Is Hungarian Related To Turkish? (Not At All)

avatarMille Larsen
3 mins read

The Hungarian language is one of the stranger languages in Europe. It's not Indo-European which is the language family of most of the languages spoken in Europe.

How the Hungarian language, or Magyar, found its way to Central Europe is a complicated story, but the early ancestral language of the Hungarian people came from a region south of the Ural mountains in Siberia, far from where modern-day Hungary is located.

While Hungarian is very different from the Slavic, Romance, and Germanic languages that surround it, it has some similarities with a language with which it has been in contact historically: Turkish. This leads many to think that Hungarian is related to the Turkish language.

Well, it isn't.

Hungarian is not related to Turkish. The Hungarian language belongs to the Finno-Ugric language family, whereas Turkish is a Turkic language. The two languages do have some features in common, however, such as the lack of gender, their vowel harmonies, and the fact that both languages are agglutinative. These features are purely coincidental, however.

What isn't coincidental is the shared vocabulary between the two languages. Hungary was, for a period of 150 years, part of the Ottoman Empire, a period in which the Hungarian language acquired many loanwords from Ottoman Turkish.

To this day, many of these loan-word remain part of everyday Hungarian vocabulary, and this fact, along with the superficial grammatical similarity, leads some people to assume that Hungarian and Turkish are related.

Speculations Of A Common Language Family

In the 18th century, linguists theorized of a shared Ural-Altaic language family that would unite the Uralic languages, like Hungarian and Finnish on one side, with the "Altaic" languages on the other side.

Today, even the theory of an Altaic language family, which was supposed to include the Turkic, Mongolic, Tungusic (and according to some, even Japonic and Koreanic), is considered to be false by linguists.

Both the idea of an Altaic and Ural-Altaic language family are largely frowned upon in linguistic circles, today, so they do not really serve as an argument for Hungarian and Turkish to be related.

So are Turkish and Hungarian related?

The answer is no. The two languages share some vocabulary, and they happen to have some typological similarities. It's interesting that both languages are agglutinative, have vowel harmonies, and have no genders, but the common consensus seems to be that this is simply a coincidence.

So until the greater Ural-Altaic language family is proved and confirmed, (which seems unlikely), we'll just have to accept that Turkish and Hungarian are two completely unrelated languages!