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Lesson Transcript

Michael: What are augmentatives and how are they formed in Hungarian?
Krisztina: And are they commonly used?
Michael: At HungarianPod101.com, we hear these questions often. In the following situation, Ben Lee, a college student, wants to share his excitement about the success of a group project with his friend Sara Simon. He says,
"It's a success!"
Ben Lee: Siker!
Ben Lee: Siker!
Simon Sára: Nagy siker!
Michael: Once more with the English translation.
Ben Lee: Siker!
Michael: "It's a success!"
Simon Sára: Nagy siker!
Michael: "A great success!"

Lesson focus

Michael: In this lesson, we will demonstrate how augmentatives are formed and how they are used in Hungarian.
Augmentatives are used to add emphasis and to intensify, or amplify, the meaning of a root word. There is such a thing as over-augmentation too, and this can be used for comical effect or to express disrespect.
In many languages, augmentatives are formed by adding a prefix or suffix to a root word, but, in Hungarian, they are mostly formed by using adjectives and, sometimes, adverbs. An adjective, as I am sure you know, is a word that modifies a noun, and an adverb modifies a verb. I'll say more about these later. For now, I'd like to talk about the prefixes that Hungarian does use for augmentation.
The Hungarian word for "prefix" is
Krisztina: előtag,
Michael: and, in case you are not sure what a prefix is, let me explain: A prefix is a small language element that is placed in front of a root word and modifies the meaning of the root word. The opposite of a prefix, at least in terms of positioning, is a suffix, which is a small language element that is placed at the end of a root word. We won't be talking about suffixes in this lesson though and I wouldn't even be able to give you an example in English because English doesn't have any augmentative suffixes. For these reasons, we will be sticking to a discussion of augmentative prefixes.
In English, a prefix like "super" is a good example of an augmentative prefix. It can be used to modify a word like "woman" into the word "superwoman." Let's look at some examples of prefixes that can be used as augmentatives in Hungarian.
Hungarian doesn't actually have native augmentative prefixes; instead, it sometimes borrows augmentative prefixes from other languages. More commonly, though, it uses adjectives or adverbs to natively express augmentation, and we will look at those too. First, let's discuss examples of the augmentative prefixes that are borrowed from English, starting with the prefix "super." Listen to this Hungarian word and see if you can guess what it means:
Krisztina: szupermarket
Michael: If you guessed that it means "supermarket," you are 100% correct. Another augmentative prefix that has been borrowed from English is "mega." You should be able to guess what this word means too. Have a listen:
Krisztina: megasztár
Michael: I'm pretty sure you will have guessed that it means "megastar" and you would have been correct.
As I mentioned earlier, Hungarian doesn't have augmentative prefixes natively. Such adoptions from foreign languages (mostly English) are rare. We will see in a moment how Hungarian instead solves the problem using adjectives.
Michael: Let's listen to the dialogue again. In it, you can hear augmentation being used in Hungarian. Do you remember how Ben Lee said: "It's a success?"
(Beep. Pause 4 seconds)
Krisztina: Siker!
Michael: And do you remember how Sara Simon added the adjective which means "great?"
[Beep. Pause 5 seconds.]
Krisztina: Nagy siker!
Michael: You might recall that, in Hungarian, the word for "great" is
Krisztina: nagy.
Michael: In the dialogue, this adjective is used to amplify the meaning of the next word. This is typical of grammatical augmentation. As I mentioned before, in Hungarian, this is mostly done through the use of adjectives or adverbs. You can use any adjective that expresses amplification or intensification to achieve augmentation in Hungarian. Words like "wonderful" or
Krisztina: csodálatos
Michael: and
Krisztina: elképesztő
Michael: or "amazing" can be used to add emphasis and intensification to the word that follows after them. Similarly, the word
Krisztina: hatalmas
Michael: can be used to say "a huge sum,"
Krisztina: hatalmas összeg,
Michael: and the word "very," or
Krisztina: nagyon
Michael: can be used to say "very fast," or
Krisztina: nagyon gyorsan.
Michael: Hungarian is an agglutinative language, meaning that you can basically stick any words together and make a new word as long as they make sense to other people. This is why Hungarian can so easily create augmented words by combining adjectives and nouns. The Hungarian word for great, as we have seen earlier, is:
Krisztina: nagy,
Michael: which is now being used as an augmentative prefix in the word:
Krisztina: nagykereskedő.
Michael: This word means "wholesaler." The Hungarian word literally can be translated as "large merchant." Another use of the same augmentative adjective is in the word
Krisztina: nagymester,
Michael: which literally translates to "grandmaster." So far, we have thus seen that, in Hungarian, augmentative prefixes are not necessarily prefixes attached to the word but are most commonly separate adjectives or adverbs instead, but can appear as literal prefixes too such as in the last two examples, or in the case of some English loanwords. Now, let's quickly look at what we've learned so far.
Michael: In this lesson, you have learned that Hungarian doesn't really have augmentatives as such. Instead, in order to perform the function of augmentation, Hungarian makes use of adjectives and adverbs that amplify or intensify the meaning of the word that they are modifying. Hungarian also has non-native augmentative prefixes in the case of some English loanwords.
Practice Section
Michael: Let's review. I will say the English translation, and you try to say the equivalent in Hungarian. The native speaker will then repeat in Hungarian and you can repeat after her. Do you remember how Ben Lee said, "It's a success!"?
(Beep. Pause 4 seconds)
Krisztina: Siker!
Michael: Listen again and repeat.
Krisztina: Siker!
(Beep. Pause 4 seconds)
Krisztina: Siker!
Michael: And do you remember how Sara Simon said, "A great success!"?
[Beep. Pause 5 seconds.]
Krisztina: Nagy siker!
Michael: Listen again and repeat.
Krisztina: Nagy siker!
[Beep. Pause 5 seconds.]
Krisztina: Nagy siker!
Cultural Insight
Michael: There is a lexical phenomenon in Hungarian that is similar in function to the augmentative. It is called "the excessive." Where an augmentative might amplify or intensify the meaning of a word, the excessive takes that amplification to the highest degree it can go. In this way, it is similar to the superlative as well. The prefix that is used to form the superlative in Hungarian is
Krisztina: leg,
Michael: and, if we add the adjective-forming suffix to this, we get
Krisztina: leges,
Michael: which is the prefix used to form the excessive. Let's see how it works by using the Hungarian word for "green" as our base. The word for "green" sounds like this:
Krisztina: zöld,
Michael: and we can form the first comparative adjective like this:
Krisztina: zöldebb.
Michael: Now, it means "greener." As you can see, we are growing in terms of comparison. Let's move up another level to the superlative, which is usually the highest degree of comparison. Now, it sounds like this:
Krisztina: legzöldebb,
Michael: and it means "the greenest." I am sure you noted the addition of the prefix
Krisztina: leg.
Michael: Now, if we want to produce the excessive, we add a further prefix, like this:
Krisztina: legeslegzöldebb.
Michael: This means "the very greenest." While most excessive expressions will only use the excessive prefix once, it is possible to add more because of Hungarian's unique potential for productivity. For instance, if you want to say that you have the absolutely absolutely finest or best of something, then you can use this word:
Krisztina: legeslegeslegfinomabb
Michael: Here's an example of a sentence in which it has been used:
Krisztina: A legeslegeslegfinomabb csokiból kettő van.
Michael: It means, "We have two pieces of absolutely absolutely the finest chocolate." I want to remind you that this is an unusual construction because, if you add too many instances of the prefix, it starts to become redundant and loses its efficacy in terms of what you are trying to communicate. Also, keep in mind that it is not exactly an augmentative even though, like an augmentative, it is amplifying the meaning of the base word. The difference is that the excessive takes that amplification a step further—to the point of excess.


Michael: Do you have any more questions? We're here to answer them!
Krisztina: Viszontlátásra!
Michael: See you soon!