jsami33 wrote:This is a question about the history of hungarian orthography.
How come in hungarian you use the letter combination 'sz' for the sound (s) and the letter s for the sound (ʃ)?
(Would it not be have been more logic to have sz be for the (ʃ)-sound, especially as the letter combination 'zs' corrosponds (ʒ) and cs (tʃ).
Is there a historic reason for this?
Yup. The Hungarians borrowed their orthography from the Germans and Mediaeval German has two types of s. One, spelt s
, was inherited from Common German while another, spelt z
, derived from Common Germanic *t by means of the Zweite Lautverschiebung
. Since there were no recordings, it's impossible to say exactly what the difference was between these two sounds. The s
was probably laminal
, but it might have been alveolar or it might have been alveolo-palatal
. (You see a similar split in Spanish of the same period, with inherited s
from palatalisation of Latin /t/ or /k/.)
The point is that inherited s
had a more "shushing" sound than the sound represented by (s
. So when the Magyars adapted German orthography, they mapped the s
to their /ʃ/[*] and sz
to their /s/. Sometime in the 13th century, the sounds merged in High German. S
either fell together with /s/, /z/, or with a new /ʃ/ which developed from earlier /sk/ and was spelled sch
(e.g. CGmc skāpo-
> OHG scâf
> MnG Schaf
"sheep"). For instance, OHG ars
(from CGmc *arsoz
) becomes Modern German Arsch
"arse". German sz
, however, never became /z/, so the main use of this digraph (written ß
in Fraktur) was to show an /s/ sound between two vowels, e.g. die Weißen
"the white ones" vs. die Weisen
("the wise ones") with /z/.
As for which has more "logic" nowadays, it really depends, doesn't it? I don't know what the relative frequency of /s/ and /ʃ/ is in modern Hungarian, but if /ʃ/ certain seems very common. If it is, in fact, more common than /s/, then doesn't it make sense to use a simpler spelling for it? Think of English where we typically use j
for /ʤ/ instead of /ʒ/ as in French. But /ʤ/ is more common than /ʒ/ in English, just as /ʒ/ is more common than /ʤ/ in French, so it makes more sense for them to spell this latter sound with two letters, i.e. dj
[*] Which for all I know was even more like the corresponding German sound--whatever it was--back then.
"Richmond is a real scholar; Owen just learns languages because he can't bear not to know what other people are saying."--Margaret Lattimore on her two sons