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Discussion in 'Magyar (Hungarian)' started by eternica, Apr 29, 2013.

  1. eternica New Member

    English / Cantonese
    In learning languages, one thing that bothers me tremendously that I find to be inadequately explained for many languages are "tiny particles" that seem to pop up everywhere.

    For Hungarian, the word "is" has always bothered me (and "már" to a lesser extent). In wiktionary and many other sources, we are given that "is" is an adverb meaning "also, too, as well" or after an interrogative word to mean "again". However, I have never found this to be completely inclusive. When "is" is used to mean "also, too, as well", then I have very little trouble understanding the phrase.

    There are several examples where such a translation does not make sense at all. Here are three that I have collected:

    EN: "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure."
    HU: "Nem attól félünk a legjobban, hogy alkalmatlanok lennénk, legnagyobb félelmünk, hogy az elképzelhetetlennél is erősebbek vagyunk."

    EN: (my guess at a translation) I do not believe that I will ever perfectly learn Hungarian, but I do think that (just) several expressions (can already) help a lot.
    HU: Nem hiszem, hogy valaha is tökéletesen meg fogok tanulni magyarul, de szerintem néhány kifejezés is sokat segít.

    EN: Is there a small supermarket in your street? There are two in ours.
    HU: A tu utcátokban van közért? A miénkben kettő is van.

    The last two come from TY Hungarian. In any case, it does not make sense to translate "is" by the typical definition in any of the above three examples. Can someone give an explanation that could cover a good amount of these "exceptions"?

    My impression is that "is" is used as a sort of attention shifter or intensifier. For example, in Cantonese, the word 都 is often translated as "also, too, as well". The sentence 我不留都唔食 just simply means "I never eat (it)". However, the word 不留, meaning "never", is more often than not followed by 都 to emphasize the length of time of "never" to the feel that "it is to the extent of never that I have eaten such an item" (excuse the awkward translation). Does such an explanation perhaps carry over to Hungarian (especially with the second example with "valaha is" or even as an intensifier for the first example of "elképzelhetetlennél is")?

    But then, how about the third example? This is why I hypothesized that "is" can be used as a sort of "attention shifter".

    It would also be great to explain any other potential possibilities/examples that I may have missed.
  2. tomtombp Senior Member

    I always suspected Hungarian is not the easiest language but trying to help on this forum made it clear to me that it's one of the hardests ...
    My guess is that "is" is used in the sense of "még ... is" (even) in your examples.

    "még az elképzelhetetlennél is" = even (En)
    is = még ... is = "még valaha is" (even ever) but this doesn't sound too good in either languages. "valaha is" might also be a set phrase or "is" can work as an intensifier as you suggest.
    "még kettő is" = even (En)
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2013
  3. Olivier0 Senior Member

    français - France
    These cases seem to be a simple is = "even" (there are more subtle uses of is, I think there has been a thread with úgy is), but the valaha is is different. Maybe after the negative meaning of "I don't think I will", you expect something like "do even once", "do even to one person" etc.: here "(even) ever" = valaha is.
    -- Olivier
  4. Zsanna

    Zsanna ModErrata

    Hungarian - Hungary
    Eternica, your guesses/explanations seem very good to me.:thumbsup:
    The term "attention shifter" is particularly interesting although maybe just a bit ambiguous... I would call it "is of the soothing effect" because although it could very easily be used for bragging, too ("see, you are nowhere near compared to us, we even have two shops!"), it could also diminish the "bragging" aspect ("I'm not saying that to show off, actually, we happen to have two..."). Without the is, the sentence would just sound either factual or a bit "dry" (unfriendly?).

    It is a very large subject (too large for one thread), so I don't think we could explain everything about is even if we knew how to.
    Part of the problem is that this word doesn't act "alone", its meaning (rather role) may depend on the type of sentence it is used, whether it follows an accentuated word (/ word group) or not, etc. (There is even an additional complication with negative sentences, let alone with the use of pre-verbs!:eek:)

    P.S. In my opinion valaha is cannot be considered to be a set phrase as you could use it in the same sense without the is, only it would sound more definite/sharp like that.
    I would think there is another "soothing" is here, indicating: "I don't want to sound as definite as that", at the same time, however, there is an "emotional plus" of e.g. resignation, or, on the contrary and just by being decent, not wishing to stress a personal distress/annoyment (etc.) too much.
  5. eternica New Member

    English / Cantonese
    Thank you very much for all the detailed responses.

    The még... is implied construction does capture a good amount of the essence of the above sentences (I've thought of that, but I forgot it when I wrote the original post), so it's great to have that pointed out, though using the word "even" in English does potentially give rise to some awkward translations at times. Thanks especially to Zsanna's response, as such a response answered a lot of my questions and help make the Hungarian language come even more alive to my ears and eyes. In addition, this discussion makes me even more sure of the other applications of "is" that we haven't discussed in this thread since the concepts do seem to flow over ("nem is", "[coverb] is [verb]", "is" attached to certain words, etc.) at least a little bit.

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