Orthography question

Moderator: france-eesti

User avatar
jsami33
Posts: 23
Joined: 2007-08-06, 15:55
Real Name: jsami33
Gender: male
Location: Helsinki
Country: FI Finland (Suomi)

Orthography question

Postby jsami33 » 2011-07-05, 20:47

Szia minden
...újra egy kérdésem van, de még nem tudom kérdésni magyarul.

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?

köszönom
Sami

User avatar
linguoboy
Posts: 23326
Joined: 2009-08-25, 15:11
Real Name: Da
Location: Chicago
Country: US United States (United States)

Re: Orthography question

Postby linguoboy » 2011-07-05, 21:39

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 or sz, 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 vs. ç from palatalisation of Latin /t/ or /k/.)

The point is that inherited s had a more "shushing" sound than the sound represented by (s)z. 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

User avatar
CoBB
Posts: 5265
Joined: 2004-08-26, 8:34
Real Name: PG
Gender: male
Location: An island...
Country: HU Hungary (Magyarország)
Contact:

Re: Orthography question

Postby CoBB » 2011-07-06, 6:24

jsami33 wrote:Üdv mindenkinek!
...újra egy kérdésem van, de még nem tudom magyarul feltenni (the verb you tried to use would be kérdezni, by the way).


linguoboy wrote:As for which has more "logic" nowadays, it really depends, doesn't it?

As a native speaker, I perceive s as the basic ‘slushing sound’, and it feels perfectly logical to combine it with c, dz and z to get the other sounds of this kind. As for sz, it kind of makes sense intuitively to look at it as s modified by z.
Tanulni, tanulni, tanulni!

A pő, ha engemély, kimár / De mindegegy, ha vildagár... / ...mert engemély mindet bagul, / Mint vélgaban a bégahur!...

User avatar
jsami33
Posts: 23
Joined: 2007-08-06, 15:55
Real Name: jsami33
Gender: male
Location: Helsinki
Country: FI Finland (Suomi)

Re: Orthography question

Postby jsami33 » 2011-07-07, 13:00

Hi CoBB

Thank you for your detailed and clear explanation. It was very interesting to read about the development of the digraph sz. I also suspected it must have something to do with the german orthography, as the letter 'ß' e.g. is called 'scharfes S' or 'das Sz' - I think sometimes one could even substitute ß with sz - but this is not very common.

I guess the german language had a very large influence. I remember seeing names with 'eö, ee' and so on. Were these also old ways of spelling? What about the letter 'ë' - has this ever been used as a letter in hungarian or is it only in books to mark the difference between (æ) and (e)?

regards
Sami

User avatar
Kenny
Posts: 4919
Joined: 2008-08-22, 20:51
Real Name: Gábor
Gender: male
Location: Budapest
Country: HU Hungary (Magyarország)

Re: Orthography question

Postby Kenny » 2011-07-20, 0:28

I believe it's only used in books where they want to make this distinction clear - to illustrate the way someone speaks ... I only ever saw it in some novel we had to read in high school but I can't recall which one it was, I'm thinking something from Móra Ferenc, who liked to have peasants as protagonists. Oh and that distinction is still well and alive to this day but only in rural areas, I guess and mostly among the elderly. And as far as I know, it's a distinction between the way e is normally pronounced these days, which is [ɛ] and what we would call a close "e", the short counterpart of our é /e:/. So mentek can mean 4 different things (they went, you (pl.) go, I save and a somewhat old-fashioned word for "sanctuary") depending on whether it's pronounced [mɛntek] [mentɛk] [mentek] or [mɛntɛk], but I don't even have an inkling about which is which, they're all the same for me.

And yes, we have a lot of names with German roots, mine is probably one of them, too. (But I'm really just guessing, I don't know much about my family's past, it's just that it has sch in it and it's pronounced /ʃ/ - though it always is - but it also has a long í. Another typical sch-name is Schmidt/Schmitt. Some family names of friends and acquaintances (pretty normal names, too):
Sziebert [siːbɛrt]
Ziegler [tsi:glɛr]
Bernschütz [bɛrnʃyts:]
Pencz [pɛnts] (It comes from some diminutive form of some Germanic word, my ex's uncle who's a genealogist in his spare time explained it at a clan meeting but I don't really remember much of that whole presentation so I'm not sure as to what word this name actually came from...)
Friedrich [fri:driç]
Schulcz/Schultz [ʃults]
Glasenhardt [gla:zɛnha:rt]
Schuszter [ʃustɛr]


And these are only pretty obvious ones, I bet I could find a lot more if I did some digging.

User avatar
linguoboy
Posts: 23326
Joined: 2009-08-25, 15:11
Real Name: Da
Location: Chicago
Country: US United States (United States)

Re: Orthography question

Postby linguoboy » 2011-07-20, 2:13

Kenny wrote:Pencz [pɛnts] (It comes from some diminutive form of some Germanic word, my ex's uncle who's a genealogist in his spare time explained it at a clan meeting but I don't really remember much of that whole presentation so I'm not sure as to what word this name actually came from...)

Could be from a Southern German form of Benz, a diminutive form of Benedikt. (In most Southern German dialects, voiced obstruents are devoiced, so the only different between initial /b/ and initial /p/ is aspiration. I imagine Hungarian speakers would hear these both as /p/.)

Correction: According to Bahlow (the foremost authority on German surnames), Benz is actually a diminutive of Berthold, rarely Bernhard. He also lists Pen(t)z(e) as a surname derived from several Slavic toponyms.
"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


Return to “Hungarian (Magyar)”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest