Thursday, May 22, 2014

No Love Lost

In a previous entry (“Some Armenian Words That Sound (Almost) Like English... Or Not,” June 20, 2013), we spoke about some words, like English hair and Armenian her (հեր “hair”), which look very similar in their writing and synonymous in their meaning, but which actually have no direct relation.
Another interesting case is the couple formed by English hate and Armenian ad(el) (ատել “to hate,” from which adelootioon / ատելութիւն“hate, hatred”). It looks very enticing, especially when we recall that the letter տ sounded t in Classical Armenian (the same as in Eastern Armenian today).
Again, as the saying goes, one should not judge a book by its cover. Words most frequently change their appearance over time, even within the same language. They change even more when they pass from one language to another!
Thus, English hate comes from the reconstructed Proto-Germanic root *haton, from which cognates in various Germanic languages have derived. So far, everything is fine. But if you go further back, you will find that the initial h disappears when you find its ultimate origin:  another reconstructed root in the Proto-Indo-European language, *kad , which meant “sorrow, hatred” and originated similar words in several Indo-European historical languages, like Avestan (the language of the Iranian pre-Islamic sacred book), Greek, and Welsh.
Instead of a change in consonants, we find a change in vowels when we go to Armenian adel, whose present form in Classical Armenian was ateam (ատեամ “I hate”). It also has an Indo-European origin, but comes from another Proto-Indo-European root, *od, which meant “hate.”
In the end, then, both words have unrelated origins. But readers should be reminded that *od is actually the root of two English words: Old English atol (“dire, horrid”) and English odium (“hatred”). Granted, we do not use odium anymore, a word borrowed from Latin into English in the seventeenth century, but we still utilize odious (= Armenian adeli/ատելի), which had entered English from French a few centuries before.
As it should have been expected, there is no love lost between the odd couple hate and adel.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Write “Right” in the Right Way

You can say that something is right, accurate, or true in Armenian with the word ooghigh (ուղիղ).(*) You say ooghigh jampa (ուղիղ ճամբայ) “right road.” Note that when the word ooghigh becomes a compound word of any kind, the intermediate i is lost. This is why you have some words like:
ooghghagi (ուղղակի “direct”). Example: ooghghagi gab (ուղղակի կապ) “direct link."
ooghghel (ուղղել “to straighten; to direct”). Example: poghgabe ooghghel (փողկապը ուղղել) “to straighten the tie”; tebi harav ooghghel (դէպի հարաւ ուղղել) “to direct to the south.”
ooghghootioon (ուղղութիւն “direction”). Example: jisht ooghghootioon (ճիշդ ուղղութիւն) “accurate direction” (ooghigh ooghghootioon does not sound right...)
ooghghakrootioon (ուղղագրութիւն “orthography”). Example: hayereni ooghghakrootioon (հայերէնի ուղղագրութիւն) “Armenian orthography”
Now, there is a word that makes trouble, ooghi (ուղի) “road,” which is a synonym of jampa and janabarh. Many usual words are derived from ooghi and are all related to the notion of “road” or “travel,” such as:
ooghargel (ուղարկել “to send”)
hooghargavorootioon (յուղարկաւորութիւն “gravesite service,” when you send the soul of the deceased to its final rest)
ooghevorootioon (ուղեւորութիւն “travel”)
yergatooghi (երկաթուղի “railway”)
Many people tend to confuse ooghi with ooghigh, perhaps due to the closeness of meanings between “direction” and “travel,” and to write, for instance, ooghargel with two gh (ուղղարկել), which is plainly wrong. How do you avoid common spelling mistakes of this kind?
Memo to yourself: if you write any Armenian word related to the English concept of right, whether the root is Anglo-Saxon (“straight”), Latin (“direct”) or Greek (“ortho”), you are dealing with ooghigh (ուղիղ). If you remember that, you will always be using two gh-s and you will always be... right.

(*) Ooghigh, of unknown origin, entered the Armenian language in the fifth century. Its synonym shidag (շիտակ), of equally unknown origin, appeared in the Low Middle Ages. Although both are utilized interchangeably, shidag has a more colloquial use and cannot be always used as a full synonym of ooghigh.