"The year starts in January."

Translation:Januárban kezdődik az év.

September 26, 2016

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Could someone please explain the difference between az év januárban kezd versus az év januárban kezdődik? I dimly recall that many -ik verbs are intransitive / passive / reflexive. Does that imply that kezd is transitive?


Yes, that could be true that many reflexive verbs end up being "-ik" verbs, as well. You will recognize these verbs from the "-ód"/"-őd" in front of the personal ending. That is one way of creating such verbs. And they tend to be "-ik" verbs.
So, "kezd" is a .... we should probably call it a transitive verb. Or active verb? The point is, the person or subject doing it is not doing it to themselves. Instead, they are starting/beginning something else. You can start reading, eating, working, etc.
"Kezdődik", on the other hand, is happening with the subject itself. When you go to the movies, the film itself "kezdődik" - is beginning. Or the story is beginning. Or the year is beginning. Nobody needs to crank and start the year, it starts by itself. And the year itself is beginning.

So, you can start something ("kezd") and something can begin ("kezdődik").

To demonstrate the difference further, think of these two verbs: drop and fall. You can drop something, that will be done by you to that something. But that something will itself fall. You can't fall it, you can only drop it.

So, "Az év januárban kezd" makes no sense at all. Because then the question comes:
"Mit kezd az év januárban?" - What does the year start in January?

These two meanings, transitive and intransitive, are both embedded in the verb "start".


From discussions elsewhere, I've learned that much of the material describing the grammar of English verbs uses "transitive" to only refer to syntactic transitivity -- when the structure of a sentence puts an explicit object after a verb. My background is in Japanese linguistics, where "transitive" refers instead to semantic transitivity -- when the meaning of a verb inherently implies the existence of an object, whether that object is stated in a sentence or not.

For instance, "I eat" is syntactically intransitive (no object stated), and semantically transitive (the verb "eat" inherently requires an object: when one eats, one eats something). Meanwhile, "I break" is syntactically intransitive (no object stated), and potentially semantically ambiguous: "break" could mean that the subject itself breaks, or that the subject is breaking something else. In some contexts, this is described as an "ambitransitive verb".

From what you describe here, it sounds like Hungarian transitivity is semantically clear: regardless of the syntax (the structure of a given sentence), Hungarian verbs themselves are either semantically transitive or intransitive, but not both.

Or are there Hungarian verbs where the meaning could be either transitive or intransitive?


Very interesting!

And oh yes, I think Hungarian can have all kinds of what you are describing. :) Staying with your example:

"Én török" - I break.
I myself could be breaking, or I could be breaking something else. For example: rocks:

"Én követ török" - I am breaking rocks.

And I could even say:
"Én török követ vagyok." - I am a Turkish ambassador. But this is just to confuse you. :)

Anyway, the "-ódik"/"-ődik" verbs are just one way, a subset of all the possibilities. I am sorry. :)
But maybe, just maybe, these other ways constitute a minority. I am not sure. But there are definitely other ways, as well, where the transitivity and intransitivity are clearly separated. But this whole area is a bit confusing to me. Active-passive, transitive-intransitive, reflexive, etc. Which one is which, it is not always clear.
For example: "készül" - is getting ready, is made

"kész" - "ready"
"készít" - make/prepare
"készül" - is being made. For example, the car is being made in the factory
But also:
"készül" - prepares. Peter prepares for his exams.
"készülődik" - is getting ready oneself. For example, I am getting ready (dressing up) for dinner. I think it would need a real linguist to sort this topic out. It can depend on too many things, syntactic and semantic.


Why 'Az év kezdődik janúarban' is wrong?


Because the verb has to follow the season. You can say either "Az év januárban kezdődik" or "Januárban kezdődik az év".


Your sentence would answer the question: What starts in January?


well, couldn't this be the answer to it in english as well?


Well, of course, it could.

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