On Hungarian Aspect – from another aspect

Aspect in Hungarian is a functional-semantic category lacking a regularly expressed morphological opposition as its grammatical nucleus. Aspectual meanings are expressed by verbal prefixes, lexical means, word order, and pragmatic factors. Being an intermediate word class, verbal prefixes retain certain traces of their adverbial origin, in particular their possible separation from the verb stem. The specific feature of Hungarian perfectives is that their aspectual meaning, ‘the indivisible totality of the action or process’, additionally contains an evaluative component corresponding to an actual, socially valid “ideal norm” of the action. The perfective meaning of prefixed verbs is marked, while verbs with prefixes in postverbal position are unmarked, i.e., they may have either perfective or imperfective meaning. There must be semantic concord between the evaluative seme of the perfective verb and its adverbial adjunct. The verb cannot be used in its marked perfective form if its adjunct or definite object is in focus position, because the prominence of the latter is inconsistent with the view of the action as an undivided whole.

Mihály Péter


On the first two volumes of A Comprehensive Dictionary of Hungarian

It was in 1898 that the Hungarian Academy of Sciences started preparations for the publication of a comprehensive Hungarian dictionary to follow the six-volume dictionary edited by Gergely Czuczor and János Fogarasi (1862–1874). Those preparations involved the selection of words from 18th and 19th century texts (both fiction and non-fiction) and their recording on slips, possibly with their context included. This archival material, collected for 60 years with interruptions, was complemented after 1985 with an electronic data base ten times its size whose material was partly drawn, among various other sources, from the Hungarian Historical Corpus. The material was then sorted out and philologically checked, a technique for arranging this morphologically intricate word stock was invented, and in 2006 the volume containing a-initial entries (Vol. II) was finally published. At the same time, a supplementary volume was also published as Vol. I that contained a summary of the editorial principles of the dictionary, its history, the structure of the entries, a detailed list of sources, and inflectional paradigms of the headwords in the form of detailed tables. – The present paper discusses the debates that preceded the finalization of the editorial rulebook, as well as grammatical and orthographic issues, problems of phraseology, and describes the clear and vivid typography of the dictionary.

László Elekfi


A round table discussion on the state of the art in phonology

On 6 November 2007, the Society of Hungarian Linguistics organised a round table discussion in Budapest on the state of the art in phonology. The invited participants were György Szépe, Tamás Szende, Péter Siptár, Péter Rebrus and Péter Szigetvári. The point of departure was a paper written by György Szépe, Tamás Szende, and Judit Szépe (How can today’s phonology be made more reality-oriented?, Magyar Nyelv 103. 2007: 137–49, see also www.c3.hu/~magyarnyelv/07-2/sz-sz-sz.pdf). During the discussion, each participant had a chance to put forward his ideas on that issue, and members of the audience were also eager to join in. After the event, the editor of this journal asked the participants to summarise their views in a pair of essays to be published in Magyar Nyelv. On behalf of the original trio of authors, it was Tamás Szende who wrote a summary that was subsequently forwarded to all participants of the debate. Given that the status of ‘phonetic-functional phonology’ was an important ingredient of the discussion, Péter Szigetvári and Péter Rebrus teamed up with an expert representative of that strand of research, Zoltán Kiss, to write their reply together. The three authors acknowledged their indebtedness to Péter Siptár for advice and comments. These two summaries and Tamás Szende’s brief rejoinder are presented here.


The role of argument structure in the derivation of causative verb forms

The author suggests that an analysis of causative constructions relying solely on the argument structure of the verbs involved may resolve a number of problems that have not been (satisfactorily) resolved so far. On the basis of the behavior of arguments it can be stated, first of all, that causative -(t)At is not a “mere” derivational suffix in Hungarian, but rather, a derivational suffix that has its own agentive argument, its subject. The argument structures of the three classes of verbs, unergative (agentive intransitive), unaccusative (non-agentive intransitive, ‘middle’), and transitive, make it possible to determine which verbs may participate in causative derivation: only unergatives and transitives may be input to causativization, since only these types of verbs have an agentive argument, the only argument type that can be made by the agent of the suffix to perform some action. An investigation of causative verb forms additionally reveals that both the unergative and the transitive class include smaller or larger subgroups that exhibit unexpected behavior – that is, those two classes are far from being homogeneous.

Annamária Bene

Deverbal noun-forming suffixes expressing the result of an action or process

Deverbal noun-forming derivational suffixes exhibit polysemy in general and it is conspicuous that their major and minor functions (primary and secondary meanings) may be intermixed. The author surveys the suffixes having the major or minor meaning ‘result of an action or process’. An overwhelming majority of suffixes having ‘nomen acti’ as their major meaning are no longer productive in present-day Hungarian and the derivatives involving them have a rather low frequency of occurrence. The only exceptions are -At, -mÁny, and -vÁny. Although they can hardly be claimed to be productive, either, existing derived nouns involving them still occur frequently. – The paper specifically discusses the semantics of -Ás, a suffix whose minor (secondary) function is to express ‘result of an action or process’, trying to find out how, in addition to its more general ‘nomen actionis’ major function, this suffix may have acquired this secondary meaning, as well as what phonological constraints may prevent the suffix -At (whose primary meaning is exactly ‘result of an action or process’) from occurring in these cases. – Synonymous suffixes expressing ‘result of an action or process’ do not in general form sets of nouns of identical meaning, partly because this would be superfluous, and partly due to ‘lexical blocking’. However, the latter principle is not necessarily observed in all cases. Parallel derivations (that is, cases where several suffixes of more or less the same function can be attached to the same base) sometimes do occur even where there are no striking semantic differences between members of such sets of derivatives – that is, when the resulting forms are synonyms or near-synonyms. However, it can be observed that such parallel derivatives tend to undergo semantic differentiation over time.

Márta H. Varga