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Is Hungarian more compact than English?

Just a casual observation, but so far, it looks to me like most of the Hungarian sentences are shorter than the English ones, sometimes dramatically shorter.

Does anyone know if Hungarian is considered to be a more compact or efficient language in some way?

July 15, 2016



It can be the fact Hungarian uses 18 cases (35 if you count prepositional) that can be suffixes and grammatical agglutination using suffixes while English doesn't have these grammatical features. I have noticed that languages with this type of case and agglutinative features usually need less words in a sentence because most of the information can be found in less words; sometimes all of the information can be packed into one word. It's one reason English-speaking people complain that Korean and Finnish are complex; they aren't used to this concept of agglutination and suffixes giving important information.


Dragon polyglot, I'm curious but I haven't studied Hungarian. Are the cases all regular, or do they have different forms depending on the gender? Are there a lot of exceptions?


Hungarian neither has cases nor gender. These “cases” are actually suffixes though some people want to call them cases (and even give these cases names!).


Here are a few articles that might interest you:

The last one is in Hungarian & was written based on the two above, so I put it there just for one's curiosity.

Long story short, "wordy" languages tend to be spoken faster & more "compact" ones slower. So just looking at the length of sentences might fool you.


I used to have a couple books in PDF format in a Hungarian version and English version, and the amount of pages was about the same. I think that there are some instances where Hungarian genuinely is shorter, there are also several times where you might run into Hungarian words that are longer than their English counterparts. I think in the end things even out more or less for most languages. Although I do not have any scientific proof for it, my own experience studying and speaking numerous languages leads me to believe that Chinese is the language in which people generally say the most with the fewest amount of syllables (in another dimension their orthography also does not use spaces between words, making things more compact in that sense as well).


I think Hungarian isn't more compact than English but I think Hungarian is more exact because a word doesn't mean several types of word, i.e. noun, verb, adjective, adverb.


From one does not follow the other. For example: I work, or It is my work. What is not clear/not exact?


it's just that you need context in English to tell whether some words are nouns or verbs, whereas in Hungarian you can tell it based on the word standing alone. E.g. inni - (to) drink, ital - (a) drink; vitatni - (to) debate, vita - (a) debate; segíteni - (to) help, segítség - (a) help etc.


Yes, I agree. But in spite of that each language able to express oneself. For example Chinese is full of homophones but unambiguous. Imagine, 1.3 billion people speak it :)


In almost every Duolongo course teaching language X for speakers of Y sentences in X are going to be shorter than sentences in Y. It's because you're learning examples of what's simple in language X, but may not be simple in language Y.

Try English for Hungarian speakers to check if your initial theory was right.

You can see it easily in the English for Japanese speakers course: an English sentence like "I go" would be translated to Japanese "私は行きます", when in most contexts a simple "行くよ" would be enough – but Duolingo doesn't accept the second one. A simple English "We must work" translates, according to Duolingo, to "私たちは働かなくていけません", while a native Japanese speaker would probably say something more concise, like "働かなくてだめです".

In general, less related languages, more prominent this effect is.


I'm no expert by any means, but I've noticed the same thing.


I agree with the observation when it comes to the word count per sentence. However, it seems to me that Hungarian words themselves are longer on average, compared to English (partly because of multiple suffixes and compound words). So, if we take the letter count, these two languages may even out.


I want to know since when Leslie is Laszlo. Why are you doing this to us? I mean why didn't you use names that are international? I should have known that leslie is Laszlo?


There are names which are 'hungarianised', just like what Spanish does to George for exaple (Jorge, pronounced somewhat like Hor-hey). And Laszlo is a pretty common one, so it's beneficial to know. :) Hungarian is not the only one that uses this form of Leslie. Check out the Polish version for example. :)


It's true that László is most commonly translated as Leslie, but the only reason behind this is phonetic similarity. The Hungarian name László has a Slavic origin (Vladislav), while Laslie derives from the Scottish Clan Leslie. So László is by no means a "hungarianasation" of Leslie, and I hate to break it to you, but the English are also not so mighty as to own the name George, as it originates from the Greek name Iorgos (alternative Latin spelling: Yorgos), and most probably the Spanish also took it from them, and not from the English, considering that they have longer ties with the Latin/Roman cultures, which was heavily influenced by the ancient Greeks. Sorry for ranting, but I cannot stand this imperialistic attitude of the English, as if everyone was copying THEM. :P (BTW, I realize you are probably Hungarian, so don't take it personally please :D )


English: ape

Hungarian: emberszabású majom

So I guess the answer is sometimes, but not always.

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