 'broth', 'name', and 'heart'.

  • A correspondence can also be set up between Hungarian /g/ and Finnish and Estonian long vowels. With the help of the other Uralic languages, this can be reconstructed as *ŋ:
Hungarian Finnish Estonian meaning
jég jää jää ice
fog pii pii tooth
fogoly pyy püü hazelhen
ég sää sky (Hung.), weather (Fi.)
egér hiiri hiir mouse
vég viimeinen viimane end (Hung.), last (Finnic)

See also[edit]

External links[edit]