Hungarian vowel harmony?

There exists something in Hungarian called "vowel harmony", which apparently is an important part of Hungarian grammar. As this is absent in English, I haven't got the foggiest idea what it is. Could someone explain to me what it is and how to use it? I haven't gotten much help searching it on Google.

August 28, 2016

1 Comment

It is not that difficult at all.

The 14 hungarian vowels are separated into two groups, higher and lower vowels:

high: e, é, ö, ő, ü, ű, i, í

low: a, á, o, ó, u, ú

And hungarian words usual contain either higher vowels or lower vowels.

high words: fekete (=black), lépcső (=stairs), egér (=mouse), öreg (=old), rövid (=short), gyümölcs (=fruit)

low words: falu (=village), udvar (=court/yard), alacsony (=low), boldog (=happy)

And according to this character of a word you have to chose needed suffixes for different grammatical forms. Usually you have two forms of a suffix fitting to the vocal harmony character of the word.

Plural suffixes can be -ok / -ök / -ek (rarely -ak): egér => egerek (and not egerok), gyümölcs => gyümölcsök (and not gyümölcsok) udvar => udvarok (and not udvarek)

comperative suffixes can be built with -abb / -ebb: rövid => rövidebb (and not rövidabb), alacsony => alacsonabb (and not alacsonyebb)

So finally the following words contain similar suffixes either with higher or lower forms.

tehetetlenségünkkel => tehet / etlen / ség / ünk / kel (=with our clumsiness) OR

igazságtalanságunkkal => igaz / ság / talan / ság / unk / kal (=with our injustice)

But there are words, where higher and lower vowels are apeearing together: piros, fiú, ceruza, szilva. Often the i-vowels are combined with lower ones. They are mostly considered as low.

And a lot (but not all) short words, they just contain an i oder í in their stem are considered as low:

híd => hidak (bridge => bridges)


szív => szívek (heart => hearts)

If words are combined, the last part is relevant:

szókincs (=vocabulary, thesaurus; combined of szó (=word) and kincs (=treasure)), has a high character.

szekrényajtó (=cabinet door; combined of szekrény and ajtó) has a low character.

I hope it was helpful so far

August 28, 2016
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