Hungarian language, also called Magyar, member of the Ugric group of the Finno-Ugric languages. These languages form a subdivision of the Uralic subfamily of the Ural-Altaic family of languages.
There are a number of dialects. Like the other Uralic and Altaic languages, Hungarian has vowel harmony and agglutination.
The first written accounts of Hungarian, mostly personal name and place names, date to the 10th century. No significant texts written in Old Hungarian script have survived, as wood, the medium of writing in use at the time, was perishable.
The Kingdom of Hungary was founded in 1000 by Stephen I. The country became a Western-styled Christian (Roman Catholic) state, with Latin script replacing Hungarian runes. The earliest remaining fragments of the language are found in the establishing charter of the abbey of Tihany from 1055, intermingled with Latin text. The first extant text fully written in Hungarian is the Funeral Sermon and Prayer, which dates to the 1190s. Although the orthography of these early texts differed considerably from that used today, contemporary Hungarians can still understand a great deal of the reconstructed spoken language, despite changes in grammar and vocabulary.
A more extensive body of Hungarian literature arose after 1300. The earliest known example of Hungarian religious poetry is the 14th-century Lamentations of Mary. The first Bible translation was the Hussite Bible in the 1430s.
The standard language lost its diphthongs, and several postpositions transformed into suffixes, including reá “onto” (the phrase utu rea “onto the way” found in the 1055 text would later become útra). There were also changes in the system of vowel harmony. At one time, Hungarian used six verb tenses, while today only two or three are used.
In 1533, Kraków printer Benedek Komjáti published the first Hungarian-language book set in movable type, a translation of the letters of Saint Paul entitled Az zenth Paal leueley magyar nyeluen (modern orthography: Az Szent Pál levelei magyar nyelven).
By the 17th century, the language already closely resembled its present-day form, although two of the past tenses remained in use. German, Italian and French loans also began to appear. Further Turkish words were borrowed during the period of Ottoman rule (1541 to 1699).
In the 18th century a group of writers, most notably Ferenc Kazinczy, spearheaded a process of nyelvújítás (language revitalization). Some words were shortened (győzedelem > győzelem, ‘triumph’ or ‘victory’); a number of dialectal words spread nationally (e.g., cselleng ‘dawdle’); extinct words were reintroduced (dísz, ‘décor’); a wide range of expressions were coined using the various derivative suffixes; and some other, less frequently used methods of expanding the language were utilized. This movement produced more than ten thousand words, most of which are used actively today.
The 19th and 20th centuries saw further standardization of the language, and differences between mutually comprehensible dialects gradually diminished.
In 1920, Hungary signed the Treaty of Trianon, losing 71 percent of its territory and one-third of the ethnic Hungarian population along with it.
Today the language holds official status nationally in Hungary and regionally in Romania, Slovakia, Serbia, Austria and Slovenia.