I have a question about the etymology (within the Uralic family) of three Hungarian morphemes

  1. Accusative -t- suffix: Hungarian has an accusative in -t- (eg. fiú, fiút), which has no cognates in any of the Uralic languages that I am aware of, which have accusatives in -n- or -m-. Wiktionary states that this suffix is

"Of debated origin. According to the most accepted theory, it is from a possessive suffix that originated either from a *t-initial demonstrative pronoun or from the Proto-Uralic *tȣ̈ (“you”) personal pronoun".

The cited source is in Hungarian, which I cannot read. How could a possessive suffix evolve into an accusative marker? Has this happened in any other languages?

  1. First person verbal -k- suffix: Regular verbs in the present tense indefinite conjugation take a suffix -Vk to mark 1st person singular. I can't find cognates for this in any other Uralic language, while Wiktionary offers no explanation either. What is the origin of this 1p marker?

  2. Plural -k-: Hungarian also has a plural marker in -k-. (eg. kéz, kezek). This contrasts with -j- or -t- plural markers in most Uralic languages (although there do seem to be traces of a -k- plural in Samic languages, although only in the Nominative).

  • 1
    Finnish (and I guess probably Estonian and perhaps Samir languages as well) has -t as the accusative marker for personal pronouns, though I haven’t looked up if that’s completely unrelated to the Hungarian -t. Dec 7, 2020 at 0:47
  • @JanusBahsJacquet not so for North Sami, it has mu for nominative and mun for accusative first person pronoun. I believe Lule and Ume are the same(ish) Dec 8, 2020 at 13:16
  • 3
    As for your question "how could a possessive suffix evolve into an accusative marker?" There could be a parallel going on in English right now. "So get your oats and mix it with your butter and sugar, rubbing it all together with your fingertips" is quite normal in my variety of English. Here "your" does not have a possessive meaning, it is just an oblique case marker. Dec 8, 2020 at 13:22
  • In some Russian declensions, I believe, the accusative has genitive form. (But don't take my word for it, I'm VERY rusty.) Dec 12, 2020 at 3:14
  • @AntonSherwood I think what you're referring to may be a case of syncretism, rather than reflecting a connection in meaning.
    – user8606
    Dec 12, 2020 at 13:39

1 Answer 1


I looked up these in Zaicz Gábor's "Etimológiai szótár - Magyar szavak és toldalékok eredete" (Etymological dictionary - The origin of Hungarian words and suffixes).

  1. Accusative -t:

Tárgyrag. Az ősmagyar kor elején kialakult, vitatott eredetű toldalék. A legelfogadottabb nézet szerint vagy egy ősi *t- kezdetű mutató névmásból vagy a *tȣ̈ ’te’ személyes névmásból fejlődött birtokos személyjel vált először csak a határozott tárgy jelölésére szolgáló ún. determináló elemmé. Miután az általános és határozott igeragozás kialakult, és az igeragokkal is ki lehetett fejezni a tárgy határozott vagy határozatlan voltát, ez az elem mindenféle tárgyhoz ragként hozzákapcsolódott.

Accusative marker. A suffix which originates from the Old Hungarian era, its etymology is debated. The most prominent view is that either it developed from an ancient demonstrative pronoun starting with *t-, or it developed from a possessive pronoun originating in the personal pronoun *tȣ̈ 'you (sg.)' starting as a so-called "determiner element" whose function was to mark determinacy. After the development of definite and indefinite conjugations, it was possible to express the definiteness or indefiniteness of an object with verb endings, this element was joined to various objects as a suffix.

I assume this must have been the cited source you couldn't read.

  1. First-person verbal -k:

[13. század közepe] Az egyes szám 1. személyű általános (alanyi) ragozású igei személyrag. Funkcióváltással alakult ki az ősmagyar kor második felében. A legvalószínűbb, hogy az ősmagyar *-k mozzanatos képző vált igei személyraggá. Más vélemények szerint a -k többesjellel azonos, abból értékelődött át az egyes szám 1. személyű igeraggá. Az általános és határozott (tárgyas) ragozás szétválásakor az általános ragozási sorban rögzült.

[attested from the middle of the 13th century] The 1st person singular indefinite suffix. It arised in towards the end of the Old Hungarian period via "change of function". The most likely theory is that the Old Hungarian -k "suffix of motion" became a 1st person singular suffix. Other theories suggest that it is identical to the plural -k, transforming into a personal suffix. It was grammaticalized as a suffix during the development of the definite and indefinite conjugations

The "suffix of motion" mentioned here is apparently from a Finno-Ugric *-kk suffix, found in compounds like reszket 'quiver, tremble' and serken 'be stimulated, be reinvigorated'.

  1. Plural -k

[12. század vége] A többes szám általános jele. Ősi eredetű toldalék. A finnugor alapnyelvben is egyféle többesjel funkciót töltött be, ez őrződött meg a magyarban. Eredetének ugyan van egy másik magyarázata, mely szerint finnugor (uráli) *-kk gyűjtőnévképzőből fejlődhetett többesjellé az ősmagyar korban, de ezt a feltételezést nem lehet meggyőzően bizonyítani.

[attested since the end of the 12th century] The general suffix of plurality. A suffix of ancient origin. In Proto-Finno-Ugric, it already had a kind of plural function, this was preserved in Hungarian. There is an another theory for its etymology, namely, that the Finno-Ugric (Uralic) *-kk suffix forming collective nouns developed into a plural suffix in Hungarian, however, this hypothesis cannot be sufficiently proven.

I also want to comment on this part of your question:

This contrasts with -j- or -t- plural markers in most Uralic languages

You might want to note that besides the general *-k suffix, Hungarian also has the infix -i- for plurals in possessive constructions, such as házam 'my house', házaim 'my houses', which is related to the -j- marker from other languages in the Uralic family.

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