Published: May 22 2023
Digraphs play a crucial role in the Hungarian language. These are letter combinations of two characters to create a distinct sound. Although common in many languages, Hungarian digraphs differ in that they are considered single units when it comes to alphabetization and sorting.
A few common digraphs in Hungarian include:
- cs: pronounced as "ch" in "chat"
- gy: pronounced as a soft "d" sound, similar to "dʒ" in "jump"
- sz: pronounced as "s" in "snow"
- zs: which we will discuss in more depth below
Pronouncing The Hungarian 'Zs' Digraph
The 'zs' digraph in Hungarian is pronounced similarly to the English "s" in "pleasure." In linguistic terms, this is voiced as alveolo-palatal fricative ([ʒ] in the International Phonetic Alphabet). Although not the same as the English 'z', it represents a slightly softer sound.
Here are a few examples of Hungarian words containing the 'zs' digraph:
Common Mispronunciations and Tips
It is common for non-native learners of Hungarian to confuse the pronunciation of 'zs' with 's' and 'sz', as these digraphs also represent a distinct "s" sound. However, the 'zs' is exclusively pronounced with the soft "ʒ" sound, while the 's' is pronounced as "sh" in 'sharp' and 'sz' is like 's' in 'snake'.
To help alleviate this confusion, remember that the English words 'measure', 'treasure', and 'pleasure' all share the same "ʒ" sound as the Hungarian 'zs' digraph.
Pronouncing the 'zs' in Hungarian can be intimidating for beginners, but with the knowledge of its distinct voiced alveolo-palatal fricative sound ([ʒ]), as in the English word 'pleasure', you will be well on your way to mastering this unique aspect of the Hungarian alphabet. Keep in mind the differences between 'zs', 's', and 'sz', and remember to practice listening and speaking examples of these digraphs to develop an authentic Hungarian pronunciation.