The Hungarian language belongs to the Finno-Ugric branch of the Uralic language family, making up, together with the Ob-Ugric languages, the Ugric sub-branch. Hungarian is spoken in Hungary as well as its bordering countries: Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia and Austria. In addition, considerable Hungarian-speaking diasporas live in several other European countries, as well as in the United States, Canada and Australia. The number of Hungarians in the world is approximately 12–14 million people (cf. Lewis et al. 2015), with the number of active speakers of the language totaling 12–13 million. According to census data from 2011 (Central Statistical Office of Hungary, KSH 2011), the number of inhabitants in Hungary amounted to 9,937,628 people in that year.
There are several varieties of Hungarian. Dialectologists generally distinguish 10 main dialect areas. These are: the West Transdanubian territory, Central Transdanubia and the Little Hungarian Plain territory, South Transdanubia, the southern part of the Great Hungarian Plain, the Palóc territory, the Tisza-Körös river basin, North-East, the Transilvanian Plain (Mezőség), Transylvania (the Szeklers) and the Csángó dialect in the Moldva territory of Romania. The differences between these dialects are mostly of a phonetic and lexical nature; they do not limit mutual understanding (except, perhaps, in the case of Csángó).
Hungarian has the oldest written records among the Uralic languages. The earliest surviving fragments of the language are found in the Establishing Charter of the Abbey of Tihany from 1055, whereas the first extant text fully written in Hungarian is the Funeral Sermon and Prayer, written in the 1190s (cf. Korompay 2003a: 281‒293). The fundamentals of standardized contemporary Hungarian were posited by the language renewal movement in the first half of the 19th century (Korompay 2003b: 697‒705). The Hungarian script is based on the Latin characters, and the alphabet consists of 44 elements.
Author: Nikolett F. Gulyás