Thursday, August 24, 2017

Maundy Thursday and the Eclipse

If there is no light in the room, you say «Մութ է» ( Moot eh ) to mean “It is dark.” However, if you wanted to be less colloquial and a little more literary, you might use the word խաւար ( khavar ), which means both “darkness” and “dark.” If you wanted to translate “In the Darkness,” you could either say «Մութին մէջ» ( Mootin mech ) or «Խաւարին մէջ» (Khavarin mech ).

The word khavar, already recorded in the fifth century A.D., probably comes from an Iranian source (for instance, we have Middle Persian xvarvaran and Farsi xavar ), meaning “west.” The West is where the sun goes down (Armenian արեւմուտք/arevmoodk ) ; therefore, the idea of “west” would normally be associated with darkness.

The word khavar may remind you of one of the highlights of the Holy Week, as celebrated by the Armenian Apostolic Church: the Խաւարում ( Khavaroom ). During this ceremony, held on Maundy Thursday, the twelve candles lighted in the church are put out one after the other, symbolizing the abandonment of Jesus by the twelve Apostles—including the black candle representing Judas—after the Last Supper and his prayer at the garden of Gethsemane. The church remains in the dark, while the poignant hymn Where Are Thou, My Mother? ( Ո՞ւր ես, մայր իմ / Oor es, mayr eem ) is sung. The action of darkening is called խաւարել ( khavaril ), but there is not an exact term in English to translate khavaroom, and thus the Latin translation tenebrae is used.

There is another khavaroom that became fashionable this week, after the total eclipse of the sun recorded on Tuesday, August 22, 2017. Khavaroom is the Armenian word for “eclipse” (from Greek ekleipsis “fail to appear”), and, as we may notice, whoever created the Armenian equivalent did not care about a literal translation, but applied the concept of darkening also used in the Holy Week.

To end this small note on astronomy, let us remember that, if it is a solar eclipse like this one, we call it արեւի խաւարում (arevi khavaroom ), while the moon eclipse becomes a լուսնի խաւարում ( loosnee khavaroom ).
 
Get your vocabulary ready for the next total solar eclipse in seven years!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Come and Feel

The Armenian verb գալ (kal “to come”) is a word as dynamic as its English counterpart. One of the main dictionaries of the Armenian language, Eduard Aghayan’s Explanatory Dictionary of Modern Armenian (Արդի հայերէնի բացատրական բառարան, Yerevan, 1976), offers 33 entries for this word.

You have, of course, a gallery of compound words derived from kal, of which we are going to give two examples:

պարագայ (baraka “circumstance, case”), composed by պար (bar “around”) and գայ (ka, from kal), with the connective ա (a).
ապագայ (abaka “future”), which means “what comes after” (ապա/aba “after, later” and ka).

Moreover, because kal is an irregular verb, you have several words unrelated to the concept of “coming,” but nevertheless derived from kal, more exactly from the root of its imperative form, եկ-ուր (yegoor) (singular) and եկ-էք (yegek) (plural).  Here is an incomplete list:

եկամուտ (yegamood): “income.” As you may notice, both Armenian and English words have been composed in a similar way. English in-come means “what is coming in” and Armenian yeg-a-mood indicates something that “comes” (yeg) and “enters” (mood, the root of the verb մտնել/mudnel).

զեկոյց (zegooyts): “communication, report.” Here we find the prefix z again, but because it is followed by a vowel, we pronounce as it is: z-eg-ooyts (ooyts is a suffix, as in the word զրոյց/zurooyts “chat”).

իրազեկ (irazeg): “informed.”

The meaning of another verb, զգալ (uzkal “to feel”), seems unrelated at first sight. What relation can you find between “to come” and “to feel”? It comes out that you can find it.

The verb uzkal is derived from kal, with help from the quite common Classical Armenian prefix զ (z). 
Thus, kal > uz-kal (it is pronounced with a schwa, because it is followed by a consonant). Don’t you feel what comes to you? Yes, you do. Words have mysterious connections.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

A Complicated Word


The word բարդ (part) is an interesting term that, despite how it sounds for a Western Armenian speaker, has nothing to do with part. (In Classical and Eastern Armenian, it is pronounced bard.)


We do not know for sure what the origin of the word is. The oldest meaning attested, “pile, heap” (as in a heap of wheat or a pile of papers), is in the fifth century A.D. translation of the Bible. Later on, the verb partel (բարդել “to pile”) appeared too. It seems that the idea of items gathered together brought forward the specific meaning “compound (word)” that appeared in the histories transmitted under the names of Agatangeghos and Pavstos Buzand, also written in the fifth century. Later on, a kind of flower that flourished at the beginning of the spring was also named part.




The original meaning “pile, heap,” although still appears in contemporary dictionaries, seems to have lost much of its use.



Today, we have the following meanings related to part in Modern Armenian:


բարդ (part) “complicated”: Բարդ անձնաւորութիւն մը (part antznavorootioon muh “a complicated personality”)



բարդ (part) “complex”: Բարդ մեքենայ մը (part mekena muh “a complex machine”)



բարդ (բառ) (part parr) : “compound (word)” (for instance, օդանաւ/otanav “airplane” is a part parr)



բարդ (part) “battery”: Ելեկտրական բարդ (yelegdragan part “electrical battery”)


We also have some derivative words, such as:



բարդացնել (partatsunel) “to complicate”: Խնդիրը բարդացաւ (khuntiruh partatsav “the issue became complicated”)



բարդել (partel) “to pile”: Թուղթերը բարդեց (tooghteruh partets “s/he piled the papers”)


բարդութիւն (partootioon) “complication”: Բարդութիւններ եղան (partootioonner yeghan “there were complications”)



բարդոյթ (partooyt) “complex”: Ստորակայութեան բարդոյթ (usdoragayootian partooyt “inferiority complex”). This is a relatively new meaning, but only used in a psychological context.




Beware: if you translated terms like “military compound” or “sports complex” into Armenian by using part, nobody would understand you. (You would be using an adjective to translate a noun.) For that, you will have to learn another word: համալիր (hamaleer). For those who have been to Yerevan and have heard of the Hamaleer, there you have it: the sports-musical complex (մարզա-համերգային համալիր/ marza-hamerkayeen hamaleer) located in the hill of Dzidzernagapert, opposite the Մեծ Եղեռնի յուշարձան (Medz Yegherni hushardzan “Great Genocide memorial”) that commemorates 1915.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

This Check Does Not Get Paid in the Bank


Checks have expanded over the world since their concept was created in the eighteenth century, and the word check has gone along. We also use the foreign word չէք (chek) in Armenian, even though the word վճարագիր (vujarakir) has been invented to convey that concept (from վճարել/ vujarel “to pay” and գիր/kir “letter,” namely, “letter of payment”).

Interestingly, however, there is another word չէք (chek) in Armenian, which seems to have the same meaning, but actually does not. You find it, for instance, when you pay a commission. The word միջնորդչէք (michnortchek “commission”) is composed by the words միջնորդ (michnort “middleman”) and չէք (chek). Doesn’t it mean a check paid to a middleman?

No, it does not. You can pay in cash too. The word simply means “payment” or “gift,” and it is not a foreign word.

Its origin may be traced back to Classical Armenian and the suffix չեայ (cheay). The double sound այ (ay) turned into է (e) in colloquial language, especially before the plural suffix ք (ք). Thus, այք (ay) became էք (ek), and for instance երեխայք (yerekhayk) in popular language –you can find it today in Eastern Armenian—became երեխէք (yerekhek).

By the same token, a word like առհաւատչեայք (arhavadcheayk “guarantees”) became առհաւատչէք (arhavadchek), with the sound ե (e in Classical Armenian) subsumed into the է (a long e in Classical Armenian). This is how the suffix չէք (chek) developed, with the meaning of “payment” or “present.”

For example, the abovementioned michnortchek developed in Modern Armenian together with words like կարողչէք (garoghchek “sewer’s payment”), տանողչէք (danoghchek “carrier’s payment”) or շինողչէք (shinoghchek “builder’s payment”) among many other similar terms. You even have a word for a gift of New Year: Կաղանդչէք (Gaghantchek).

Of course, it may happen that you receive a check as Gaghantchek. In that case, you will go and deposit it. Otherwise, the banks have nothing to do with that… chek

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Dealing with In-Laws (2)


As we said in our last column, the English language deals in an easy way with relatives by the use of “in-law.” This indicates that some of the kinship terms common to Indo-European languages were lost over time, as in other sister languages too.

The Armenian language has a collection of terms for each “in-law” on both sides of the aisle. We previously discussed the in-laws for the case of fathers and mothers. Now we will deal with brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law:

Groom
Brother-in-law (wife’s brother): աներձագ (anertzak)
Brother-in-law (sister’s husband): քեռայր (kerayr)

Sister-in-law (wife’s sister): քենի (keni)
Sister-in-law (brother’s wife): հարս (hars).

Bride
Brother-in-law (husband’s brother): տագր (dakur)
Brother-in-law (sister’s husband): քեռայր (kerayr)
Sister-in-law (husband’s sister): տալ (dal)
Sister-in-law (brother's wife): հարս (hars)

As you will notice, some of these terms are repeated: the sister’s husband (kerayr) and the brother’s wife (hars) are identified in the same way on both sides. The word kerayr is a compound word: քեռ (ker) derives from քոյր (kooyr “sister”) and այր (ayr) means “husband.” On the other hand, hars is the word for “bride,” which probably indicates that the term for “sister-in-law” was lost in the mist of time.

While other terms like keni, dakur, and dal are specific root words, it is not the same for the groom’s brother-in-law. The word anertzak is compound (aner + tzak): it means “father-in-law’s child.”
We can also throw a couple of more terms in the mix:

a) Groom’s sister-in-law’s husband: քենեկալ (kenegal). Etymologically, it refers to the “sister-in-law’s holder” (keni + gal root of the verb galel “to hold”);
b) Bride’s brother-in-law’s (husband’s brother) wife: ներ (ner).

In the other cases, when you refer to the husband of a sister-in-law, you can use kerayr, and if it is the wife of a brother-in-law, then hars.

Of course, it is not as easy as “brother-in-law” and “sister-in-law,” but at least, when you want to refer to one of your in-laws, if you use the proper term, nobody will get confused about who you are talking about…

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Dealing with In-Laws (1)

The English language has a very easy way to deal with relatives: it uses “in-law.” You have father-in-law, mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and brother-in-law. This shows, in fact, that the language actually lost, over time, the kinship terms that were common to Indo-European languages.

Some of those languages are more conservative than others. Armenian, for instance, mostly maintained all those terms, with the exception of “nephew” and “niece,” where we need to make recourse to artificial words (եղբօրորդի/yeghporortee “brother’s son” and եղբօր աղջիկ/yeghpor aghcheeg “brother’s daughter”) to denote them.

What does Armenian do with the in-laws? It has a collection of terms specifically for each of them, and on both sides!

This time we will only deal with father-in-law and mother-in-law. It turns out that, unlike English, if you are the groom, you call your wife’s parents in a certain way, and if you are the bride, you call your husband’s parents in a different way:

Groom
Father in law: աներ (aner)
Mother-in-law: զոքանչ (zokanch).

Bride
Father-in-law: կեսրայր (gesrayr) or սկեսրայր (usgesrayr)
Mother-in-law: կեսուր (gesoor) or սկեսուր (usgesoor)

Besides mixing one side and the other, there are also mistakes in the use of each term. The most common is the wrong use of aner. We may hear people calling their father-in-law աներ հայր (aner hayr). Since aner means “bride’s father,” then aner hayr would be… “father of the bride’s father”! Even worse, you can hear people using աներ մայր (aner mayr), which is an indescribable cocktail: “mother of the bride’s father”!

The same superfluous use of hayr (“father”) and mayr (“mother”) appears when we go to the bride’s side. We may come across կեսուր հայր (gesoor hayr), which is a corruption of gesrayr, and it would mean “father of the mother-in-law,” and կեսուր մայր (gesoor mayr), where people end saying “mother of the bride’s mother.”

Once you clean up the mess, you will see that is very easy: instead of having one word to designate a father-in-law and one a mother-in-law, you have two. We should assume that you can manage learning four words instead of two, right?

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Watermelons in Winter?


In the East Coast, we may be used to having summer fruits during winter time. However, can you imagine that the Armenian Plateau would have watermelons in freezing periods? 
Actually, it did not. This is, nevertheless, something that the facts of language might suggest. 
Let’s start with the name of “winter” in Armenian: ձմեռ (tzumerr). This word has an Indo-European origin and shares it with many languages (for instance, Russian zima “winter”). It was attested from the fifth century A.D. onwards, and like several others, including մուկն (mookn “mouse”), ձուկն (tzookn “fish”), or ամառն (amarrn “summer”), it had a suffix –ն (n) at the end. Such words maintained this suffix in some derivative words like ձմեռնային (tzumerrnayin “winterly”), ձկնորսութիւն (tzugnorsootioon “fishing”), ամառնային (amarrnayin “relative to summer”), and others. On the other hand, a phonetic rule of Classical Armenian established words like tzumerr, amarr, and others, which had a strong r (ռ, like in English “curriculum”) in their roots, were declined with a soft r  (ր, like in English “chores”) and lost their suffix –n in the process. There were also derived words that went through the same rule. This is how we have, for instance, the words ձմերանոց (tzumeranots “winter place”) and ամարանոց (amaranots “summer place”), where the ռ has been replaced by րIn the same way, we have the Armenian word for “watermelon”: ձմերուկ (tzumeroog). Linguist Hrachia Ajarian, the author of a foremost five-volume etymological dictionary of the Armenian language, suggested that tzumeroog was derived from tzumerr (the suffix oog is a diminutive, like in the word արջուկ/archoog “little bear,” but there are also words formed with this suffix, without necessarily being diminutives; e.g. hեղուկ/heghoog “liquid”). 
How did this happen? Ajarian said the reason for the connection between winter and watermelon was unknown; he assumed that it was because of the refreshing liquid of the fruit, which the villagers may have felt like ice during the hot summers in the Armenian Plateau. Nevertheless, he brought a comparative example: Georgian has the word zamtari (“winter”), from which the word sazamtro (“watermelon”) is derived (the Georgian language forms its words, unlike Indo-European languages, with prefixes). 
Going back to the beginning of this conversation, Armenians did not enjoy watermelons in the winter, but the fruit brought some of the winter cold to their bodies. This was enough to give them the idea for the name.