Personal Notes on Hungarian American Bilingualism Research




bilingualism, Hungarian American bilingualism, fieldwork in South Bend (Indiana), differences in Hungarian American bilingualism between the 1970s and today


In 1967, linguist John Lotz, born in Milwaukee but raised mostly in Hungary, called attention to the lack of research on Hungarian American bilingualism at a time when monographs and PhD dissertations described, in great detail, the bilingualism of Norwegian, Greek, Polish, and Finnish people in the US. When I became an associate instructor of Hungarian at Indiana University, Bloomington, in 1978, I embarked on The Project on Hungarian American Bilingualism in South Bend, Indiana. As a result, eighty hours of Hungarian speech and sixty hours of English were recorded, and a book appeared in Hungarian in 1990. Not much later, in 1995, I was involved with the publication of Beyond Castle Garden: An American Hungarian Dictionary of the Calumet Region, compiled and written by Andrew Vázsonyi. The personal reflections comprising this article will deal with some important issues concerning fieldwork in South Bend and will offer a brief characterization of the differences between Hungarian American bilingualism in the 1970s and today.

Author Biography

Miklós Kontra, Károli Gáspár University, Budapest

Miklós Kontra, PhD, is emeritus professor of Hungarian linguistics, Károli Gáspár University, Budapest. In 1978–81 he taught Hungarian at Indiana University, Bloomington. In 1992–93 he was a visiting Fulbright scholar at Indiana, and in 1995–96 he held an ACLS fellowship at Michigan State University where he returned as a Fulbright scholar in 2003. He conducted substantial linguistic fieldwork in the Hungarian community of South Bend, Indiana, and in 1990 published Fejezetek a South Bend-i-magyar nyelvhasználatból (Chapters on Hungarian Language Use in South Bend) (Magyar Tudományos Akadémia Nyelvtudományi Intézete, 1990).  He is the coeditor of the online publication Tanulmányok a budapesti beszédről (Studies on Budapest Speech) (Budapest: Gondolat Kiadó, 2021):


Bakó Elemér amerikai magyar hangfelvételei (American Hungarian Speech Recorded by Elemér Bakó).

Borlik, Kathy. “Hungarian Language is Kept Alive in Book. South Bend Tribune, January 15, 1991, pp. B1–B2.

Huseby-Darvas, Éva V. Review of Kontra (1990). Language in Society 21, 1992, pp. 169–173.

Kerek, Andrew. Review of Kontra (1990). New Hungarian Quarterly 33 (no. 125), 1992, pp. 140–143.

Kontra, Miklós. Fejezetek a South Bend-i magyar nyelvhasználatból (Chapters on Hungarian Language Use in South Bend). (English summary on pp. 181–188.) Budapest: Magyar Tudományos Akadémia Nyelvtudományi Intézete, 1990.

Kontra, Miklós. “Changing Names: Onomastic Remarks on Hungarian Americans.” Journal of English Linguistics Vol. 23, 1995, pp. 114–122.

Kontra, Miklós. “Amerikai magyarok a 21. században” (Hungarian Americans in the Twenty-first Century). (Review of Hungarians in Michigan, by Éva V. Huseby-Darvas. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2003) Jel-Kép 2004/1, pp. 99–102.

Lotz, János. “Magyar nyelvészeti kutatások az Amerikai Egyesült Államokban” (Hungarian Linguistics Research in the United States). A magyar nyelv története és rendszere: a debreceni nyelvészkongresszus előadásai (The History and Structure of the Hungarian Language). Imre, Samu and István Szathmári, eds. Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, 1967, pp. 32–37.

Moravcsik, Edith. Review of Vázsonyi (1995). Language 72, 1996, pp. 856–858.

Pintz, Katalin. “Hungarian Heritage Maintenance in the USA: New Brunswick, NJ as a Magyar Ethnic Island.” Hungarian Studies Review, Vol. XXXVIII, Nos. 1–2, 2011, pp. 83–120.

Pugh, Stephan. Review of Vázsonyi (1995). American Speech 71, 1996, pp. 320–324.

Sándor, Klára. “Hevesiné vacsorája.” A review of Vázsonyi (1995). Katedra Vol. 4. No. 4, 1996, pp. 14–15.

Vázsonyi, Endre. Túl a Kecegárdán: Calumet-vidéki amerikai magyar szótár (Beyond Castle Garden: An American Hungarian Dictionary of the Calumet Region). Budapest: Teleki László Alapítvány, 1995. Collected and compiled by Andrew Vázsonyi, edited by Miklós Kontra.






Perspectives on Hungarian Studies