Speaking of Vlad and Kiera

David Silberstein davids at kithrup.com
Thu Feb 20 23:39:36 PST 2003

On Thu, 20 Feb 2003, - Holly - wrote:

>When translating something for me, my grandfather told me that
>Hungarian is not gender specific as English is, and this makes
>translation difficult at times (obviously he was translating
>something gender specific for me). He said that in general the
>pronouns of he and she, masculine vs. feminine, are non-specific and
>pretty much nonexistent. I have *extreme* difficulties with foreign
>language and thus I am not clear on what he meant by this, therefore
>I will let David Silberstein, as he seems to be excellent with
>languages, or someone else explain this. I am simply beyond reproach
>or repair in my inability to learn foreign tongues, and though I
>understand it in theory, I don't *truly* understand what he meant to
>the point I could put it into simple thought. 

Who,  me?  I am as ignorant as a stone!  I know nothing!

However, I have here a Hungarian web tutorial (with sound
files, in case anyone is interested):


), which states the following:


   1. Personal pronouns in the Hungarian language are: 

    én / I         te, ön / you           õ / he, she, it  [1]
    mi / we        ti, önök / you         õk / they

As you can see, there is only one word (õ) used to indicate the 3rd
person singular, regardless of gender.  There is simply no way to
indicate using the basic pronoun alone whether you're referring to a
male or a female. 

I would imagine that there are ways of phrasing things which do in
fact distinguish gender, but you would have to do so explicitly.  So,
as a (clumsy) example of an possible literal translation from the
Hungarian:  "T. Domotor is a famous ethnologist. It has written many
books and papers on Hungarian folklore.  Its contributions to the
field of ethnology are outstanding.  It is a woman".

You might want to ask your nagypa how such phrasings are more usually
done.  That's a pretty lame example, but I am tired, and I don't
actually know Hungarian.

[1] In case anyone has problems with the accented character, 'õ' is
meant to stand for a "U+0151: Latin Small Letter O With Double Acute" 
(or 'o"'), which I can't put in using the ISO8859P1 character set (it
exists in the ISO8859P2 character set, or in UTF8 of course).