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The System of Hungarian Suffixes

Last time we learned how to join suffixes to Hungarian words. Now let’s see the suffixes from a closer view.
  There are three categories of suffixes, traditionally: rag, jel and képző. Of course, we don’t know which is which, just using them, and you needn’t to learn which category does a suffix belong to. It’s more important to know how to use it. But in the beginning, it’s practical to see the categories, this gives a better overview.
  Képző (“composer”) suffixes come immediately after the stem, multiple ones of this type can be appended, and they substantially change the meaning of the word, even the part of speech in many times.
  Jel (“sign”) suffixes stand after the képző ones (if any is present), but they don’t change the meaning, the word still refers to the same concept.
  A rag (“sticker”) suffix stands at the end of the word, nothing may be appended after it. Its purpose is to embed the word in the structure of the sentence.
  (There are always exceptions, for example, kétszeres “twofold” is formed as két+szer+es, “two+times+ly”, appending a képző after a rag, but I could myself bring this example from Wikipedia only. Only linguists know what suffix belong where, everybody else is just using them.)


Forming plural for jel immediately shows a jel, the plural -k. The plural in Hungarian is formed with -k, instead of English -s:
  ház → házak (house → houses [the linking vowel is underlined])
  kutya → kutyák (dog → dogs)
  But there is another plural, the possessive one: -i. This means both possessing something and there’s more of the possessions. An additional possessive may specify whose possession it is; if there’s no such possessive, it means “his, her, its”. To show more examples, here I introduce a rag, too, the one meaning “in”: -ban.
  ház – house
  házak – houses
  házaihis houses
  házbanin house
  házakbanin houses
  házahis house
  házábanin his house
  házaibanin his houses
  As you can see, the plural can be shown either by k for houses in general, or by i for houses of somebody. If the house is his, but he has only one, we use a singular possessive a (turns into á before a rag, see our previous article). Don’t mistake the linking vowel a for the possessive a. The linking vowel appears before both k and i, however the latter is a vowel, but it’s required. This way we can tell apart possessive plural jel i and an adjective forming képző, also in the form -i:
  házaihis houses (noun)
  házi – tame, in-home, home-made, family (adjective)

Let’s see more possessive jelek. There are a full set of them:
  házammy house
  házadyour house (singular)
  házahis, her, its house
  házunkour house
  házatokyour house (plural)
  házuktheir house
  These are changing their vowels according to vowel harmony: egér (mouse) results in forms egerem, egered, egere, egerünk, egeretek, egerük. (Egér is an irregular noun that loses its accent before several suffixes.)
  The plural forms (if somebody has more houses) are formed by putting i before the appropriate possessive suffix:
  házaimmy houses
  házaidyour houses (singular)
  házaihis, her, its houses
  házainkour houses
  házaitokyour houses (plural)
  házaiktheir houses


These suffixes are used to create new words. I mentioned one of them above, i, which turns nouns into adjectives expressing something is originating from a place or is belonging to it, is used at that place:
  házi – tame, in-home, home-made, family (adjective)
  város → városi (city → city [adjective], as in „city life”)
  Európa → európai (Europe → European [the suffix turns proper nouns into lowercase])
  császár → császári (emperor → imperial)
  New York → New York-i (New Yorker [proper names containing any space get the suffix hyphened and stay uppercase])

Another képző to turn nouns into adjectives is -s. It expresses something having a quality, is equipped with something. It needs a linking vowel for nouns ending in a consonant.
  víz → vizes (water → wet [an accent losing word])
  házas „one who has a house” → married (because in old times only married men were having an own house)
  felhő → felhős (cloud → cloudy)
  szőke → szőkés (blond → blondish)
  This képző can form nouns meaning a profession or activity, a quality:
  óra → órás (clock → clock-maker)
  asztal → asztalos (table, desk → carpenter)
  bíbor → bíboros (purple → cardinal [of the catholic church])
  tánc → táncos (dance → dancer)
  cső → csöves (tube → tubular; homeless [“tube dweller”] – the word has two stems, cső and csöv-)
  jég → jeges (ice → icy; chilly; iceman [an accent losing word])

A third képző, -ság, -ség is used for creating words for abstract concepts:
  barát → barátság (friend → friendship)
  segít → segítség (help [verb] → help [noun])
  ellen → ellenség (against → enemy)
  disznó → disznóság (pig → scandal, shame, dirty talk)
  And it can form collectives. For some words, it serves for both purposes.
  ifjú → ifjúság (young → youth [both “the quality of being young” and “young persons, collectively”])
  ember → emberség (human [noun] → humanity [the quality of being benevolent])
  emberi → emberiség (human [adjective] → mankind)
  emberiesség (humanity [the quality of being benevolent])


The third suffix group is used to express the relation between the word and other parts of the sentence. This category corresponds to English prepositions.
  ház → házban (house → in house)
  utca → utcán (street → on street)
  hajó → hajóval (ship → with ship [the v assimilates to any final consonant])
  It follows any jel and képző.
  házunk → házunkban (our house → in our house)
  emberek → emberekkel (men → with men)
  ellenségekkel (with enemies)


An important feature of képzők is productivity. A productive képző can produce new words – an improductive one can not. The three képzők shown above are all productive, but Hungarian has a lot of improductive képzők. These have lost their ability to create new words, are used for only a bunch of words already created, and if being used for other words, the result is ridiculous, awkward and/or childish.
  An improductive képző is -dalom, -delem. It forms nouns from nouns, verbs or numerals. The relation between the stem and the resulting word is hard to describe; it’s easier to list the words existing. These are probably all.
  bír → birodalom (to possess → empire [an accent losing word])
  forr → forradalom (to boil → revolution)
  fáj → fájdalom (to hurt → pain [no linking vowel])
  fej → fejedelem (head → prince, ruler)
  ír → irodalom (to write → literature [an accent losing word])
  jön → jövedelem (to come → income [from its other stem jöv-])
  lakik → lakodalom (to lodge → nuptials [-ik is a verbal suffix being lost if any other suffix is added])
  sok → sokadalom (many, much → crowd)
  társ → társadalom (partner → society)
  vesz → veszedelem (to perish → danger, peril)
  This suffix was created during the language reform, a great 18–19th century movement that entirely changed the Hungarian language. Several new suffixes were born, and an enormous number of new words were created. This suffix was among the ones that survived but went improductive. In our time, you can’t create new words like házadalom or emberedelem. They will understand what elements is your word created from, but it will have no meaning.
  In some cases, it may have meaning. The suffix -ász, -ész is an improductive suffix used to turn nouns to nouns, expressing professions:
  hal → halász (fish → fisher)
  cukor → cukrász (sugar → confectioner [a word featuring vowel elision])
  fog → fogász (tooth → dentist)
  zene → zenész (music → musician [the final vowel merges with the suffix vowel])
  This suffix is improductive, because you can’t create words arbitrarily, like házász (what would probably mean a house builder) or emberész (anthropologist), but if you do it, you may be understood. Macskász (macska = cat) is obviously somebody who works with cats, and no doubt Steve Irwin was a krokodilász, however I never met this word before. These words are rather puns than words, but time to time some of them may be accepted and become normal, widely understood and used words.
  Even a pun can be widely understood and used. Mitugrász is a word looking like as if created by this suffix, but it isn’t. In fact, it is created from “mit ugrálsz?” = “what [i.e. why] are you jumping?”, and it means a small and insignificant, ridiculously self-important person, a pip-squeak.