https://www.duolingo.com/96314081311257

Hungarian Intonation

I took another look at the course, & as I see one of its most cringe-worthy aspects hasn't been corrected yet.

Hungarian sentence intonation is fairly straightforward: you use an elevated pitch in the following cases (roughly speaking):

  • Firsty syllable of a sentence.
  • Syllable before a comma.
  • Penultimate syllable of an otherwise unmarked question.

That's all.

In particular, "Mit kérsz enni?" & "Kérsz-e sajtot?" have the same intonation pattern as "Levest kérek.", as the questions are already marked by question words.

The way the course currently handles this makes you sound like a primary school student, so I advise you to refrain from speaking like that.

EDIT: as it was pointed out, if you have an unmarked sentence with only two syllables, then both the rise & the drop happen on the last syllable. If there is just one syllable, the tone is low-high-low.

1 year ago

4 Comments


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I think it is normal to use the question intonation (raising your voice at the end) for every question, not only for the otherwise unmarked.

Well, you can say "Mit kérsz enni?" & "Kérsz-e sajtot?" with the statement intonation, if you want, and people will understand that it is a question. Maybe the voice on the course over-emphasizes questions. The best is somewhere in between.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/96314081311257

You're talking about using a less definite drop at the end of sentences for stylistic purposes, similar to English speakers speaking in uptalk when they want to appear non-threatening. You can observe this phenomenon with regular old statements, too.

I'm not sure you understand what you're suggesting here. If you say that the course voice is ultimately correct (although a bit exaggerated), that'd mean that there are two (2!) intonations of Hungarian questions distinct from the regular intonation. She says:

Szereted a fagyit? with "fa" having the raised pitch, &

Mi van a táskámban? with "ban" having the raised pitch.

Are you sure you believe that? Isn't it the case instead that in stressful situations when you're expected to "talk right" (such as when you make recordings for a language course), you make a concious effort to conform to some ill-worded "rule" you heard once from your teacher? You know, the same one who couldn't maintain a consistent distinction between Makedónia (the ancient state / region) & Macedónia (the contemporary state), or the one who didn't know you weren't supposed to try to divide by 0, or the one that told you that no comma may be followed by an és.

You're just hypercorrecting your mumbliness.

1 year ago

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Wow, I find this info really misleading. First off, the first syllable of a sentence doesn't always have a higher pitch or even stress - e.g. when it's a definite article.

Also AFAIK there are 3 different question intonations.

Questions with a question word have a higher pitch on the question word. In both "Ki ez?" and "Ez ki?", the higher syllable is "ki". So yes, in your example, the intonation of "Mit kérsz enni?" coincides with the one of "Levest kérek" - continuously falling. But if you switch up the word order a bit: "Enni mit kérsz?", you can see that "mit" is still the highest point.

(Addendum: after the question word, either the declarative sentence intonation (all low) or the yes-no question intonation (detailed below) may be used.)

Yes-no questions continuously rise until the penultimate syllable and then on the last syllable, the intonation goes down again. That is, if the sentence is more than 2 syllables. For 2-syllable yes-no questions, the highest point is on the last syllable, followed by an immediate drop. For 1-syllable yes-no questions, there is no drop.

There is an added caveat there that this intonation often doesn't affect the whole sentence, only the predicate. ("Hódmezővásárhely szép város?" - only "szép város" gets the rising intonation)

And finally, in questions that neither have a question word nor are yes-no questions (like "És te?"), the pitch goes continuously upwards.

Books like Hungarian: An Essential Grammar would back me up.

Sure, people mumble, but it's better to exaggerate than to say every sentence with a declarative sentence intonation, and it's better to speak like a primary school student than a robot.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/96314081311257

You mistake pitch for stress. Questions words are always stressed (ie they're louder then the rest of the sentence), but they aren't accompanied by an elevated pitch.

My statement is verified by A magyar nyelv könyve edited by A. Jászó Anna, page 142. She is a native speaker (so am I), unlike Carol Rounds, the author of your reference.

It's true that in case of two syllables both the rise & the drop happen in at the last syllable, & in case of one syllable the intonation is cupola-like. I'm going to edit the original comment accordingly.

1 year ago
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