Word of the Day

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Comparing Finnish and Hungarian

I've started studying Finnish prior to a visit to the country in the near future. Here I will compare Finnish and Hungarian structures, as they are both Finno-Ugric languages, albeit distant.

Both languages make abundant uses of suffixes, but Hungarian only adds a suffix to the last word of a phrase, as in:

My Brazilian friend lives in a big house.
Hungarian: A brazil barátom egy nagy házban lakik.
Finnish: Brasilialainen ystäväni asuu suuressa talossa.
Finnish, unlike Hungarian, has no articles. The Hungarian definite article is a (az before vowels). The words egy, indefinite article, and nagy, big, have no case endings, but suuri, big, does in Finnish, agreeing with talo, house, under the form talossa. Both Finnish and Hungarin use a suffix for possession. In this case, om in Hungarian and ni in Finnish to indicate my. Finnish verbs usually go after subjects, whereas Hungarian ones are very often at the end of sentences. They stress the item that is right before them.

My brother's son is sleeping in our room.
Hungarian: A bátyám fia a szobánkban alszik.
Finnish: Veljeni poika nukkuu huoneessamme.
Hungarian does not have a progressive form, Finnish does, albeit optional, as far as I know. In our room is expressed in Hungarian as article+noun+possessive suffix+locative suffix, whereas Finnish switches the last two elements: noun+locative suffix+possessive suffix. A bátyám fia also has an interesting structure: The brother+my+son+his, i.e, My brother his son, not unlike Dutch mijn broer z'n zoon (or, more commonly: mijn broers zoon).

My wife doesn't speak Russian.
Hungarian: A feleségem nem beszél oroszul.
Finnish: Vaimoni ei puhu venäjää.
Finnish has a way to conjugate negations: She speaks - Hän puhuu. She doesn't speak - Hän ei puhu. Ei indicates it is third person singular. In this case, the Hungarian negative adverb nem requires the verb to be right after it. Oroszul is an adverb (as with Slavic languages: česky, po-russki, po slovensky, po polsku, etc.), whereas Finnish uses a noun in the partitive, the case used in negations.

My mother has three cats.
Hungarian: Az anyámnak három macskája van.
Finnish: Äidilläni on kolme kissaa.
Hungarian numbers require the noun to remain in the singular; Finnish numbers require the partitive, the a in the word kissa, cat. Neither Hungarian nor Finnish has a construction similar to English have. Both languages express it roughly as To someone (Hungarian) or On someone (Finnish) is something. Hungarian also requires the thing possessed to be in the possessive case, as if saying To the my mother is her three cat. Finnish only adds a suffix to the possessor. In both languages a singular verb is used.

Both languages have vowel harmony:
Hungarian: az asztal-on (on the table), a számítógép-en (on the computer).
Finnish: pöydä-llä* (on the table), tietokonee-lla (on the computer).
Hyphens are not used. Here their functions is only to show suffixes.
*Table is actually pöytä, with a T, but the sound change is something I won't address right now.

I hope I can come up with more interesting examples in the future.


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