pronunciationguide.info

Hungarian

[diacritics] | [vowels] | [diphthongs] | [consonants] | [stress] | [beware] | [bottom]

Though very vaguely related to Finnish and Estonian, Hungarian is linguistically alone in Europe. Despite this fact, it does share several spelling conventions with its Slavic neighbors, Czech and Polish. Some of these conventions may seem odd, but they are fairly consistent, and Hungarian pronunciation is actually simpler to master than that of most other European languages.

Diacritics

Achtung! Hungarian uses two symbols that aren't always available in the standard fonts on most computers, which means you may or may not be seeing this page displayed correctly. The following table should determine whether or not you have the necessary fonts:

    should look like    
    should look like    

If the first group of symbols doesn't at least approximately match the second, then some of what's displayed below will not look right either. You may be able to remedy this by installing the necessary Central European fonts.

These diacritics represent elongated umlauts, but since non-Hungarian record labels often can't print them, they're sometimes replaced with ordinary umlauts. This is a relatively small problem for radio purposes. Hungarian also uses ordinary umlauts just like German, and acute accents (á, é, etc.) to elongate vowels, similarly to Czech (presumably it's also related to the doubling of vowels in Finnish and Estonian).

Vowels

Hungarian differentiates between short and long vowels (accents signify long vowels; and are the long versions of ö and ü), but in most cases the difference is merely one of elongation and is not especially important for radio purposes.

aaw, as in the word "raw"
áah
eeh
éay, as in "say"
i, íee
o, óoh, though sometimes aw may also be appropriate, as in Bartók
ö, ö, as in German ö or French eu
u, úoo, as in "root"
ü, ü, as in German ü or French u
yee, e.g. Szöllösy = -lö-shee [audio sample]; DANGER: y is not a vowel when it follows g, l or n -- in these cases it merely serves to alter the sound of the consonant (see below)

Diphthongs

Just as in Polish, j is sometimes used in place of i to create diphthongs, as are y and ly.

ai, aj, ay, alyoy, though iy is also acceptable (e.g. Ferenc Fricsay = feh-rents free-choy)
ái, áj, áy, ályiy, like the word "eye" (e.g. Kodály = koh-diy [audio sample])
oi, oj, oy, olyoy
ee, elyay, as in "say" (e.g. Székely Fonó = say-kay foh-noh [audio sample])

Consonants

Two very important things to remember about Hungarian consonants: s sounds like sh, and sz sounds like s. This is the opposite of Polish. Also, the letter y is often used to "palatalize" the preceding consonant, in particular when it follows g, l or n. In such cases it should be thought of as part of the consonant itself rather than as a vowel, i.e. it does not constitute a syllable.

c, czts, always (cz is an old spelling rarely used today, but if you encounter it, don't confuse it with Polish!); e.g. György Cziffra = jörj tseef-ra [audio sample]
csch, as in "church", e.g. Csárdás = char-dahsh [audio sample], Kocsis = koh-cheesh
gg, hard as in "get", unless followed by y
gyj, e.g. György = jörj [audio sample]
jy, e.g. János = yah-nohsh
ll, perfectly normal unless followed by y
lyee, the l is not pronounced, as in Székely (say-kay) or Kodály (koh-diy)
nyny, not a syllable but rather a palatalized n like Italian or French gn, e.g. Masony = mah-shohny [audio sample] (best approximated as mah-shohn)
rr: rolled, as in Italian
ssh, e.g. Solti = shohl-tee
szs, e.g. Szell = sell, Szigeti = sih-geh-tee [audio sample]
wv, like German and Polish
zz, like English
zszh, like the s in "measure", e.g. Miklos Rozsa = meek-lohsh roh-zhah [audio sample]

Stress

Stress falls always on the first syllable of a word. Accent marks indicate elongation (which you may ignore for announcing purposes), but not stress.

Beware

In Hungary all names are given with family names first: Bartók Béla, Kodály Zoltán, Kertész István, etc.. This is normal practice in Hungary only, and the convention everywhere else is to put Hungarian surnames last, as with English names. They should be announced this way on the radio, not the Hungarian way.

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