Peripheral Hungarians in diaspora. Sweden

A sociolinguistic, multilingual and multiethnic study

Katalin Henriksson

The more perfection in a language [---],
the greater abundance in its complexity.

Ferenc Kazinczy (1759-1831)


In a bi-, or multiethnic society with an ethnic and linguistic heterogeneity the existence of bi-, or multilinguistic performances is to be expected. A linguistic study of these kinds of performances under multiethnic and multilinguistic conditions is made on special premises. That is the study of bi-, or multilingual behaviour is often based on qualitative methods leading to an investigation of special linguistic elements (morphologic, grammatical, syntactic, etc.) in the everyday language production of the multilingual individuals in question. People living in a multiethnic society develop an adjusted language usage in which special effects, often described as aberrations, are common and certain unexpected linguistic elements exist, which do not follow the grammatical rules of the given language. These are classified as errors and deviations from the standard language usage and as such, they are often banned, or subjected to corrective instructions. Accepting this kind of spoken language as a standard in its own right is not considered an option.

That is very much the case in the Hungarian diaspora speakers of Sweden, but it is by no means an exceptional situation for the Swede-Hungarians in Sweden. On the contrary, this kind of attitude can rather be considered as normal towards the linguistic performance of Hungarian multilingual speakers in different settings; either in the geographic and linguistic neighbourhood of the motherland Hungary, or in a distance from it. The question of centre and periphery arises. The reasons will be discussed further on in this article.

The Hungarian language in use in Sweden and the ethnic development of the users have been in the focus of my interest for the last years. On the one hand, as a research student first at the Finsk-Ugriska Institutionen at Lund University, and now at the Institution for East- and Central European studies in Lund. On the other hand, as a teacher of Hungarian as second language at the same institution, I have been in contact with the 'transitory' Hungarian language and ethnic behaviour in Sweden. In addition, as a naturalised Swede, I also have personal experience both in language usage and attitude. My years in Hungary and in Sweden make me a somewhat 'split' figure. I regard myself today as a bilingual individual with one ethnic (Hungarian) and (at least) two linguistic loyalties (Hungarian and Swedish).

The pragmatic and practical aspects of language use are not weighed and considered by the general, often defensive (purist) Hungarian opinion. The language attrition (or shift) accepted by many Hungarian speakers in Sweden should be seen in the mirror of pragmatic identifications and expectations of the speakers. People have voluntarily accepted the majority language - Swedish - as norm of communication while there is no doubt that in their mind their ethnic identification is nearly always Hungarian.

The way bilingual Hungarian speakers use the Hungarian language in Sweden is often subject to criticism from other Hungarian speakers, especially from purists, and from linguists. The same reaction can be observed in diaspora conditions in other countries. The norms, that the bilingual production is compared with, are monolingual. The manifestations of linguistic aberrations in a multilingual situation are very direct and obvious, therefore also easy to track down and measure. Perhaps for that reason these are less capturing, while the attitudes of people living in a bi-, or multiethnic and multilinguistic reality are more intriguing and full of surprises.


Background of the Hungarian speakers in Sweden

Hungary, often called the motherland, is situated in the heart of Europe, occupying a territory of 10,000 km2. Area-wise it is a relatively small country, but the people with Hungarian as a native language (member of the Finno-Ugrian language family) outnumber all the other Finno-Ugrian people together. Hungarians do not limit themselves to one single geographic area and the image of the artificial category, 'nation-state', cannot be applied to for the members of the ethnic and linguistic Hungarian nation. The total number of Hungarians, approximately 14-15 million includes 10 million living within the borders of the motherland, and the rest are scattered living partly as indigenous minorities in neighbouring countries (ca. 3 million, mainly in Central-Europe) and some of them living in diaspora in remote countries in Europe, such as in Sweden, and in different countries in the world (USA, Canada, and Australia).

The Hungarian immigrants in Sweden:

  • The first wave of immigrants came to Sweden between 1940-1945, many of them by the so-called 'white busses'; e.g. the survivors of the horrible labour camps in World War II. Their number in Sweden is difficult to estimate today, being a diminishing group of 'Swedenised' people. Nevertheless, their descendants can show a deep interest in the ancestors' culture and language, which seems to prove the Fisherman's idea of ethnic revival, or correspond with Macnamara's description regarding Irish people (Romaine 1989: 50). This group is not in the focus of my attention.
  • The second wave of Hungarians is more interesting from the point of view of a language shift. They arrived in Sweden between 1956 and 1960 in the greatest number so far. As the first large immigrant group in Sweden, they were welcome. Their arrival, accommodation and establishment in the society, existence and assimilation had an impact on the development of the whole immigrant policy of the country. Today they are well integrated in society and most of them raised a family in Sweden - their children are adults today with their own families. The linguistic development of this older generation is interesting especially in interaction with the younger generation's (their children's) behaviour and development.
  • A continuous stream of Hungarian immigrants arrived in Sweden even after the late 1950s, but they have never had such a great impact as those before. During the 1970s and 1980s, there was a minor immigration from Hungary until the late 1980s, when the next (and last) larger group arrived. This last group has changed the migration pattern, both linguistically and ethnically. They did not spring off from the core nation in Hungary, but a peripheral linguistic situation in Transylvania, Romania.

Altogether, we reckon, there are between 25,000-30,000 Hungarian people (1) living in Sweden at the present. To make things simpler the terms first, second and third generation (2) will be used to classify Hungarians in Sweden here.


Sweden and its immigration policy

Sweden has a great number of immigrants today, but it has not always been the case. The country was a rather homogeneous state until after World War II with no significant immigration. Therefore, the country was taken by surprise when the first group of immigrants arrived in a greater number. This group was the Hungarians 'from ´56' (ötvenhatosok). As a result of the Hungarian immigration wave during the late 1950s (3) when a great number (ca. 8.000) of Hungarian immigrants arrived in Sweden the Swedish government was obliged to work out an adequate immigration policy, not knowing that their decisions would shape the future immigration policy of Sweden - not only on national but also on individual level. Given the task, the Swedes set out and did the job.

We know today that the Hungarian refugees enjoyed a positive reception when they arrived in Sweden. There has hardly been any other group of refugees - before or after - treated so benevolently like the Hungarians at the time for their arrival. (4) The sympathetic feeling of the Swedish population towards them was mostly due to the general opinion formed after the invasion of a tyrannical and vast neighbouring country, the Soviet Union, to a small country. As a result, the refugees enjoyed many privileges regarding work and general education.

Up to the 1950s, there was no segregation between Swedish and immigrant students in Sweden: the study language at the institutions was naturally Swedish. When the Hungarians came in the 1950s a certain initial confusion arouse regarding how to handle so many foreigners, especially youngsters, who could mean trouble. The problem of language was there and it was necessary to deal with it. Many young people at the age of 15-18 were among the refugees and in order to make it possible for them to continue their studies (which they had begun in Hungary) the Work Department (AMS) decided to establish a Hungarian High School in Gothenburg in 1957, where the Hungarian students could use their own language. Soon - while also acquiring Swedish in the meantime - they were intended to continue their studies in Swedish speaking universities. This kind of education system with governmental aid was unprecedented in Sweden until that time.

In 1945, there was a private high school (gymnasium) for the Estonian refugees in Eskilstuna in Sweden receiving only modest economic aid from the state but teaching ceased there after two years. There were also other grammar schools managed privately but they were not popular with the Swedish authorities, for instance the Lithuanians' high school. The press (Dagens Nyheter, 3 July 1945) wrote the following comment: Those Baltic people who wish to stay here will have to accept the fact that the education has a goal to make easier the assimilation of their children and if the Baltic intellectuals are not contented with that, they can seek another country.

The Hungarians were privileged in this aspect: they even received study-social benefits (loans without interest). The goal was nevertheless, the same as in the case of the Baltic people: not at all to grant a Hungarian education for the Hungarians in order to keep the use their mother tongue, but to help them to become 'Swedish' as soon as possible. For that reason different instruments and means were used: for instance the low status of the grades received at the Hungarian high school was one of these, which made it impossible for the students to study further in the universities. This caused the Hungarian students to lose interest and it could end only this way: due to lack of interest the Hungarian high school in Gothenburg was closed in 1961.

However, the interest remained to continue with further plans for immigrant education system: in mid-1970s the so called 'home language education system' was introduced for immigrant pupils and students (at that time: 'mother tongue education') and in Malmoe at the Teachers' College a course for teachers who were to become teachers in native languages was started. In the development and formation of the home language education system, the Finnish demands played a major role. The home language education system has gone through several changes during the years. Today it still exists, but in another form: officially not targeting the assimilation but the integration of nationalities living in Sweden. Still, everyone is given the right to demand the studying the mother tongue (L1). Nevertheless, the results have been poor. According to my investigations both teachers and students are critical: the former because of the few and peripheral hours granted for the education of native language and the latter because of the poor quality of the teachers and materials used. Besides, according to the parents the importance of learning Swedish is weighed higher than that of Hungarian, which the children would anyhow acquire at home (main domain) from family members - the pragmatic view again. To meet the requirements of the society it is quite an understandable standing point. The costs of maintaining the mother tongue (L1) in school is often considered too high in invested time energy and effort it takes.

As to give in for the pressure from Hungarians who want to keep the native language and teach it to their children and to try to break the process of language change, a language education system was established within SMOSZ targeting the teaching of the Hungarian language as L1 (UHU). (5) This was to add to the Swedish efforts - which are considered inadequate for reasons I shall not discuss here in details. In 1997 the Anyanyelvi Alapitvany ('Foundation for the Preservation of the Mother Tongue') was established, to target the task implied by the name. On an academic level Hungarian is taught today in Uppsala and Lund as SL (6) in Sweden. In Uppsala it works on a larger scale, in Lund it started at the beginning of the 1980s when Oscar Lazar, the prefect of the Finsk-Ugriska Institutionen, also acted as lector in Hungarian. As a result of economic and other - partly internal - difficulties, the institution has been closed down by now and the education of Estonian and Hungarian is continued within the Institute for East- and Central European studies, at an extended speed and space, which is more than we had hoped for during the time of the threat of closing the institution. Not only languages, but also culture and history are on the agenda. At the autumn season 2002, courses in Estonian and Hungarian cultural history are started within the framework of internet-based education system. In Hungarian there is also an additional course in Hungarian modern history during the same period. Plans to continue the extended education in both subjects are under way. Research studies in Estonian and Hungarian are also carried out at the East- and Central European studies.

The building of the Finno-Ugric Institute in Lund. Photo: Aino Laagus.

As to the expected reaction from the members of the ethnic group, it was not quite what one expected. For the time of the potential threat of losing the Fenno-Ugric platform in Lund, the question of support arose. From the Hungarian side the engagement from the immigrants supported the general opinion and belief of a weak ethnic homogeneity within the Hungarian ethnic group members in Sweden. It was expected, that the axiom (7), that the behaviour of minority people in a majority society is characterised by acceptance of adjustments to the demands of majority people, if it can support the survival of the ethnic group, should apply. But in reality there was no supporting reaction other than from students and official authorities (Embassy in Stockholm, the Ministry of Education in Hungary), which seems to give support to a high integration level in the Swedish society.


The aim and strata of the study

During my years in Sweden I have had the opportunity to meet many Hungarians. Partly due to the line of my studies and work with students in Lund, partly through my role as chairman of the Hungarian Culture Club in Lund I have had many contacts with fellow Hungarians and with their offspring's. My homepage and Internet connections have also contributed to establishing contacts with other Hungarian associations and people in Sweden and all over the world. The opportunities to meet so many people with different backgrounds and homelands, with one thing in common, namely their first language, feed the interest to the intriguing question of ethnic and linguistic identities and identifications.

I cannot study them all; therefore, my research concentrates on a sociolinguistic investigation of Hungarian immigrants in Sweden. My study concerns first, second generation Hungarians.

The aim of my study among Hungarian speakers in Sweden is to find values in the notion of language-proficiency by reading, writing and speaking and also by taped samples. The aim is to get answers to the question to what extent a foreign environment has an impact on the linguistic and ethnic behaviour of immigrants with Hungarian nationality living in Sweden. Interesting questions are how languages and identities interfere, mix, influence and affect each other, while people remain static. Or they think, they do.

The materials have been gathered from the Hungarian community - mostly in Scania (in southern Sweden) - during the past two years in the form of questionnaires and personal interviews (recordings). SMOSZ - the National Association of Sweden-Hungarians (8) - enabled access to various address lists, which has been a great help to finding the target group and randomising choice.

For the sake of the present study a smaller group has been selected in order to give examples of some of the linguistic manifestations that can be observed in Sweden. They consider themselves as Hungarians and they have been studying Hungarian as second language in at the University in Lund. The informants have Hungarian parents from different Hungarian speaking areas of Central-Europe. Hungarian is described as 'mother tongue' by all of them and they identify themselves as members of the Hungarian ethnic group.

When studying native language, also called mother tongue or first language (L1), terms such as bi-, or multilingualism (9), diglossia (10), interference (11), language shift (12), language attrition and second language (L2) are due to come up. In this paper not all of them will be taken into consideration, only the ones that have relevance in connection with this study. There are numerous different definitions to all of them within sociolinguistics. The reason for such proliferation is that many attempts have been made to filter the negative connotations pervading bilingualism (Romaine 1989: 50-52). In order to simplify things I will apply Haugen's term.

The linguistic aberrations in the language usage of Hungarian speakers in Sweden can be considered as a result of interference. A strong purist opinion implies that it is the case. In this regard, I wish to study the question with the use of:

Hypotheses 1: the rigid, demanding attitude of Hungarian speakers toward the maintenance and use of a pure mother tongue (as ethnical identification icon) cannot be corroborated by the speakers' practical attitude (weak ethnic identity through language);

Hypotheses 2: the Swedish 'mother tongue education' system does not achieve the intended effect in helping the Hungarian speakers to keep their native language;

Hypotheses 3: in the linguistic behaviour of Hungarian speakers in Sweden the interference affect is not automatically from Swedish (i.e. not interlinguistic) but there can be an intra-linguistic explanation (orthographic varieties, impact of dialects, standards and substandards). (13)


Multiethnicity and multilingualism

In order to understand the Hungarian diaspora situation and the linguistic development, I would like to look into the matter of multilingualism. For the sake of simplicity, I shall use the following definition here: multilingualism is the active and aware proficiency in more than one language. It can also be seen as a developmental stage in the speech production of people, who use different languages according to the demands of a multilingual society and in multiethnic conditions. For these the following definition is used: a society with several ethnic groups, where ethnicity is well defined by the members of the ethnic groups. J. Fishman describes in his study on Old-Amish people (1980) the existence of di-ethnicity in a society where more than one ethnocultural behaviour can be found. He also argues that in order to maintain a stabile di-ethnicity within a society it is necessary to have an official, institutionalised support from the state, just as it is in the case of a stabile multilingual society (protected functional linguistic compartmentalisation). The Hungarian speech communities in minority can often be considered as diethnic societies but they often lack the institutionalised support Fishman speaks about. One thing is true though: the Hungarian speakers, with the exception of those from the motherland, have been mainly multilingual from the beginning.

As it is normally the case, in order to understand the multitude of linguistic performance of people in a di- or multiethnic society, it is important to look, not only into the way, but also into the 'why'.

As we know, there are many different reasons for multilingualism. The linguistic reality of Hungarian speakers in Sweden contributes to the speakers' multilinguistic behaviour (language shift (14) in progress), undoubtedly leading to monolingualism in the end. This has always been a controversial topic to touch upon with Hungarian speakers. Nevertheless, today it is possible to find discussions more open and analytic about the special linguistic attitudes of Hungarian speech communities in different linguistic surroundings. The question needs tactful and cautious treatment as it hits sensitive nerves of Hungarian ethnic groups. The historic development of different groups offers explanation supported by Maher' term multilingual enclave society,(15) that indicates the social situation of a minority group living in the midst of a majority group. This description corresponds with the Hungarian minorities in the surrounding countries of Hungary. That is, part of the Hungarians speaks language 'A' in a social/political minority situation among people of language 'B' by whom they have been dominated for many years. Furthermore, even the fact that speakers of language 'A' have been isolated from other speakers of language 'A' for more than 100-400 years is true for some of the Hungarian minorities. The question of speaking the mother tongue under enclave situation becomes a question of ethnic identification, both from an in-group and out-group aspect. It can also grow into a question of survival; which often is the belief and starting point among Hungarian minority groups in their attitude against majority groups whereby the native language receives special importance and takes a mythologising role. Howard Giles (16) describes the ethno-linguistic vitality (17) of a minority as something that helps the members of such a society to survive and makes a group likely to behave as a distinctive and active collective entity in intergroup situations (Giles et al. 1977: 308). Allard and Landry (1986) discuss the link between peoples' strong ethnolinguistic vitality and the possible maintenance of their native language. Ethnic vitality was conceptualised by Prujiner, Detors, Hamers, Blanc, Clémaent and Landry in different categories, such as demographic, economic, political and cultural. In short they state that the stronger a group's ethnic cohesion is on these fields, the more likely they will continue as a distinct ethnic group, i.e. they will survive. The latter is also expressed frequently as an intention, goal and thrive of the members of the Hungarian diaspora in Sweden.


Linguistic survey

Hungarian speakers have landed in Sweden for different reasons over the past 40 years. The majority of them uses the native language, which has a special norm valid for all Hungarian speakers wherever they might happen to be. The norm is theoretical and ideal, following the rules of the standard Hungarian language in Hungary. It is expected from Hungarian speakers to follow these grammatical norms and talk accordingly. This cannot always be done however, as the speakers of Hungarian live in a very wide area.

Researchers who base their studies on objective facts about the situation of the Hungarian language in minority or diaspora and who avoid the 'mythologising' traps, are often considered as 'traitors' of the Hungarian ethnic group and language and are sometimes accused of serving the assimilation purpose for the sake other political and ethnic power instead of fighting for keeping the language clean from 'un-Hungarian' (magyartalan) influences. It is seldom taken into consideration that the Hungarian language is not spoken in a homogenous Hungarian environment and that the conditions and attitudes towards the language are very different in different societies where Hungarian is spoken.


Attitude and language usage in minority and diaspora

There is a great difference in attitudes towards the usage of Hungarian language between Hungarian minorities in the Carpathian basin and in diaspora such as Sweden. This paper cannot give a deeper analysis of this fact. Nevertheless, I wish to comment briefly on the question of the development of varieties.

One of the reasons for the difference in attitudes is the question of taking a calculated risk by crossing over to the majority group's identity. Keeping the native language - and by that an ethnic identity which the native language stands for, according to a great variety of studies within ethnology, linguistics, and other disciplines and also a common national belief among Hungarians - embodies so high value that it is worth the effort. That is, weighing the 'costs' of losing or winning the desired qualities is important. As mentioned before, there is a common belief in the Hungarian speech community at large that Hungarians in diaspora are 'weak' in their own ethnic identification. The following quotation shall illustrate this last statement; the article Magyarok Svédorszagban (Hungarians in Sweden) by Matyas Szabó was published in Bécsi Napló (Vienna Agenda, XX. 4.), July-August 1999 (translation by the author of this article):

Among Hungarians living in West the identity, the Hungarian self-image, is too weak [---] The Hungarian presence in Sweden, compared to many other nationalities, is not noticeable in the Swedish society. The Hungarians have during the last decades more and more grown into, accommodated, some of them assimilated into society, while other nations have been only in a "functional way" integrated into the different spheres of society.

The author also mentions Professor E. H. Holmberg (Lund University) who has made a study on the development and changes in the ethnic identification of Hungarian immigrants from the motherland; totally 505 persons with Hungarian background were interviewed within the study made within the framework of The World Values Systems Study Group. It was a comparative study between Hungarians and Swedes in Sweden compared to Hungarians in Hungary. Different questions were asked with the aim to measure the extent of changes in ethical, moral, attitudinal and mental processes which immigrants might be experiencing when moving to a new country.

Among others the question, 'which ethnic (national) identity' the questioned person considered himself to belong to, was answered, with the following results:

1. Either Hungarian or Swedish: 89 persons
2. Both Hungarian and Swedish: 93 persons
3. Hungarian: 83 persons
4. Swedish: 240 persons.

The informants' answers are rational under the circumstances. Along the process of changing nationality a new kind of identification appears, that is adjusted to the society's value system (Swedish: cosmopolitical, liberal, modern, etc.), which in turn is often opposed to the old Hungarian cultural and societal value system (less cosmopolitical, nationalistic, not so liberal, traditionalistic, etc.). According to Zoltan Biró, (Hungarian sociologist) identity is a question of adjustment, i.e. the choice of focus that arranges and guides one's mentality and choice of way of life.


Linguistic examples of Hungarian in Sweden

Hungarian is not a small language; it belongs to the group with speakers of over 10 million. It is a fully standardised language with script traditions dating back to the 11th century. This makes it the oldest written language tradition within the Finno-Ugrian languages. The standardisation, which sets the norms for the native language usage within Hungary (centre), has no spreading outside the borders (periphery) where many different dialects exist with their own linguistic rules. It makes the Hungarian language a multicentric language of a great variety. The many deviations from standardised Hungarian and many dialects are possible to encounter in Sweden. The meeting with the varieties of Hungarian is unavoidable when members of the same speech community have to live within a narrow social framework. The meetings take place within Hungarian clubs, associations and organisations in Sweden, where representatives of different dialects of the same language are bound to meet.

Both the written and spoken languages in Sweden show deviations: both in orthography and pronunciation. The impact of the many dialects has to be taken into consideration when studying Hungarian spoken in Sweden.

The Hungarian orthography in Sweden shows shortcomings. Hungarian uses phonetic (or phonematic) script but it is guided by many rules. One of them is the assimilation rule. When seeing Hungarian written by the second generation in Sweden, one could almost talk about a new written language, as the Hungarian standard orthographic rules do not apply. Among the members of second generation, the children of refugees from Transylvania are one of the groups that have been the target of my study. These speakers have developed an acoustic variety of languages in which different Swedish orthographic features show up in writing. Orthographic errors appear in all linguistic domains. There are two main reasons for that:

  • In the case of second generation Hungarians (grown up in Sweden or in minority situation outside the motherland), young people do not use the written Hungarian language. According to my informants, the oral Hungarian will be picked up within the family: very often from mothers who read Hungarian fairy tales and stories to their children but the children themselves do not read. They find it too difficult and time-consuming. The limited lesson hours within the mother tongue education system is not sufficient enough.
  • An important aspect is the status of Hungarian at homes where Swedish enjoys higher status. In order to succeed in the studies and later on in society and in working life it is considered more important to know good Swedish than good Hungarian.

An interesting issue is the dialectal influence. The immigrants with strong dialectal language usage (from Transylvania) have only been in Sweden for 10-15 years and this is not enough for lasting conclusions. The strong ethnic identity, the archaic language usage and the efforts the speakers take in order to 'save the language' (purist influence) is typical for this group which makes it different from the already established 'the rest of the Hungarians'.

Considering the background of both motherland Hungarians and the Transylvanian-Hungarians this kind of attitude is not difficult to understand. The low status of the ethnic situation in the homeland (Transylvania, Romania) explains both the strong feelings for the mother tongue and the strong dialectal language usage. It was not always easy for Hungarians to study Hungarian or in Hungarian in school. The mother tongue was often acquired orally in private conditions (domain of home). In such circumstances, the standard Hungarian grammar rules did not apply and the new developmental features, which came about in the motherland, could not influence the language spoken at homes. A kind of stigmatisation can be seen in Sweden in connection with these dialectal forms of Hungarian, both within the group and outside, from other speakers belonging to the Hungarian speech community. The dialectal speakers express a feeling of inferiority in the presence of motherland speakers. Signs of segregation can be seen within the Hungarian speaking community.



There are different types of changes in the Hungarians' language usage in Sweden, which can partly be explained by the influence of Swedish, but not entirely. The deviation from the norm is sometimes due to intra-linguistic influences, which are the norms in dialectal Hungarian. The language used is fully understandable but the tolerance for these dialectal forms is not high. As to the Hungarian speakers' language usage in Sweden, it is utterly and entirely domain-regulated. That is a rather normal situation for people in diaspora. The so-called errors can be of no consequence for the future development of Hungarian in Sweden, or they can also show a somewhat different kind of Hungarian but still within the limits of the speech community.

The errors shown by the second-generation speakers are not detectable in the language usage of the first generation: a fossilised Hungarian showing time-specific features is rather what we can see in their language use. No signs of modern expressions, newer oddities that one can see in their language use. They take great pain in talking 'correct' Hungarian.

The second generation is in a transitory language stage: there are signs of a lack of vocabulary, difficulties with finding appropriate expressions, no richness in expressing and phrases. They show a certain impatient attitude towards their own shortcomings, switches to Swedish in different domains, and even unawareness of certain orthographic rules. These are signs of a language shift. Nevertheless, the process is probably not exceptionally slow or fast for the Hungarian language in Sweden. The situation is not unusual and a certain degree of deterioration of language is normal in a low status situation. Neither education of importance nor written language is a reality for Hungarian in Sweden. There are some things to keep in mind in this connection:

  1. The language itself is undergoing natural temporal and geographic changes. Many of the phenomena in the today's Transylvanian-Hungarian were once standard in Hungarian, which were kept, while the language usage of other speakers has undergone changes. The geographic gap between the central motherland and the satellite territories made a close contact between the Hungarian speakers rather difficult during this century - if not impossible. This explains the divergence in development.
  2. The language itself develops special structures and new rules: the effort to reach simplicity and economy in language changes the rules and today's stigmatised phenomena can become a standard tomorrow.
  3. The acquisition and learning play a major role in the development of a language. The majority of Transylvanian people did not have the opportunity to learn Hungarian in school. The language was often passed from one generation to another within families, through hearing, and only rarely through systematic learning, reading and writing. In addition the inadequate Swedish home language education system does not add any value to their native language acquisition, they are left to themselves - in the society that requires full command of Swedish with the education system that aims this target.



According to the answers given to my questions in connection with my study, but even during private conversations, the question of the mother tongue is said to be the key to ethnic (Hungarian) identity. When it comes to down-to-earth proofs, the pragmatic attitude takes over. The fact that one lives in Sweden where the society requires integration (since 1998 a new integration policy has been launched for immigrants in Sweden) the Hungarian minority has no second thoughts about adjusting. The ethnic boundary is drawn at the front door.



Allard, Réal & Landry, Rodrigue 1986. Subjective Ethnolinguistic Vitality Viewed as a Belief System. - Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development No. 7, pp. 1-12.

Clyne, Michael 1986. Towards a systematization of language contact dynamics. - Fishman, Joshua A. & Tabouret-Keller, Andrée & Clyne, Michael & Krishnamurti, B. & Abdulaziz-Mkilifi, Mohammed H. (eds.). The Fergusonian Impact: In Honor of Charles A. Ferguson on the Occasion of His 65th Birthday. Berlin, Mouton de Gruyter, pp. 483-492.

Fishman, Joshua A. 1980. Bilingualism and biculturalism as individual and societal phenomena. - Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development. No. 1, Clevedon, pp. 3-17.

Giles, Howard & Bourhis, Richard Y. & Taylor, Donald M. 1977. Towards a theory of language in ethnic group relations. - Giles, Howard (ed.). Language, Ethnicity and Intergroup Relations. London, Academic Press, pp. 307-308.

Haugen, Einar 1956. Bilingualism, in the Americas: A Bibliography and Research Guide. Publications of the American Dialect Society 26. Alabama.

Lanstyak, Istvan 2000. A magyar nyelv Szlovakiaban. Budapest-Pozsony.

Romaine, S. 1989. Bilingualism. Blacwell Bublisers.

Szabó, Matyas 1999. Magyarok Svédorszagban. - Vienna Agenda XX 4.

Seliger, Herbert W. & Vago, Robert M. 1991, First language attrition. Cambridge University Press.

Sharwood-Smith, Michael A. & Kellerman, Eric 1986. Crosslinguistic influence in second language acquisition: an introduction. - Kellerman E. & Sharwood-Smith M. A. (eds.). Crosslinguistic Influence in Second Language Acquisition. New York, Pergamon Press, pp. 1-9.


References from text:

(1) The number is not corroborated, as there is no ethnic registration of refugees and immigrants in Sweden. Back

(2) Whereas, for the sake of simplifying things, no other distinction than of first generation the geographic birthplace (Hungarian speaking territory); for the second generation the children and for the third generation the grandchildren of the first generation shall be understood. Back

(3) As a result of the revolt against Soviet oppression in 1956 in Hungary when 200,000 people left the country. Back

(4) The attitude study of Göteborgs Posten (liberal paper) on Hungarian immigrants (by Dora Kos-Dienes). Back

(5) UHU, Swedish: short for Ungersk Hemspråks Undervisning ('Hungarian Home Language Education'). Back

(6) SL standing for 'second language'. Back

(7) J. Fishman's study of Old Amish people. Back

(8) With the help of the Hungarian organisations which are members at SMOSZ (Svédorszagi Magyarok Orszagos Szövetsége) a part of Hungarians living in Sweden can be accounted for. The central organisation established by Hungarians in exile during the 1970s has approximately 5000 members. Back

(9) Bilingualism/multilingualism will be used in a broad sense here, indicating the linguistic heterogeneity of a society. Back

(10) Diglossia here: different varieties of two languages used routinely by speakers within the same linguistic entity. Back

(11) Some definitions on interference are: Haugen (1956): the overlapping of two languages, the application of two systems; Clyne (1986: 1): transference adoption of any elements or features from the other language; the definition of Sharwood-Smith and Kellerman (1986: 1): crosslinguistic influence suggest a more neutral approach. Back

(12) Simply; a temporal meaning to express the process of change from one language (L1) to another (L2) during a period of time. Back

(13) About a specific case - Hungarian language usage situation within the Carpathian basin - Istvan Lanstyak has performed a thorough study and has come to some interesting observations with regard to the traditional terms of diglossia, standard, substandard and dialects regarding Hungarian. Back

(14) For the sake of simplifying things I. Lanstyak's definition of language shift will be used here: a process where the speakers within a multilingual community socialise their children in their L2-usage at a growing extent (Lanstyak 2000: 257/18). Back

(15) A cross-linguistic study of language contact and language attrition in W. H. Seliger and R. M. Vago 1991. Back

(16) Giles' taxonomy of the structural variables of ethnolinguistic vitality contains a) status, b) demography and c) institutions, which is the basis of his categorisations. Back

(17) R. Allard and R. Landry on ethnolinguistic vitality (1986). Back

(18) A warning is due for a possible interviewer effect - the interviewees were Swedish, which could have a bearing on the result. Back