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Review of  Hungarian Language Contact Outside Hungary

Reviewer: Éva Forintos
Book Title: Hungarian Language Contact Outside Hungary
Book Author: Anna Fenyvesi
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics
Subject Language(s): Hungarian
Issue Number: 16.3124

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Date: Wed, 26 Oct 2005 11:39:16 -0400
From: Éva Forintos
Subject: Hungarian Language Contact Outside Hungary

EDITOR: Fenyvesi, Anna
TITLE: Hungarian Language Contact Outside Hungary
SUBTITLE: Studies on Hungarian as a minority language
SERIES: Impact: Studies in language and society 20
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins Publishing Company
YEAR: 2005

Éva Forintos, University of Veszprém, Hungary

As discussed by Fenyvesi (1995) immigrant languages have been documented
and shown to be different from standard languages used in their
respective "native countries" in a large number of studies. As for the
situation of Hungarian, as an "immigrant" language it is worth quoting
Kontra's words: 'One of the enormous debts of honour of Hungarian
linguistics is that far from ever considering the linguistic consequences
of Trianon, our linguists have never carried out any empirical research on
the varieties of Hungarian across the border.' (Kontra 1999: 59-60
[reviewer's translation]) Despite the deficiencies mentioned above, it can
be stated that the study of the effects of language contact between
Hungarian and other languages have been a focal point of interest to
linguists since the beginning of the twentieth century, but only during
the last few decades has it gained ground.


The book is organised in eight chapters, each providing a case study
covering a situation where Hungarian is a minority language, and extended
by three further chapters, the purpose of which is to contextualize the
case studies from various perspectives. The chapters are preceded by lists
of tables, of figures, of maps and of abbreviations. The editor, A.
Fenyvesi, is a prominent scholar in the field, who has remained at the
forefront of language contact research for the last few years. At the end
of the book a comprehensive bibliography (roughly 500 entries) is followed
by a subject index.

The volume under review presents the most comprehensive collection of
studies in English on Hungarian as a minority language available to the
date of the publication of the book, and includes papers on all language
contact situations involving Hungarian outside Hungary that had been
studied in detail. The editorial aims of the book are complex and
manifold: "(i) it aims to contribute to a description of varieties of
Hungarian existing outside of Hungary; (ii) it offers in-depth analyses
for a better understanding of sociolinguistic variation in language
contact situations, and (iii) it attempts to provide an insight into
typological aspects of language change under the conditions of language
contact". (p 1)


Chapter 1, titled "Typological and theoretical aspects of Hungarian in
contact with other languages", surveys broad typological similarities and
differences between Hungarian and relevant Indo-European languages, and
considers some theoretical implications of this survey for contact-induced
language change that Hungarian is likely to undergo. In her paper,
Thomason attempts to make predictions about the kinds of changes that are
likely to take place under contact conditions discussed in the book. She
draws attention to the fact, however, that in the area of contact induced
language change social factors are very important. The phenomenon of
language death, which is brought about by social factors and often
manifested linguistically by a combination of attrition and assimilation
to a "conquering" language through borrowing, is especially important for
the study of Hungarian outside Hungary.

In Chapter 2, titled "Contextualizing the Sociolinguistics of Hungarian
Outside Hungary project", Kontra reports extensively on the socio-
historical background of linguistic research on minority Hungarians,
emphasizing that in all the language contact studies of the field,
etymology was important and no attention was paid to any other contact
effects; grammatical borrowing, for example, was absolutely ignored. He
gives an almost exhaustive summary and evaluation of bilingualism and
language contact research in terms of the Hungarian language; he makes no
mention, however, of Rot's work (Rot 1991) in which, besides other contact
situations, he discusses English in contact with Hungarian (1991: 173-
200), differentiating between "non-marginal, marginal and intraregional"
contact situations, whereby Hungarian comes in contact with different
languages (Rot 1991: 201-244) and pays special attention to (i) Hungarian-
Iranian language contacts; (ii) Hungarian-Turkic language contacts; (iii)
Hungarian-Slavic (or Slavonic) language contacts; (iv) Hungarian-Byzantine
Greek language contacts; (v) Hungarian-Romance language contacts and the
results of their linguistic interference in Hungarian.

Rot names the authors, who, according to him, 'carried out successful
attempts to reconstruct the history of a great number of Anglicisms,
Americanisms, Canadianisms, and Australianisms in the Hungarian language'
(Rot 1991: 175). Moreover, the immigrant Hungarian-Australians and their
language have been studied recently by one of the contributors of the
present volume, i.e. Kovács, and Hatoss (2003, 2004). The rest of Kontra's
paper concentrates on the Sociolinguistics of Hungarian Outside Hungary
(SHOH) project, which was the first large-scale sociolinguistic study of
contact varieties of Hungarian spoken in the countries neighbouring
Hungary. The analysis follows the guidelines used in Hans Goebl et al
(eds), (1997) so it covers fields such as: geography and demography,
territorial history and national development, politics, economy and
general cultural and religious situation, statistics and ethnoprofiles
between 1900 and 1990, the sociolinguistic situation, presentation of
language contact and contact languages, language conflicts, diglossia and
bilingualism, language policy in education, administration, the mass
media, language right (official languages) language planning, and so
forth. There is a critical evaluation of the relevant sources and
scholarly literature and a selected bibliography. Additionally, it
discusses the linguistic aspects of Hungarian language use in minority
communities, as well as the lexical and structural borrowing in the
variety of Hungarian in question, and where relevant, and where findings
are available, it also discusses the code-switching practices of the
community and the presence or absence of any language attrition related
linguistic phenomena.

Kontra presents a few analyses carried out by the participants of the
project for illustrative purposes. In connection with analytic
constructions, he states that in contact varieties of Hungarian, analytic
constructions may be used where monolingual Hungarians use a more
synthetic form, e.g., Standard Hungarian (SH) uses the compound tag-díj
(member-fee) 'membership fee' vs. the Contact Hungarian two-word phrase
tag-ság-i díj (member-NDER- ADER-fee). This finding can be supported by
the Australian-Hungarian corpus, where the examples tagsági díj
(membership fee) and tagsági gyulés (membership meeting) were found. (This
reviewer carried out empirical research on one version of written
Australian-Hungarian; the corpus of the research was the advertisements
found in the 98 issues of the weekly newspaper of the Hungarian community
in Australia.)

Chapter 3 by István Lanstyák and Gizella Szabómihály is devoted to the
Hungarian language as used in Slovakia. In addition to sociolinguistic
aspects, the authors deal with phenomena such as language lapses, language
gaps, overfulfilment of the norm and manifestations of linguistic
insecurity and base language switching. In conclusion it is stated that
Slovak has had a relatively minor influence on Hungarian Slovak varieties
so far, which is mainly due to the nature of the contact situation (p 85).

Chapter 4 by István Csernicskó is concerned with the status and language
use of the Hungarian community in Subcarpathia, the autochthonous
community, which is made up of people of Hungarian nationality and/or
people whose mother tongue is Hungarian. The Hungarian language for
Subcarpathian Hungarians is mainly the means of communication within their
own group, whereas the Ukrainian and Russian languages are mainly used in
communication between different groups. The findings of the linguistic
analyses carried out by the author of the chapter support this statement
because they show that in formal domains the use of Ukrainian and Russian
is predominant among Subcarpathian Hungarians, whereas in informal domains
Hungarian is used almost exclusively. The chapter also covers the
phenomenon of code-switching and it comes to the conclusion that out of
the many types of code-switching quotation occurs most frequently in the
Hungarian community in Subcarpathia.

Chapter 5 by Attila Beno and Sándor Szilágyi N. reports extensively on the
Hungarian community in Romania by paying special attention to the
sociolinguistic characteristics of the speakers of Hungarian in Romania,
together with language contact issues. The authors enumerate the most
important factors that contribute to the decrease in the number of
Hungarian speakers, some of which are due to emigration, a great number of
ethnically mixed marriages and an insufficient system of education in the
minority language. They conclude that the intensity of the Romanian
influence mainly depends on the type of locality and level of education,
e.g., it is strongest in the case of Hungarians living in dispersed
communities and in those with a lower level of education. Nevertheless,
due to a high level of loyalty to the mother tongue, as well as, the high
cultural prestige minority Hungarians ascribe to it, the minority in
question can still be characterised by language maintenance.

In accordance with the general goal of the book, Klára Sándor in Chapter 6
is concerned with the unique historical and linguistic characteristics of
the Csángós, a community of Hungarians in Romania's north-eastern region
of Moldavia. The author draw attention to the fact that although attempts
were made to collect sociolinguistic data based on the modified version of
the questionnaire used in the SHOH project, only a pilot study was carried
out. Consequently, a lack of reliable data does not allow for
comprehensive research on the influence of Romanian on the Csángó
dialects. Still, based on the few secondary sources of the linguistic data
available and on her own data Sándor provides a description of the
linguistic characteristics of Csángó varieties existing in a country where
the language policy of the Romanian state towards the Csángós is strongly
assimilationist, which means that they are excluded from all rights other
minorities have, e.g., the right to have education in the mother tongue.

The main objectives of Chapter 7 by Lajos Göncz and Ottó Vörös, in line
with the rest of the chapters is to provide an overview of the situation
of Hungarians in two different regions of former Yugoslavia, e.g., in
Vojvodina (in Serbia and Montenegro) and in Prekmurje (in Slovenia). Göncz
characterizes Vojvodina Hungarians' bilingualism as primarily one-sided
and folk bilingualism, which he describes in detail on p 202. He also
shows that their attachment to their minority is as strong as the average
of Hungarian minority groups of the Carpathian Basin, although it is less
strong than that of Transylvanian and Subcarpathian Hungarians. On the
basis of the findings of linguistic research, the authors conclude that
the contact induced changes, as well as the signs of language attrition,
are more salient in the case of Prekmurje Hungarians than in the case of
Vojvodina Hungarians, which, they add, can be due to the small size of the

Chapter 8 by Csanád Bodó is devoted to the Hungarian minority in Austria
discussing both the autochthonous community in Oberwart (Felsoor) in the
Burgenland province of the country, and immigrant Hungarians living mostly
in Vienna. Because of the uneven distribution of the two groups in the
sample, the findings are mainly discussed in connection with the immigrant
group of Hungarians in Austria, but some tentative qualitative comparisons
of the linguistic behaviour of the two groups are made in the final
section of the chapter.

Chapter 9 by Anna Fenyvesi, editor of the volume under review,
concentrates on the Hungarian minority in the United States of America,
the Hungarian Americans and their language. The description of the
sociolinguistic aspects of the community is based on census records and
the available comprehensive studies of the sociolinguistic and linguistic
aspects of the four Hungarian-American communities studied by Kontra
(1990), Bartha (1993), Fenyvesi (1995) and Polgár (2001). The
sociolinguistic data concerning the subjects of the first three studies
came from the subject matter of the interviews made by the researchers,
whereas the transcripts of the interviews constituted the corpus for
linguistic analysis. Polgár used a slightly modified version of the
questionnaire of the SHOH project. The main contribution of the chapter is
the subsection on the linguistic aspects, which deals with phonetic,
phonological, morphological as well as syntactic features and it also
discusses pragmatic borrowing.

Chapter 10 by Magdolna Kovács provides an overview of Hungarian in
Australia, a less popular research topic until recently. In addition to
Kovács, however, Hatoss (2003, 2004) has also contributed to this field.
Kovács discusses the sociolinguistic factors, based on the Tandefelt
(1988) three-dimensional model that play a role in the Hungarian language
maintenance or shift among Australian Hungarians. The contact-induced
changes studied in the chapter are mainly based on the author's own
research, which extends the main results of Endrody's (1971) research. The
chapter is unique in the sense that it is the only one to deal with
intralingual features. These neologisms (approximately fifty in the
author's data) are created by mixing up verbs which are close to each
other in their meaning or form, and by mixing up verbal preverbs or
leaving them off.

Chapter 11 titled "The grammars of Hungarian outside Hungary" by Casper de
Groot aims at evaluating a few differences that occur between Hungarian
spoken in Hungary (HH) and Hungarian spoken outside Hungary (HO) from a
linguistic typological point of view as well as to examine if the changes
in the HO varieties follow or violate linguistic universals and
implicational hierarchies, and if co-occurrences of changes can be
explained in terms of universals or hierarchies.

In conclusion the following can be stated: with the coverage the volume
provides, it achieves its main goal. By giving a great deal of information
and previously unpublished data on the linguistic situation and social and
linguistic characteristic of the language use of minority Hungarian
speakers, it provides an insightful overview of the general processes and
principles that are at work in cases of Hungarian language contact.


Bartha, Cs. (1993). Egy amerikai magyar közösség nyelvhasználatának
szociolingvisztikai megközelítései [Socioliguistic approaches to the
language use of a Hungarian American community]. Budapest: Kandidátusi

Fenyvesi, A. (1995) Language contact and language death in an immigrant
language: The case of Hungarian. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: University of
Pittsburgh Working Papers in Linguistics. 3. 1-117.

Goebl, H., Nelde, P. H., Starý, Z., Wölck, W. (eds) (1996)
Kontaktlinguistik. Contact Linguistics. Linguistique de contact.
Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

Hatoss, A. (2003) Do multicultural policies work? Language maintenance and
acculturation in two vintages of the Hungarian diaspora in Queensland,
Australia. Proceedings of the 4th International Symposium on Bilingualism.
Held April 30-May 3, 2003, Tempe: Arizona State University. In: Cohen, J.,
McAlister, K., Rolstad, K., and MaySwan, J. (eds.) (2004). ISB4:
Proceedings of the 4th International Symposium on Bilingualism.
Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press.

Hatoss, A. (2003) Identity formation, cross-cultural attitudes and
language maintenance in the Hungarian Diaspora of Queensland. In: L. Kerr
(ed.) Cultural Citizenship: Challenges of Globalisation Melbourne: Deakin
University. 71-77.

Kontra, M. (1990) Fejezetek a South Bend-i magyar nyelvhasználatból. [The
Hungarian language as spoken in South Bend, Indiana.] Budapest: MTA
Nyelvtudományi Intézete.

Kontra, Miklós 1999. Közérdeku nyelvészet. Budapest: Osiris

Polgár, E. (2001). Language Maintenance and Language Shift: A
Sociolinguistic Analysis of a Hungarian-American Community. Szeged:
University of Szeged MA Thesis.

Rot, S. (1991) Language Contact. Frankfurt: Peter Lang GmbH.


Éva Forintos is an assistant lecturer at the University of Veszprém,
Hungary. Her professional interests include contact linguistics,
Australian history, culture and civilisation. She has recently handed in
her PhD dissertation, which is the contact-linguistic investigation of one
version of the written language of the immigrant Hungarian-Australians.