Hungary, in Europe

A map of Europe, detailing the countries which have an Indoeuropean language(/s) as their official one(/s).

The Hungarian Language

Hungarian is a language that comes from the Urals region, belongs to the Finno-Ugric subset of the Uralic languages, and as such, its genealogy has no connection to more familiarly Indoeuropean languages – like Polish, or Romanian. The differences between Hungarian and Romance or Slavonic languages is stark, under multiple linguistic points of view: the morphology bears little to no relation to the other languages actively used in the same region occupied by speakers of Hungarian, the vowel harmony typical of Uralic languages is missing from Indoeuropean languages; Hungarian, unlike Romance languages, has no grammatical gender.

 

And yet – Hungarian, as a productive and thriving language in the larger European context, shows more clearly than perhaps any other linguistic European-based example, that language is not fixed, and that external influences, as well as the normal course of historical events, affect the development of any given language.

Sprachbund

Let us consider the table above:

 

It is clear that Slavonic languages, unlike Germanic or Romance languages, have come to associate the word for “light” with the word for “world”. Let us compare the Polish  świat/światło, the Serbian свет/светло with the Italian luce/mondo or the Norwegian verden/lys: Slavonic languages use words with the same stem and origin, by perhaps adopting a metaphor that associates the „world” to „what is visible in the light”.

 

The important part of the table is in the role played by Hungarian – and Romanian. Hungarian as a language shares no historical features with Slavonic languages, and yet uses the same stem and origin for „world” and „light” – világ/világ. Romanian, as well, should follow a pattern unlike that of Slavonic languages: as a Romance language, it is expected that it might follow the example of French or Spanish, that distinguish in a more explicit way between the morphological stem for the two words. And yet, Romanian's lume/lumina show a different aspect of linguistic history and diachrony than the simple genealogical linguistic tree.

 

Languages, essentially, develop not in a vacuum but in extended regions of populations, where different dialects of languages interact with each other and help each other find new ways to grow. Given the established position of Hungarian and Romanian in a region heavily populated by speakers of Slavonic languages, the influences that such languages have had on each other, irrispective of their linguistic families, appear to be a natural consequence of historical migrations, settlements, and coexistence with populations with considerably different linguistic backgrounds.