Thursday, October 11, 2018

Սմբուկին առեղծուածները

Սմբուկը եւ լոլիկը այն երկու բանջարեղէններն են (թէեւ ըստ էութեան, առաջինը պտուղ մըն է), որոնց օտար անունները՝ պատընճան եւ թոմաթես, լայնօրէն տարածուած են խօսակցական արեւմտահայերէնին մէջ։ Հարկաւ, այս հաստատումը կը վերաբերի այն անձերուն, որոնք ըստ երեւոյթին դպրոցական բաւականաչափ ուսում չեն ունեցած՝ բառերուն բուն հայերէն ձեւերը սորվելու, եւ կամ դժուարութիւն ունին վերջիններս տեղին կերպով օգտագործելու։

Մեծանուն լեզուաբան Հրաչեայ Աճառեանը իր «Հայերէն արմատական բառարան»ին մէջ «սմբուկ» բառի մասին արդարացիօրէն նշած է, որ պէտք է օտար ծագում ունենայ, քանի որ Հայաստանի համար «օտար եւ նորամուտ բերք» էր։ Սմբուկին ակունքները արեւելեան եւ հարաւային Ասիոյ մէջ են, ուրկէ 8-րդ դարուն արաբներու միջոցաւ հասած է Սպանիա։ Անկարելի չէ, ուրեմն, որ արաբներն ալ մուծած ըլլան Հայաստան, թերեւս Սպանիայէն դար մը առաջ։

Աճառեան ենթադրած է, որ մեր բառին աղբիւրը դասական արաբերէն anab բառն է, որ կը նշանակէ «սմբուկ»։ Այս բառը տուած կ՚ըլլայ հայերէն ամբուկ բառը, որ յետոյ շփոթի հետեւանքով (ա գիրը շփոթուած է ս-ի հետ) դարձած է սմբուկ, ինչպէս որ նման շփոթ մը շերաս բառէն ծնունդ տուած է շերամ բառին։

Հետաքրքրական է նշել, որ արաբերէն al-badinjan անունին (որ բխած է պարսկերէն bâdenjân-էն, իսկ վերջինիս աղբիւրը սանսկրիտն է) al-barangan տարբերակը մտած է Սպանիա խօսուող կատալաներէնին մէջ albergínia ձեւով։ Այս բառը դարձած է ֆրանսերէնի aubergine բառը, որ մինչեւ այսօր նաեւ կը գործածուի Մեծն Բրիտանիոյ անգլերէնին մէջ՝ փոխանակ ամերիկեան eggplant ձեւին, որ ԺԸ. դարուն ծնունդ առած է՝ սմբուկին մէկ տարբերակը սագի հաւկիթներու նմանցնելու հետեւանքով։

Արեւելահայերէնի մէջ, սմբուկը, լոլիկին պէս (որ պոմիդոր կոչուած է՝ ռուսերէնի միջնորդութեամբ իտալերէնէ բխած բառ մը), երկար ժամանակ կոչուած է բադրիջան օտար բառով, որ թրքերէնէ եկած է՝ գաւառաբարբառներու միջոցաւ։ Սակայն, վերջին 20-30 տարիներուն, այս երկու բառերուն հայերէն ձեւերը սկսած են աւելի տարածում ու գործածութիւն ունենալ Հայաստանի առօրեայ կեանքին մէջ։ Առցանց փնտռտուք մը ցոյց կու տայ, որ «սմբուկ» բառը յիշուած է շուրջ 75.000 անգամ, իսկ «բադրիջան»ը՝ շուրջ 11.000։

The Mysteries of the Eggplant

We are all familiar with eggplants, but not so much with the fact that their name actually has something to do with eggs. The word “eggplant” was born in the eighteenth century from the association with goose eggs.

However, that’s American English. In British English, the word “aubergine” is used, which, of course, sounds French. The exact same French word (aubergine) actually came from Catalan, which designates the eggplant with the word albergínia. As a matter of fact, most Spanish and Catalan cultural words starting with al-, like Spanish alcohol, algodón (cotton), almohada (pillow), or albaricoque (apricot), show their Arabic origin (the al particle being the English “the”). Not to be surprised then, that albergínia comes from Arabic al-barangan, one of the many variants of the standard form al-badinjan.

As it happened with many Near Eastern or Eastern Asian cultural items, Arabs happened to be their carriers from East to West. This is how the word al-badinjan, together with the eggplant, was derived from Farsi badenjân-էն, which at its turn came from Sanskrit, the ancient Indian language.

Now, if you are a standard Western Armenian speaker, especially, but not only from the Middle East, you will find yourself in familiar territory. You will say that the Arabic and the “Armenian” words for eggplant are the same: պատընճան (badunjan). Unfortunately, this is only a fact in your imagination. That’s why “Armenian” appears in quotation marks. The fact that the abovementioned word is used in colloquial language does not make it more Armenian that the Turkish word daha, also commonly used in oral language instead of the Armenian word տակաւին (dagaveen “still”).

The renowned linguist Hrachia Ajarian noted in his Armenian etymological dictionary that the word for eggplant should have a foreign origin like the plant. One may assume that, like in the Spanish case, Arabs also introduced eggplants to Armenia, perhaps even before.  

Now, the Armenian designation for eggplant is սմբուկ (sumpoog). Ajarian’s hypothesis was that its source was the Classical Arabic word anab, which means “eggplant.” The word may have entered Armenian as amboog. Later, an unknown copyist of a manuscript confused the ա (a) with a ս (s), and a word was born: sumpoog.

In the end, if you still doubt about adopting the actual Armenian word, perhaps you will be convinced by the law of less effort: badunjan has three syllables, while sumpoog has two.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Of Trust and Confidence

As it happens with so many words, the belief or reliance on the veracity, integrity, good will, or other virtues of someone has two different terms in English. Both of them are Indo-European in origin. One of them has Germanic roots. “Trust” comes from Old Norse traust, which derives from Proto-Germanic *traustam < * treuwaz, which in the end has its source in the Proto-Indo-European (P.I.E.) root *deru “be firm, solid, steadfast.”

The other word, “confidence,” has Latin origin. It comes either from Old French confidence or directly from Latin confidentia, which in the end is a compound word: com is probably an intensive prefix—namely, a word that gives more emphasis—and fidere means “to trust.” The source of fidere is one of those P.I.E. roots that do not look at all like their descendent to the untrained eye: *bheidh “to trust, confide, persuade.” Let’s not forget, however, that there are more than a couple of thousand years between the Latin word and the putative P.I.E. root. (To be remembered: the words with an asterisk are not directly attested, but it is supposed that they have existed on the basis of comparative evidence.)

Of course, since the concept is one, there is one Armenian word for both English terms: վստահութիւն (vustahootyoon). Armenian, like French or Spanish do at times, combines an adjective with a suffix to yield the corresponding noun. Here, վստահ (vustah  “sure; reliable; daring”) comes into play with the suffix – ութիւն (ootyoon) . If you want the verb, you just need to put together vustah and the desinence –իլ (il) to obtain վստահիլ (“to trust”).

Do not be surprised: vustah is attested in Classical Armenian and has Iranian origin. It is derived from Pahlavi (the Iranian dialect spoken by the Parthians, from which the Arshakuni family came) vistaxv “sure, reliable, daring; insolent.” Of course, someone who is daring may become insolent in the absence of self-control. But the Armenian language borrowed the word vustah without keeping that meaning. When you are vusdah, you are basically sure or confident about something, or you trust someone.

Of course, in God we trust. However, there are people around you who also deserve your trust. It is a good virtue to practice vustahootyoon.     

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Old Words that Took a New Life

From the sixth century B.C. to the beginning of the nineteenth century, Armenia was under Iranian domination for lengthy periods of its history. The kingdom of Armenia even had a dynasty of Iranian origin, the Arshakuni or Arsacids, for almost four centuries (I-V centuries A.D.). Therefore, it is not casual that Armenian vocabulary conserved many words of Iranian origin from different periods of its history, both in written and colloquial language.

Some of those words reached our times and took new meanings. One such case is that of the word նախարար (nakharar). During ancient and medieval times, it designated a hereditary title of highest rank given to members of the nobility. Its source was an Iranian term, nāfaδāra, meaning “chief or head of the clan.” The Iranian f would give h in Armenian, and thus, the Armenian term should have been նահարար (naharar). However, sometimes people think of words as having a different meaning than the one existing in dictionaries or established knowledge. Sometimes, that different meaning imposes itself. The word naharar was confused with nakharar and thought to have the meaning of “first of assets or properties.” This happened because the word nakh, another loan from an Iranian source, means “first, original.” In the end, nakharar imposed itself.

The interesting point is that nakharar took a new life in modern times, when Armenian nobility had disappeared. It adopted the meaning “minister,” as in տնտեսութեան նախարար (dundesootian nakharar “minister of Economy”). However, this meaning was disputed in Eastern Armenian, where the loanword from Russian մինիստր (ministr) was used until the end of the Soviet Union. After the new independence of Armenia, nakharar displaced the foreign word and now it is used everywhere in Armenia. This also includes the word նախարարութիւն (nakhararootioon), which was մինիստրութիւն (ministrootioon) in the past.

The word nakh is frequently used in Armenian for many compound words, like նախագահ (nakhakah), which literally means “first seat” or “first throne.” This word also comes from Classical Armenian and in modern times it took a new meaning: “president.” It also became the basis for the verb նախագահել (nakhakahel “to preside”), which does not necessarily mean to have the functions of a president. However, the meaning of the word was again disputed in Eastern Armenian, which adopted the loanword պրեզիդենտ (prezident) from Russian. [1] Like nakharar, also nakhakah made a came back after the end of the Soviet Union, and since 1991 we have had several nakhakah in the newly-independent Republic of Armenia.

[1] Much of Russian specialized vocabulary derives from Western European languages, especially French, and that’s why you see words like minister or president with a look very similar to the English word.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

When Being Free Becomes Risky

English has two words for the same concept, “freedom” and “liberty,” the former coming from Old English and the other from French. Armenian has only one, ազատութիւն (azadootioon), which has Iranian origin. Indeed, the adjective “free” is ազատ (azad), and when you hear or say “Free Armenia,” with “free” used as an adjective, that is ազատ Հայաստան (azad Hayasdan).

As any speaker of English knows, there is another use for “free,” which entered the language in the sixteenth century from the notion of “free of cost,” that is, not requiring an expense. The sweet sound of being told that something is free of charge does not probably get lost on anyone.

Of course, this meaning of “free” has nothing to do with freedom or liberty. You do not say that you enjoy freedom of charge, do you? This should give a hint to avoid falling into the abyss of funny translations.

If we go to a lecture and we do not have to pay for attending it, the advertisement will probably say that it is “free of charge.” The Armenian translation for that is մուտքը ազատ է (moodkuh azad eh), which means “access is free.” As you see, we do not use a literal translation like վճարումէ ազատ է (vujaroomeh azad eh), which does not exist in real life.

The adverb “gratis,” another word for this meaning of “free,” is much less used indeed. However, its Armenian translation, the adverb and adjective ձրի (tzuri), is very common. We use it any time that we do not have to pay for something or we do something without expecting a payment. We also use it to say that we did something for no reason.

Other than that, if they ask you when you are available to go out for dinner, think twice before saying “I am free on Friday” as « Ուրբաթ գիշեր ձրի եմ » (Oorpat kisher tzuri em) . To the casual listener, you might be implying that you do not charge on that day.

Since you actually wanted to say that you do not have any other engagements on that day, then the real answer should be « Ուրբաթ գիշեր ազատ եմ » (Oorpat kisher azad em).

Otherwise, get ready for a Homeric laughter (you may want to read the Iliad or the Odyssey to find out why it is called “Homeric”).

Thursday, August 9, 2018

How Do We Take Neither Side?

When something does not grammatically belong either to the masculine or the feminine gender, we say that it is of the neuter gender. The word “neuter” is a compound word derived from two Proto-Indo-European roots, ne (“not”) and uter (“either of two”). From this adjective we have the more commonly used “neutral,” meaning “taking neither side.”

Now, it is not unusual that the English word is composed of two roots. It is more unusual to find out that its Armenian counterpart is composed by five roots, especially because it has… five letters.

The word in question is չէզոք (chezok) “neutral.” This is one of those words that even some readers who do not know Armenian may identify. Twentieth-century Armenian politics and its interminable quarrels brought forward the concept of the chezok, namely, those community members who did not identify themselves with any political party or ideology, and took pride in being equidistant from all sides.

Whether you have known it or not so far, the word is quite common and covers everything you can imagine when thinking of the concept of “neutral” and its derivations.

Where does chezok come from?

Of course, from Classical Armenian, as the ending – k might indicate. The ք (k) was a plural ending that still survives in many modern words. For instance, we have գիր /kir “letter,” and the plural գիրք /kirk “letters,” which also generated the word kirk “book” (a plurality of letters).  

Here, we have the word ոք (vok, pronounced ok in Classical Armenian), meaning “one, a person,” which is still used in Modern Armenian when we say ոչ ոք (voch vok), meaning “nobody.” The root is the indefinite pronoun ո (vo). The word vok is preceded by the preposition զ (z), which was attached to words in the genitive declension and is still used in Modern Armenian (e.g the personal pronoun զիս /zis “me , from z + is ).

The letter չ (ch) is, indeed, the negative particle, and the է (e) is the third person, singular, of the verb “to be,” namely, չէ (che), means “is not.”

As a result, chezok literally meant, in an approximate translation, “not anyone.” The word probably appeared in the sixth century, the period called of the Hellenistic School, as a translation of Greek oudeteros (“neither, neuter”) and, of course, Latin neuter.

You have to appreciate the ingenuity of the translators by putting together five meaningful roots and come up with a short word. Perhaps you will also give a different value to the idea of taking neither side… in Armenian.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Sometimes It Is Not a Line

You traced a line.

You have a call on the first line.

You read between the lines.

You are waiting on a line.

You happen to know a little Armenian word that means “line”: գիծ (keedz). If you have enough vocabulary, you may also know that the verb “to line,” գծել (kudzel), comes from the same source.

Your issue is solved (or so you think):
  1. “I traced a line”: Գիծ մը քաշեցի (Keedz muh kashetsee)
  2. “I have a call on the first line”: Զանգ մը ունիմ առաջին գիծէն (Zank muh oonim aracheen keedzen)
  3. “I read between the lines”: Գիծերու միջեւ կը կարդամ/կարդացի (Keedzeroo michev guh gartam/gartatsee)
  4. “I am waiting on a line”: Գիծի կը սպասեմ (Keedzee guh usbasem)

The first two are correct, because keedz in Armenian is used both with the meaning of “a succession of points” and “telephone line.”

The last two are wrong. You may use “line” with all those meanings, but it does not mean that other languages, Armenian included, only use one word for all those meanings. (In the same way, other languages, Armenian included, use one word for several meanings, and English has several words instead.)

If you bother to open a dictionary, you will find that “line” does not only mean keedz. If you are talking about the lines in a notebook, or the lines in a poem, or the figurative expression “to read between the lines,” then you should be thinking of տող (dogh).

Equally important: when you go to wait on a line, you are not waiting on a keedz. You are actually lined up on a row. Therefore, that is a շարք (shark).

If you do not want to look like you translate when you talk, then remember:
  1. “I read between the lines”: Տողերու միջեւ կը կարդամ/կարդացի (Dogheroo michev guh gartam/gartatsee)
  2. “I am waiting on a line”: Շարքի կը սպասեմ (Sharki guh sbasem)