Hungarian alphabet

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The Hungarian alphabet (Hungarian: magyar ábécé) is an extension of the Latin alphabet used for writing the Hungarian language.

The alphabet is based on the Latin alphabet, with several added variations of letters. The alphabet consists of the 26 letters of the ISO basic Latin alphabet, as well as five letters with an acute accent, two letters with an umlaut, two letters with a double acute accent, eight letters made up of two characters, and one letter made up of three characters. In some other languages, characters with diacritical marks would be considered variations of the base letter, however in Hungarian, these characters are considered letters in their own right.[1]

One sometimes speaks of the smaller (or basic) and greater (or extended) Hungarian alphabets, depending on whether or not the letters Q, W, X, Y are listed, which can only be found in foreign words and traditional orthography of names.[2] (As for Y, however, it exists as part of several digraphs)

The 44 letters of the extended Hungarian alphabet are:

Majuscule forms (also called uppercase or capital letters)
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 Q R S Sz T Ty U Ú Ü Ű V W X Y Z Zs
Minuscule forms (also called lowercase or small letters)
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 q r s sz t ty u ú ü ű v w x y z zs

Description[edit]

Each sign shown above counts as a letter in its own right in Hungarian. Some, such as the letter ⟨ó⟩ and ⟨ő⟩, are inter-filed with the letter preceding it when sorting words alphabetically, whereas others, such as ⟨ö⟩, have their own place in collation rather than also being inter-filed with ⟨o⟩.

While long vowels count as different letters, long (or geminate) consonants do not. Long consonants are marked by duplication: e.g. ⟨tt⟩, ⟨gg⟩, ⟨zz⟩ (ette 'he ate' (det.obj.), függ 'it hangs', azzal 'with that'). For the di- and tri-graphs a simplification rule normally applies (but not when the compound is split at the end of a line of text due to hyphenation), only the first letter being duplicated, e.g.

⟨sz⟩ + ⟨sz⟩ → ⟨ssz⟩ (asszony 'woman'),
⟨ty⟩ + ⟨ty⟩ → ⟨tty⟩ (hattyú 'swan'),
⟨dzs⟩ + ⟨dzs⟩ → ⟨ddzs⟩ (briddzsel 'with bridge (playing game)').

An exception is made at the joining points of compound words, for example: jegygyűrű 'engagement ring' (jegy + gyűrű) rather than *jeggyűrű.

⟨Dz⟩ and ⟨dzs⟩ were recognized as individual letters in the 11th edition of Hungarian orthography (1984).[3] Prior to that, they were analyzed as two-letter combinations ⟨d⟩+⟨z⟩ and ⟨d⟩+⟨zs⟩.

Pronunciation[edit]

The pronunciation given for the following Hungarian letters is that of standard Hungarian.

Letter Name Phoneme (IPA) Complementary allophones (IPA)[4] Close to Notes
A a /ɑː/   similar to British English car Car, start, aren't, [ɑ̝̹] might describe it better.
Á á /aː/   an extended father Not nearly as open as the a in American English hat, but closer to it than Hungarian a (without the accent mark)
B /b/   as by, absence etc.
C /ts/   like pots
Cs csé /tʃ/ as check, cheek, etching etc.
D /d/   deck, wide etc.
(Dz) dzé /dz/   as in kids Uncommon, usually occurs in loanwords. Formerly regarded as a digraph of 'd' followed by 'z'. When neither post- nor preconsonantic, always realised as a geminate.
(Dzs) dzsé /dʒ/ jam, George, bridge, edge, fridge Uncommon, usually occurs in loanwords. Formerly regarded as a digraph of 'd' then 'zs'. When final or intervocalic, usually realised as a geminate: maharadzsa /mɑhɑrɑdʒɑ/ [mɑhɑrɑd͡ʒːɑ] 'maharajah', bridzs /bridʒ/ [brid͡ʒː] 'bridge (card game)', but dzsungel /dʒuŋɡɛl/ [d͡ʒuŋɡɛl] 'jungle', fridzsider /fridʒidɛr/ [frid͡ʒidɛr] coll. 'refrigerator'
E e /ɛ/   like less, cheque, edge, bed about 40-50% of speakers also have a phoneme /e/ (see below at Ë). /e/ is not considered part of standard Hungarian, wherein /ɛ/ takes the place of /e/.
É é /eː/   café
F ef /f/   find, euphoria
G /ɡ/   get, leg, go etc.
Gy gyé /ɟ/   (not used in English; soft form of /d/. Mostly similar to during, as pronounced in Received Pronunciation) denoting /ɟ/ by <gy> is a remnant of (probably) Italian scribes who tried to render the Hungarian sound. <dy> would be a more consistent notation in scope of <ty>, <ny>, <ly> (see there), as the <y> part of digraphs show palatalisation in the Hungarian writing system.
H /h/ 1. [ɦ]  

2.
3. [x]  
4. [ç]  

Basic: hi
1. behind
2. honest
3. Loch, Chanukah
4. human
1. when in intervocalic position.
2. not rendered usually when in final position méh /meː/ 'bee', cseh /tʃɛ/ 'Czech'
3. seldom, in final position, such as in doh 'dampness', MÉH 'metal recycling facility'
4. seldom, such as in ihlet 'inspiration'
I i /i/ sea, key, tree Pronounced the same as Í, only shorter
Í i̇́ /iː/   leek, leave, seed, sea Vowel length is phonemically distinctive in Hungarian: irt = 'to exterminate' and írt = 'to write (past tense)'
J /j/   [ç], [ʝ] you, yes, faith allophones occur when /j/ occurs after a consonant; (voiceless after voiceless, voiced after voiced consonants). e.g. férj 'husband', kapj 'get! (imperative)'
K /k/   key, kiss, weak
L el /l/   leave, list
Ly elly, el-ipszilon /j/   / /ʎ/   play, pray
M em /m/   mind, assume, might
N en /n/ [ŋ]  

[n]  

thing, lying (before k, g),
need, bone (anywhere else)
allophone before /k/, /ɡ/
Ny eny /ɲ/   canyon
O o /o/ force, sorcerer A shorter, more open variant of Ó. Unlike with short e, which is opened to /ɛ/ in standard speech, short o remains /o/, rather than opening to /ɔ/ where it would come close to clashing with short a.
Ó ó /oː/   Not in standard English. go, snow are approximations, but are diphthongs, unlike the Hungarian Same as /o/ except longer. It is important to pay attention to. (eg.: kor = 'age' and kór = 'disease')
Ö ö /ø/   learnt, earl, fern (Corresponds to (short) German Ö); similar to shwa /ə/ (e.g. cola) except with rounded lips. A shorter, more open variant of Ő
Ő ő /øː/ burn, murder (A longer, more closed variant of Ö.) Minimal pair to /ø/: öt = 'five' and őt = 'him/her (Hungarian pronouns do not specify gender)'
P /p/   peas, apricot, hope
(Q) Q occurs only as part of the digraph qu in foreign words, realised as /kv/: Aquincum [ɑkviŋkum] (name of an old Roman settlement on the area of present-day Óbuda). Words originally spelled with qu are today usually spelled with kv, as in akvarell 'watercolor painting'.
R er /r/   The closest equivalent is r also called apical trill as pronounced by trilling the tip of your tongue (the apex) and not the uvula.
S es /ʃ/   share, wish, shout This notation is unusual for European writing systems where <s> usually stands for /s/. In Hungarian, /s/ is represented by <sz>.
Sz esz /s/   say, estimate
T /t/   tell, least, feast
Ty tyé /c/   tube
U u /u/ rude
Ú ú /uː/   do, fool minimal pair to /u/: hurok 'loop' ∼ húrok 'cords'
Ü ü /y/ (not used in English, corresponds to German Ü) A shorter, more open variant of ű
Ű ű /yː/   (not used in English, corresponds to a longer version of the German Ü)
V /v/   very, every
(W) dupla vé /v/   view, evolve, vacuum only occurs in foreign words and in Hungarian aristocratic surnames
(X) iksz occurs only in loanwords, and there only when denoting /ks/; [ɡz] is transcribed: extra, Alexandra, but egzakt 'exact'.
(Y) ipszilon /i/ happy In loanwords, usually rendered as /i/ or /j/. Occurs very often in old Hungarian aristocratic surnames where it stands for /i/ or /ʲi/: 'Báthory' [baːtori], 'Batthyány' [bɑcːaːɲi] or [bɑcːaːni] (<n>+<y> ∼ /ɲi/)
Z /z/   desert, roses
Zs zsé /ʒ/   pleasure, leisure

The letter ë is not part of the Hungarian alphabet; however, linguists use this letter to distinguish between the two kinds of short e sounds of some dialects. This letter was first used in 1770 by György Kalmár, but has never officially been part of the Hungarian alphabet, as the standard Hungarian language does not distinguish between these two sounds. However, the ë sound is pronounced differently from the e sound in 6 out of the 10 Hungarian dialects and the sound is pronounced as ö in 1 dialect. It is also used in names.

The digraph ch also exists in some words (technika, monarchia) and is pronounced the same as h. In names, however, it is pronounced like cs as well as like h or k (as in German) (see below).

The letter Y is only used in loanwords and several digraphs (gy, ly, ny, ty), and thus in a native Hungarian word, Y never comes as the initial of a word, except in loanwords. So, for native Hungarian words, the capital Y only exists in all caps or small caps formats, such as the titles of newspapers.

Historic spellings used in names and historical documents[edit]

Old spellings (sometimes similar to German orthography) used in some Hungarian names and their corresponding pronunciation according to modern spelling include the following:

Consonants
Historic spelling Pronounced like modern spelling
bb b
cz c
tz c
z c
ch cs
cz cs
č cs
ć cs
ts cs
csh cs
tsch cs
tzsch cs
chs cs
cy cs
ʟ cs
dd d
dsz dz
ds dzs
ff f
ph f
gh g
dgy ggy
dy gy
g gy
gi gy
gj gy
gʹ~g′ gy
ǵ gy
ġ gy
j gy
jj j
l j
y j
ck k
kh k
x ks
xy ksz
xz ksz
qu kv
ll l
l ll
w lv
j ly
l ly
li ly
ry ly
lly ly
′l(ʹl)~l′(lʹ)~ŀ ly
n ny
ni ny
nʹ~n′ ny
ń ny
ny
my ny
ph p
pp p
rh r
rr r
r
sch s
ss s
ss ssz
s sz
sc sz
sy sz
z sz
th t
tt t
ti ty
tʹ~t′ ty
ty
ky ty
u v
w v
s z
s zs
ss zs
zy zs
['s] zs

[5]

Vowels
Historic spelling Pronounced as in modern spelling
a á
aa á
á
áá á
áh á
ä e
ae e
ai e
ay e
áe é
ái é
áy é
e é
ee é
é
éh é
i í
í
íh í
ii í
í
å o
o ó
óh ó
oo ó
ó
ua ó
â ö
åe ö
åi ö
åy ö
ö
ew ö
oe ö
oi ö
oy ö
ő
ő
ew ő
ia ő
ö ő
őh ő
öö ő
öő ő
óe ő
ói ő
óy ő
üa ő
u ú
úh ú
ú
uu ú
ú
ue ü
ui ü
uy ü
ü ű
űh ű
üő ű
üü ű
üű ű
úe ű
úi ű
úy ű
aj
aj
aÿ aj
ei aj
áë áj
áï áj
áÿ áj
åë oj
åï oj
åÿ oj
eu oj
oj
oj
oÿ oj
óë ój
óï ój
óÿ ój
au uj
uj
uj
uÿ uj
úë új
úï új
úÿ új
(g)y ~ gÿ gi
y ji
ý
(l)y ~ lÿ (l)i
(n)y ~ nÿ (ny)i or (n)i
(t)y ~ tÿ ti

On áá: [6]

Generally, y in historic spellings of names formed with the -i affix (not to be confused with a possessive -i- of plural objects, as in szavai!) can exist after many other letters (e.g.: Teleky, Rákóczy, zsy). Here are listed only examples which can be easily misread because of such spelling.

Examples:

Name Pronounced as if spelled
Madách Madács
Széchenyi Szécsényi or Szécsenyi
Batthyány Battyányi
Gajdátsy Gajdácsi
Thököly Tököli
Weöres Vörös
Eötvös Ötvös
Kassay Kassai
Debrődy Debrődi
Karczagy Karcagi
Vörösmarty Vörösmarti
Cházár Császár
Czukor Cukor
Balogh Balog
Vargha Varga
Paal Pál
Gaál Gál
Veér Vér
Rédey Rédei
Soós Sós
Thewrewk rök
Dessewffy Dezsőfi

Historic spellings of article and conjunctions[edit]

In early editions the article a/az was written according to the following rules:

  • before vowels and h — az: az ember, az híd
  • before consonantsa': a' csillag.

The abbreviated form of the conjunction és (and), which is always written today as s, was likely to be written with an apostrophe before — ’s (e.g. föld ’s nép).

Capitalisation[edit]

The di- and the trigraphs are capitalised in names and at the beginning of sentences by capitalising the first glyph of them only.

  • Csak jót mondhatunk Székely Csabáról.

In abbreviations and when writing with all capital letters, however, one capitalises the second (and third) character as well.

Thus ("The Rules of Hungarian Orthography", a book edited by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences):

  • A magyar helyesírás szabályai
  • MHSZ (not MHSz)
  • A MAGYAR HELYESÍRÁS SZABÁLYAI (not SzABÁLyAI)

Alphabetical ordering (collation)[edit]

While the characters with diacritical marks are considered separate letters, vowels that differ only in length are treated the same when ordering words. Therefore, for example, the pairs O/Ó and Ö/Ő are not distinguished in ordering, but Ö follows O. In cases where two words are differentiated solely by the presence of an accent, the one without the accent is put before the other one. (The situation is the same for lower and upper-case letters: in alphabetical ordering, varga is followed by Varga.)

The polygraphic consonant signs are treated as single letters.

comb
cukor
csak <cs> comes after <c>
...
folyik
folyó <ó> is sorted as <o>
folyosó
...
and <ő> is sorted as <ö>,
födém but <ö> comes after <o>
...

The simplified geminates of multigraphs (see above) such as <nny>, <ssz> are collated as <ny>+<ny>, <sz>+<sz> etc., if they are double geminates, rather than co-occurrences of a single letter and a geminate.

könnyű is collated as <k><ö><ny><ny><ű>. tizennyolc of course as <t><i><z><e><n><ny><o><l><c>, as this is a compound: tizen+nyolc ('above ten' + 'eight' = 'eighteen').

Similar 'ambiguities', which can occur with compounds (which are highly common in Hungarian) are dissolved and collated by sense.

e.g. házszám 'house number (address)' = ház + szám and of course not *házs + *zám.

These rules make Hungarian alphabetic ordering algorithmically difficult (one has to know the correct segmentation of a word to sort it correctly), which was a problem for computer software development.

Keyboard layout[edit]

The standard Hungarian keyboard layout is German-based (QWERTZ). This layout allows direct access to every character in the Hungarian alphabet.

Hungarian keyboard layout

The letter "Í" is often placed left of the space key, leaving the width of the left Shift key intact. "Ű" may be located to the left of Backspace, making that key smaller, but allowing for a larger Enter key. Ű being close to Enter often leads to it being typed instead of hitting Enter, especially when one has just switched from a keyboard that has Ű next to backspace. The German "Ä" and "ß", the Polish "Ł", and the Croatian "Đ" are also present.

Letter frequencies[edit]

The most common letters in Hungarian are e and a.[7]

The list below shows the letter frequencies for the smaller Hungarian alphabet in descending order.

Letter Frequency
e 12.256%
a 9.428%
t 7.380%
n 6.445%
l 6.383%
s 5.322%
k 4.522%
é 4.511%
i 4.200%
m 4.054%
o 3.867%
á 3.649%
g 2.838%
r 2.807%
z 2.734%
v 2.453%
b 2.058%
d 2.037%
sz 1.809%
j 1.570%
h 1.341%
gy 1.185%
ő 0.884%
ö 0.821%
ny 0.790%
ly 0.738%
ü 0.655%
ó 0.634%
f 0.582%
p 0.509%
í 0.499%
u 0.416%
cs 0.260%
ű 0.125%
c 0.114%
ú 0.104%
zs 0.021%
dz <0.010%
dzs <0.010%
ty <0.010%

The spelling alphabet[edit]

Note that some letters were omitted (notably, Dz, Dzs, Gy, Í, Ly, Ny, Ty, Ú, Ű).[8][9]

Letter spelling name meaning of word
A, a András Male given name, the Hungarian form of Andrew
Á, á Ágnes Agnes (name)
B, b Borbála Female given name, the Hungarian form of Barbara
C, c Cegléd City of Cegléd
Cs, cs Csongrád City of Csongrád
D, d Dénes Male given name, the equivalent of Denis
E, e Erzsébet Female given name, the Hungarian form of Elizabeth
É, é Éva Female given name (Eva)
F, f Ferenc Male given name
G, g Gábor Male given name, the equivalent of Gabriel.
H, h Hungária Latin for Hungary
I, i István Equivalent of the name Stephen or Stefan
J, j János Male Hungarian given name, a variant of John
K, k Kálmán Hungarian surname and male given name Kálmán
L, l Lőrinc Male given name, the equivalent of Laurence
M, m Mihály Masculine given name, the Hungarian form of Michael
N, n Nándor a Hungarian form of given name Ferdinand
O, o Olga Female given name
Ó, ó Ó-buda Town of Óbuda
Ö, ö Ödön Male given name
Ő, ő Őrség Guard (as in a group of watchmen)
P, p Piroska Feminine given name (Piroska)
R, r Rozál Form of Rozália (Rosa) female given name
S, s Sári Form of Sára female given name
Sz, Sz Szabadka Hungarian name for city of Subotica
T, t Tamás Masculine given name, equivalent of the name Thomas
U, u Ungvár Hungarian name for city of Uzhhorod
Ü, ü Üteg Hungarian word for an artillery battery
V, v Veronika Female given name, form of Veronica
Y, y Ypszilon Greek letter Upsilon (Υ)
Z, z Zoltán Masculine given name Zoltán
Zs, Zs Zsófia Female given name, the Hungarian equivalent of Sophia

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Learn the Hungarian Alphabet with the Free eBook". HungarianPod101. Retrieved 2021-02-27.
  2. ^ In Northern Hungary, Ä was traditionally used instead of Á because of the accent.[citation needed]
  3. ^ http://real-j.mtak.hu/6065/1/MagyarNyelvor_1984.pdf p. 399
  4. ^ List of complementary allophone variants possibly not complete.
  5. ^ Benkő Loránd et al.: Etymologisches Wörterbuch des Ungarischen; Band I; PP. XVII–XVIII. Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, 1993.
  6. ^ Benkő Loránd et al.: Etymologisches Wörterbuch des Ungarischen; Band II; P. 1000. Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, 1993.
  7. ^ Campie, Trishia. "Letter Frequency Statistics". www.cryptogram.org. American Cryptogram Association. Retrieved 2018-01-16.
  8. ^ "fieldphones.org - Field telephone spelling alphabets". fieldphones.org. Retrieved 2022-03-04.
  9. ^ "German Field Phone". www.myinsulators.com. Retrieved 2022-03-04.

External links[edit]