Hungarian and Russian: strangers or relatives? (Part 2)

To recap, the “Hungarian and Russian” post series is targeted at:

1) Russian (and other Slavic) speakers who find themselves lost among the complexities of Hungarian;
2) language-minded individuals who like to draw parallels between remote, at first sight, languages and language families;
3) anyone who believes that we are all brothers, and the Earth is our common home 🙂

Part 1 introduced the thesis that Hungarian and Russian have much more in common that it may seem, in particular with regards to lexicon. Parts 2 and 3 will give specific lexical examples – via two separate approaches – to demonstrate this. I will name the first approach ‘language-based’, and the second one ‘life-based’. So let’s have a look at the first approach.

Since I started learning Hungarian, I have noticed that in many cases Hungarian words may sound similar to Russian or old Russian ones. I am not talking about the foreign and borrowed words that sound the same or almost the same in all languages. Instead, I mean the native words here. From a language-based perspective, I would classify them as follows.

1) Words that have interchange of letters or additional vowels between consonants. (NB: In the examples below I will first write a Hungarian word, then a Russian transcribed equivalent, and finally the English translation).

asztal – stol – table
kereszt – krest – cross
szilva – sliva – plum
kulcs – klyuch – key
barát – brat – friend (HU), brother (RU)
vihar – vihr strong wind
tiszta – cshistyi – clean
csuka – shchuka – pike
dolog  – dolg – thing (HU), debt (RU)
molnár – melnik – miller
takács – tkach – weaver
ebĂ©d – obed – lunch
csoda – chudo – miracle
csipetnyi – shchepotka – pinch

2) Words with omitted vowels or shortened forms.

drága – dorogoi – expensive
zöld – zelyoniy – green
utca – ulitsa – street
málna – malina – raspberry
medve – medved – bear
cĂ©kla – svekla – beet-root
kocsma – korchma (UKR) – pub
szerda – sreda – Wednesday
por – poroshok – powder

3) Words with identical phonetics.

Cukor – tsukor (UKR) – sugar
cĂ©l – tsel – goal
sapka – shapka – hat
mák – mak – poppy seed
bárány – baran – sheep

4) Words that have a similar meaning. (NB: here words are given in pairs Hungarian – English)

csunya – ugly (old Russian ‘chunya’ means ‘ugly’)
kutya – dog (old Russian ‘kutyata‘ means “little puppies”)
kĂ­vánni – wish (Russian ‘kivat’ means ‘to bow’; so Hungarian “JĂł reggelt kĂ­vánok” (“Good morning”), for example, can be understood in Russian as “I am greeting you with a bow”)
ablak – window (Russian ‘oblako’ means ‘cloud’)
piszkos – dirty (Russian ‘pesok’ means ‘sand’)
család – family (Russian ‘chelyad’ means ‘group of close people’)
homlok – forehead (Russian ‘homut’ means ‘collar’)
cápa – shark (Russian ‘tsapat’ means ‘to bite’)
bátor – brave (old Russian ‘bogatyr’ means ‘athlete’)
puha – soft (Russian ‘puh’ means “fur hair”)
vacsorázni – have dinner (Russian ‘vecser’ means ‘evening’)
barlang – cave (Russian ‘berloga’ means ‘den’)

This is not an extensive list of course; it can be literally extended forever. The idea is just to give an understanding, via the language-based approach, of the similarities between the two languages.

In the next part I will show more similarities between Hungarian and Russian by means of another classification – the so-called life-based approach.


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