Hungarian ly

Hungarian ly

Ly is a digraph of the Latin alphabet, used in Hungarian.


"Ly" is the twentieth letter of the Hungarian alphabet. Its Hungarian name is "ellipszilon" IPA|/ɛlːipsilon/ or "elly" IPA|/ɛjː/ (sometimes spelled "ejj"). Nowadays it represents the same phoneme IPA|/j/ (palatal approximant) as the Hungarian letter "j", but historically it represented the different phoneme IPA|/ʎ/ (palatal lateral approximant).

It is only used this way in Hungarian. In Hungarian, even if two characters are put together to make a different sound, they are considered one letter, and even acronyms keep the letter intact.

The combination "lj" (considered two separate letters, L and J) is also common in Hungarian, and is in fact pronounced IPA|/ʎ/ by many speakers. However, even this is sometimes subject to the same reduction to /j/ that "ly" has been.


Originally the digraph letter "ly" was used to represent the palatal lateral IPA|/ʎ/, just like the digraph letter "ny" was used to represent the palatal nasal IPA|/ɲ/. However, in the eastern dialects, as well as in the standard dialect, the phoneme IPA|/ʎ/ lost its lateral feature and merged with IPA|/j/ (this process is akin to Spanish "yeísmo"); this way, the Hungarian letter "ly" came to be pronounced the same as the Hungarian letter "j". In the western dialects, IPA|/ʎ/ lost its palatal feature and merged with IPA|/l/ (alveolar lateral approximant). In the northern dialects, the phoneme IPA|/ʎ/ was preserved. [BENKŐ Loránd; IMRE Samu (ed.): "The Hungarian Language". Janua Linguarum, Series Practica, No. 134. The Hague: Mouton de Gruyter (1972).]


These examples are Hungarian words that use the letter ly, with the English translation following.

* furulya = "recorder"
* amelyet = "which" (accusative)
*helyi = "local"
*golyó = "ball"
*lyuk = "hole"

See also

* Hungarian alphabet


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