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Research Group for Applied Sociolinguistics


     Chair: Tamás Váradi, Senior Research Fellow

     Secretary: Vera Arató

     E-mail: arato.vera[at]

     Phone: (36-1) 3214-830/191



The Department of Sociolinguistics is primarily concerned with the study of the variability and the changes of the dialects of Hungarian spoken within Hungary and in Budapest, although some investigations extend to the varieties of Hungarian spoken in the neighboring countries and overseas. Other research topics include that of language shift and the study of the language use of bilingual minorities in Hungary.  

The Budapest Sociolinguistic Interview (BSI) is a large-scale survey which provides reliable data on and analyses of the varieties of Hungarian spoken in Budapest. In 1987-89, 250 interviews were tape-recorded with a random stratified sample of the inhabitants of Budapest, each lasting for two-three hours. The part of this survey called Version 2 of The Budapest Sociolinguistic Interview consists of a set of interviews with 50 informants (ten teachers, ten sales clerks, ten blue-collar workers, ten university students, and ten vocational trainees). The transcription and coding of these interviews on the computer finished in 2002, and thus the research has now entered the stage of processing the data. The interviews consist of directed conversations and tests. In the course of describing the directed conversations, 3, 135, 764 characters were transcribed altogether by the participating linguists. As a result of this work, a Hungarian spoken language corpus was recorded on computer, the first time ever in Hungary. On the basis of the transcriptions, the linguists at the department will create the voice- and transcript-archive of Version 2 of BSI. In 1998, the generation of digital versions of the recordings was started, together with the dissemination of the interviews for the use of researchers on CD-ROM and on the Internet (

In the framework of the Hungarian National Sociolinguistic Research, data concerning language use was collected from a random representative sample of the adult population of Hungary in 1988, stratified according to age, sex, education, and type of settlement. The above method of choosing the sample makes it possible to make verifiable claims about the linguistic behaviour and judgments of the whole Hungarian population with certain precision. The results of the study are summarized in the monograph Nyelv és társadalom a rendszerváltáskori Magyarországon [Language and Society in Hungary at the Time of the Change of Regime], to appear in 2003. The book is about language use at the time of the change of the political regime, it illustrates language use in the last phase of a passing social system, and consequently, it provides an important  reference point for future studies of the varieties and changes of the Hungarian language. 

The study of the varieties of Hungarian across the border is a survey of the use of the contact varieties spoken by Hungarians in the neighboring countries who became part of the minority after World War I in their respective countries (and whose language necessarily differs from the varieties spoken within Hungary, due to the fact that the speakers themselves turned bilingual due to their minority status). The results are published in the series A magyar nyelv a Kárpát-medencében a XX. század végén [Hungarian Language in the Carpathian Basin at the End of the 20th Century], published by Osiris. So far, the volumes investigating the use of the language by Hungarians in Sub-Carpathia (the Ukraine), Voivodina (Yugoslavia), and Upper Northern Hungary (Slovakia) have appeared.

The research on linguistic human rights investigates the state of minority Hungarians, and certain minorities within Hungary (Romanians, Gypsies, and the deaf) from the point of view of language policy. In 1997, we organized an international conference with the title Linguistic Human Rights for lawyers, politologists, linguists, education experts and activists of non-government organizations. In the framework of the 5th Congress of Hungarian studies in 2001, we organized a section on Hungarians and Language Laws.

The study of the syllable as a unit in the structure and functioning of the language was concluded with the publication of the volume Szótagfogalom - szótagrelációk, [The Concept of the Syllable – Syllable Realizations], which comprises 10 essays.

The longitudinal study of language shift is a repeated sociolinguistic survey carried out in the bilingual community of Romanians in Hungary. The first fieldwork took place in 1990, and the second in 2000. The study aimed to discover the influence of real time (the decade which passed between the two surveys) and subjective time (the age of subjects) on the Rumanian-Hungarian language shift. A collection of papers on the results of the 1990 survey was published with the title Nyelvcsere [Language Shift] by the department.

In the framework of the project Dimensions of being linguistically different -- Possibilities for preserving minority languages, the Department of Sociolinguistics co-operates with the Department of Contemporary Hungarian Language at ELTE on describing the forms of language shift and language preservation in minority communities; forms of social conduct, bilingualism, minority and majority attitudes; and prejudices in Bulgarian, Gypsy, German, Rumanian, deaf, and Slovak communities in Hungary. 

Empirical investigations are carried out in the Hungarian deaf community. Sociolinguistic interviews are recorded with hearing and deaf parents of deaf children, and with deaf schoolchildren, and tests investigating the linguistic and communicative competence of deaf schoolchildren are carried out as well.

The project which aimed to publish seven volumes of a multilingual atlas produced in the framework of an international cooperation, run jointly by the Department of Sociolinguistics and the Department of Polish at ELTE for several years, has recently finished. This work provides a more detailed description of the linguistic interactions within the people living in the Carpathian region with the help of the methods of geolinguistics than previous studies of its kind. Several lexemes relating to folk culture, farming, and the natural environment are equally present in the lexicon of Slavic people, Romanians or Hungarians. The sixth volume of the atlas created in the framework of the project called Kárpát nyelvatlasz [The Dialectal Atlas of the Carpathian Region] appeared in 2002.