The Alphabet & Vowel Harmony

The Alphabet

The best place to start with learning any language is the alphabet. With 14 vowels and 30 consonants, the Hungarian alphabet contains a total of 44 letters. Hungarian is a phonetic language so once you master the alphabet, you’ll be able to speak every word that you can read first time every time! Note that every word in Hungarian is stressed on the first syllable.

A Á B C Cs D Dz Dzs E É F
a á b c cs d dz dzs e é f

G Gy H I Í J K L Ly M N
g gy h i í j k l ly m n

Ny O Ó Ö Ő P Q R S Sz T 
ny o ó ö ő p q r s sz t  

Ty U Ú Ü Ű V W X Y Z Zs
ty u ú ü ű v w x y z zs

Some of the letters consist of more than one character. These are called digraphs if there are two characters creating the sound, or trigraphs if there are three (There is just one trigraph in Hungarian - dzs). They are treated as distinct letters in the Hungarian language, and have their own specific sounds.

It should be noted that the Hungarian language has gemination, or consonant lengthening. Consonants can be paired together for a longer consonant sound.

See how only the first letter of a digraph is lengthened. For example, instead of szsz we write ssz.

When some consonants are combined, the pronunciation changes slightly to become more natural. Try to recognise the base words to see which consonants are really there.

Videos to help pronunciation

Vowel Harmony

Grammarwise, Hungarian solves all their problems with prefixes and suffixes. The vowels these attachments use depend on vowel harmony.

The vowels in Hungarian are paired. The second row marks elongation on the vowels (and a change in sound for á and é).

a e i o ö u ü
á é í ó ő ú ű

For vowel harmony, these vowels are sorted as either front or back. Hungarians refer to these as mély (deep) or magas (high) and use the words teniszütő and autóto remember which is which.

Front: e é i í ö ő ü ű (teniszütő)
Back:  a á o ó u ú     (autó)

If the word is only one-syllable and contains only i or í then it can be considered back-vowelled or front-vowelled. E.g.

That’s it for now. Check out wikipedia’s article on pronunciation for more information.

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