Thursday, March 27, 2014

Sometimes We Do Not Need to Invent Words

We all know that there are differences between colloquial and written language. Some things are more or less tolerable when speaking, but not when writing.
The problem with improper words, rather than their use in a conversation, is that their inaccurate usage may pass for accurate and become part of regular speech. We have already discussed the case of various words of Turkish/Arabic origin commonly used in conversation, which are “believed” to be Armenian. This time, we will discuss a parasite use of an Armenian suffix, -ութիւն (-ootioon).
This suffix is commonly used to make a noun out of an adjective, as in angakh (անկախ, “independent”) / angakhootioon (անկախութիւն, “independence”), or a new noun from another noun, as in kir (գիր, “letter”) / krootioon (գրութիւն, “writing”). But sometimes, people tend to overkill their knowledge, especially those who are fluent in the Armenian language. This is how we come across the use of ootioon to create useless and wrong nouns, because they actually mean the same as the original. For instance, we hear people saying:
  • Ես ջուրի պէտքութիւն ունիմ (Yes choori bedkootioon oonim, “I need water”)
  • Այդ խօսքերը նախանձութեան արդիւնք են (Ayt khoskere nakhantsootian artioonk en, “Those words are the result of envy”
  • Մենք հիւրութեան գացինք (Menk hioorootian katsink, “We went as guests”).
The abovementioned sentences would be perfectly right if the words bedk (պէտք “need”), nakhants (նախանձ “envy”), and hioor (հիւր “guest”) were used, instead of the words bedkootioon, nakhantsootioon, and hioorootioon, which simply do not exist in Armenian.
If you avoid the use of these and other artificial words finished in ootioon that have no right to exist (if you are in doubt, open a reliable dictionary), at least you will give one less reason to those who are fond to say that Armenian words are too long. We do not need to pile up by inventing words.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

An Old Ship that Looks to the Stars

Both English terms that designate vessels, boat and ship, have Germanic origin, and both are possibly from old Indo-European roots. The same happens with a third term that does not designate a vessel, but is sea-related: navy. While navy comes from Old French navie (“fleet”), the ultimate origin of this word is navis (“ship”). This Latin word is also behind other English words, like naval or navigate, while the Greek naus (“ship”) is behind the English word nautical.

More importantly, Latin navis and Greek naus belong to a widespread family of Indo-European sister words (the term is also present in Sanskrit and Iranian languages, among others) that include the Armenian word նաւ (nav) “ship.” The ultimate source for all of them is a word that theoretically existed at the time when a single Indo-European (also called Proto-Indo-European) language existed. That word has been reconstructed as *nau “ship” (the asterisk symbolizes that the word does not exist in any written text, but it is only a reconstruction).

Historically, Armenia did not have seashores (except on the Caspian Sea and, during the Armenian kingdom of Cilicia, on the Mediterranean Sea), and Armenians were not great seafarers—even though they traveled quite a lot over the seven seas from ancient times. But the Armenian language had a wide collection of words related to nav since the fifth century. We will mention just three of the many words from that time that are commonly used today:

նաւակ (navag): “small boat”
նաւորդ (navort): “navigator” (there you have a possible way to say “GPS” in Armenian)
նաւահանգիստ (navahankisd): “port”

Therefore, all sea-related English words starting with nav- or naut- are actually related to their Armenian distant cousin nav. And even if one day you prefer to go to the stars instead of the sea, remember that an astronaut is called... աստղանաւորդ (asdghanavort) in Armenian.