I’d like to drop a note right here at the beginning. You surely know that certain types of word order are described for each language. For example, English is a SVO language. Japanese is SOV. Now what category does Hungarian belong to? Generally speaking one might say that Hungarian is an SVO, an SOV and also OVS language. The problem with Hungarian is that you can’t really put it in a drawer with a label saying: This is a language like this or a language like that.
If Ireally want to be honest to you, I should say this:
HUNGARIAN DOES NOT UNDERGO ANY KNOWN CATEGORY FOR WORD ORDER!
In fact, Hungarian sentences are influenced by the information itself and not by a syntactical rule. It means that, theoretically, you can begin and finish the sentence with any part of speech. Of course, there are unalterable rules like: adjectives precede nouns, articles precede nouns, and so on…
So basically there is no strict word order. While English has to put words in a specific order to express the right thing, Hungarian gives a damn to Germanic sentence structure and could be rather parallelled with the Indo-European word order. Don’t take this Indo-European thing literally! I’m just trying to say that the Hungarian word order is way looser than anything you know. Yeah, that’s what the topic-prominent aspect gives you: Headache! 🙂
Let’s get started with some basic rules about creating sentences. There are rules in spite of the freedom for expressing yourself.
DIRECT WORD ORDER, YES OR NO
S = subject; V = verb; O = object; A = adverb
Let’s pretend there is a usual formula for standard Hungarian sentences:
SVO or SOV or SAV or AVS
These possibilities include the topic-prominent aspect already. See some examples for them:
SVO: Péter nézi a tévét. – Peter is watching tv.
SOV: Péter tévét néz. – Peter is watching tv.
SAV: Péter Londonba megy. – Peter is going to London.
It would be quite difficult to explain the difference between the first two sentences. Actually, both mean the same thing without emphasing anything. It is because ’tévét néz’ is an expression used like you see it. However, if I say ’a tévét nézi’, adding the definite article to it, that’s an emphasis on ’a tévét’. He’s watching tv and not something else.
The third sentence could be rearranged like this:
Londonba megy Péter.
You see the subject goes to the end of the sentence! Now it is more important that Peter is going specifically to London (not somewhere else), than the subject (Peter) itself.
You could put emphasis on the verb, too:
Megy Péter Londonba, nem úszik.
Peter is going to London and not swimming!
That is correct. If you can form a valid Hungarian sentence in an indicative way, you’ve already created the interrogative sentence, too. How’s that possible? It’s simple. Hungarian does not change word order for such interrogative sentences. Expressing your will of asking or stating something is indicated by your intonation. Intonation for questions wants the speakers to rise their voice a little bit. That’s how we do it!
S+V+O: -Péter nézi a tévét? –Igen.
-Is Peter watching tv? –Yes, he is.
S+O+V: -Péter tévét néz? –Nem.
-Is Peter watching tv? –No, he isn’t.
S+A+V: -Péter Londonba megy? –Talán.
-Is Peter going to London? –Maybe.
It’s the same sentence structure. The difference in the writing is the question mark replacing the period. For Hungarian people it’s all the same! 🙂
More next time. See ya!