Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Language and Poetry

After reading this very interesting article in the NY Times today about language (did you know most languages do not have different terms for the colors blue and green? Yet another reason to fall in love with English.) I then found out that in Hungarian word endings need to "rhyme" with vowels in the word they are attached to.

I love this idea! I love playing with language, learning where words come from and how they secretly relate to other words and ideas. What a marvelous idea, to make it a priority to harmonize the sounds in words as you speak them.

Apparently, the Hungarian rules of "vowel harmony" are quite complex. Hungary has a rich tradition of poetry and literature, and some argue that the language's flexibility (you can put words in just about any order) leads to creative and experimental thinking. This may also account for the extraordinary number of prominent Hungarian scientists - the language they work in allows for a huge range of options. Could this lead to a more open mind?

But the language is also completely different from nearly every other Western tongue; it's vaguely related only to Finnish. Russian and Sinhala (spoken in Sri Lanka) have more in common with English than Hungarian. The complexity and flexibility of the language make it resistent to translation, which keeps its literary heritage a secret from the rest of the world.

They also have two words for the number 2. Which is rather poetic in an of itself.

3 comments:

paul said...

Two words for two, sounds like a Catch 22.
You've been in love with words since you said your first. It's a lifelong love affair.
love from your
Dad

Susan J. Berger said...

I love your writing. I got you 15 pages and canoot resist reading your blog. Where did you learn all that about Hungarian

Nina Berry said...

Thanks, Susan (and Dad!) I got a Hungarian phrase book because I'm going to Budapest in October with a friend. I love languages, but this stuff is really REALLY hard. So I concetrate on the cool bits, like the poetic stuff, as well as "yes," "no," and "Thank you." I'll just have to hope most folks speak English when I get there.