Mutual intelligibility of Hungarian

dihydrogen monoxide

Senior Member
Slovene, Serbo-Croat
Was there a time when Finnish Estonian and Hungarian were mutually intelligible? I assume when they were still a part of Prto-Finno-Ugric. I'd like to focus on Hungarian, is Hungarian more intelligible with Mordvin or Votyak, or is Hungarian so remote that it has no mutually intelligible language in its group. The scale of mutual intelligibility would be like BCS/Slovene or Portuguese/Spanish.
 
  • AndrasBP

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    Was there a time when Finnish Estonian and Hungarian were mutually intelligible?
    There are many uncertain points about the history of Finno-Ugric languages and the position of Hungarian in the family, but according to the generally accepted (but sometimes disputed) theory, the Proto-Ugro-Finnic language existed roughly until 4,000 years ago. The relationship between Hungarian and Finnish is very distant, sometimes likened to that between Romance and Slavic languages within the Indo-European family.

    is Hungarian more intelligible with Mordvin or Votyak, or is Hungarian so remote that it has no mutually intelligible language in its group.
    No, Hungarian is not mutually intelligible with any other Finno-Ugric language, not even with Mansi or Khanty, which are supposedly the "closest" relatives of Hungarian.
     
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    dihydrogen monoxide

    Senior Member
    Slovene, Serbo-Croat
    Maybe there was a dead language that was mutually intelligible with Hungarian or was there a time after split where Mansi Khanty and Hungarian would understand each other. I've also recently seen that they are trying to exclude Proto-Finno-Ugric as part of Proto-Uralic and theories where they are trying to say that Proto-Uralic was part of another language group.

    Am I right that out of the Proto-Uralic family Hungarian is the earliest written language? That would make Hungarian then important language in the field.
     

    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Was there a time when Finnish Estonian and Hungarian were mutually intelligible?
    Finnish and Estonian do have a very limited mutual intelligibility (they're Baltic-Finnic languages after all, separated only by 2 thousand years or so). Hungarian, on the other hand, is a differnt matter entirely. It's an Ugric language, which means that it's separated from Finnish and Estonian by ~4,5 thousand years (sic!), meaning that it is expected to be as intelligible to a Finn as Russian to an English speaker at best. Moreover, modern Hungarian has no actual mutual intelligibility even with its closest liguistic relatives, Khanty and Mansi (the situation must have been different a thousand years ago, but still).

    P.S.: Overall, there are big troubles with mutual intelligibility inside the Finno-Ugric group. The sub-groups which share at least some semblance of internal mutual intelligibility are:
    1. Baltic-Finnic languages as a whole (probably minus Saami languages);
    2. Mordvinic languages (Moksha vs. Erzya);
    3. Mari languages/dialects (Hill Mari vs. Meadow Mari);
    4. Permic languages (Komi dialects vs. Udmurt);
    5. I'm not sure about Khanty vs. Mansi, but even if some mutual intelligibility exists, it must be negligible, because even some dialects of Khanty itself have problems in that regard.
    Beyond that, any meaningful communication is basically impossible.

    If we go back in time about 2 thousand years, proto-Hungarian will be basically an Ugric dialect with a high extent of mutual intelligibility with proto-Khanty and proto-Mansi (if that division was even meaningful); early Batic-Finnic dialects, proto-Mari and proto-Mordvinic languages will likely share some limited extent of mutual intelligibility with each other; linguistic ancestors of Komi and Udmurt will represent one and the same language - still likely without mutual intelligibility with its more distant relatives.
     
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    AndrasBP

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    Moreover, modern Hungarian has no actual mutual intelligibility even with its closest liguistic relatives, Khanty and Mansi
    Not only that, but even written Mansi is completely unintelligible to a Hungarian speaker. I once tried to understand a short Mansi text written in IPA and without looking at the linguistic commentary and the glossary, I totally failed. I had absolutely no idea what the text was about.

    (the situation must have been different a thousand years ago, but still)
    Mutual intelligibility between Hungarian and Khanty/Mansi must have been negligible or non-existent even a thousand years ago.
     

    Torontal

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    There are many uncertain points about the history of Finno-Ugric languages and the position of Hungarian in the family, but according to the generally accepted (but sometimes disputed) theory, the Proto-Ugro-Finnic language existed roughly until 4,000 years ago. The relationship between Hungarian and Finnish is very distant, sometimes likened to that between Romance and Slavic languages within the Indo-European family.

    Yes, actually András Róna-Tas compares it to "Finnish and Magyar are the two most distant members of the Finno-Ugrian language group, the distance between them being similar to that between Latin and Persian."

    :))

    I don't know where stands now the current research, but as I can recall I used to read that proto-Hungarian separated from the other Ugrian languages (the ancestors of Khanty and Mansi) some time around 2500-3000 years ago, so even our closest linguistic relatives are very, very distant cousins.

    (TBH when I first saw the thread title I thought maybe it is about the mutual intelligibility of different Hungarian dialects, that would aslo be an interesting subject to think about, especially vis-a-vis the Csángó dialects...)
     

    francisgranada

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    Overall, there are big troubles with mutual intelligibility inside the Finno-Ugric group. ....
    Not only .... There are troubles with mutual intelligibility also in case of languages that evidently separated from the proto-language relatively recently. E.g. even the simplest French phrases like [žö'tem] and [uva'tü] are absolutely not understandable for a Spaniard as in Spanish it is [te'amo] and [a'donde 'vas]. Of course, in the full written form they are much more similar and mutually understandable (je t'aime = yo te amo; ou vas tu = dónde vas tú). Even less mutually intelligible are the English and German, e.g. "Where do you go" versus "Wohin gehst du" etc.... (These examples serve only for illustration, not for direct comparison of the Finno-Ugric stuation with that of Romance or Germanic).

    Taking in consideration that too many years have passed from the supposed proto-language, and the fact that Hungarians (and other Finno-Ugric peoples as well) lived separately from each other during a long time, the language continuity among them could not develop (unlike e.g. in Romance or Slavic). Further more, during its history, the Hungarian was and is practically an "isolated" language surrounded by languages of other language groups or families (Turkic, Slavic, German ....). In these conditions, I think, it was almost impossible to maintain the mutual intelligibility among the Finno-Ugric or Uralic languages ......
    There are many uncertain points about the history of Finno-Ugric languages and the position of Hungarian in the family, but according to the generally accepted (but sometimes disputed) theory .....
    For curiosity: the theory or idea of the common origin of Finno-Ugric languages begins practically with the work "Demonstratio idioma Hungarorum et Lapporum idem esse" of János Sajnovics, published in 1770. This theory was then systematically elaborated by Samuel Gyarmathi in his work "Affinitas linguae hungaricae cum linguis fennicae originis grammatice demonstrata" published in 1799. These works are already based on the ("early") methods of the so called "comparative linguistics", i.e. no more on basis of "occasional" similarities between languages.

    I have mentioned these works because it seems to me quite anachronistic that even today, after more than 200 years, still do exist people that negate or deny the Finno-Ugric origin of the Hungarian language ..... (I am not speaking about you, AndrasBP, of course :) )
     
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    dihydrogen monoxide

    Senior Member
    Slovene, Serbo-Croat
    So the ones that consider Hungarian as part of Finno-Ugric consider it an isolate then?

    In PIE, Hittite was the first to separate, who separated first in Proto-Uralic?
     

    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    In PIE, Hittite was the first to separate, who separated first in Proto-Uralic?
    Most likely it was a binary split between Proto-Ugric and Proto-Finno-Permic. Unlike with Hetto-Luvian, neither was attested at early stages (in fact, no Finno-Ugric language was directly attested before the 10th century a.d.), so it's all pretty hypothetical and still subject to discussion.
     
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