Budapest Languages

Budapest is one of the places with the highest level of linguistic density in Central Europe. Originally home to Celts, then settled by the Romans, followed by Hungarians in the 9th century, the city has always attracted migrants from the region and beyond. Diversity has fueled prosperity.

Today, above 7 percent of the city’s population is from outside of Hungary. Almost half of the foreigners living in Hungary reside in Budapest, and the city has a large Roma and Jewish community. All thirteen languages of the national minorities are present: Bulgarian, Roma, Greek, Croatian, Polish, German, Armenian, Romanian, Rusyn, Serbian, Slovakian, Slovenian, and Ukrainian. But by now the immigrant populations speaking South-East and East Asian languages have outnumbered most of the traditional national minorities. The statistical categories of ‘Chinese’ or ‘Russian’ actually hide the presence of many dozens of small languages, from Wu to Yue, from Veps to Votic.

Given these conditions, Budapest is uniquely located, geographically as well as culturally, to conduct research on rare languages. Typically documenting and researching small languages requires costly and often dangerous fieldwork. The newly emerging urban linguistics, to which the current project belongs, capitalizes on the fact that the representatives of these languages are increasingly present in metropolitan areas. Budapest provides a rich hunting ground for those trying to document languages threatened with extinction, who are interested in the contact effects of languages that have never been researched together, or who want to know how these languages are acquired.

The project aims at establishing and maintaining a database of the languages present in Budapest. The plan is to record the ways how these languages are spoken or written (accents, dialects, etc.) and to map the difficulties of their speakers with regard to Hungarian. Additionally, the project will create a network of those speakers of these languages who are ready to share their knowledge with researchers, activists, journalists, etc., and who could assist communication with newcomer immigrants.

The project is planned to be organized in collaboration with specialized language laboratories at various local universities (primarily CEU, ELTE, Károli, and the Research Institute for Linguistics). Within the framework of the project, students can participate as interns, obtaining project-based learning experience outside of the classroom.

The resources of the project will not only stimulate advance in urban linguistics but will also help the communication between speakers of the minority languages and Hungarians.