Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Two Other Ways to Say “New Year” in Armenian

1. Amanor

As anyone knows, “new year” is nor dari (նոր տարի) in Armenian, and of course, New Year = Nor Dari (Նոր Տարի). But, unlike English, the Armenian language has a second, much older and “fancy” way to name the first day of the forthcoming year as Amanor (Ամանոր).

Someone may suppose that this word is related to aman (աման) “vessel” and nor (նոր) “new,” and that it designated a custom of replacing the old china on New Year. Besides the fact that such a pricey custom did not exist among Armenians, this would go against language rules. In that case, the word would be amananor or amannor, which has never existed.

They would be partly right, however: the second part of Amanor is nor “new.” 

What about the first? This is the Classical Armenian (Krapar) word am (ամ “year”), derived from the Proto-Indo-European word *sama. The word am does not exist alone in Modern Armenian, but it appears in compound words. Besides Amanor, how do you say, for instance, “decade” in Armenian? Dasn-am-eag (տասն-ամ-եակ). What about “biennial” or “that happens every two years”? Yerg-am-ea (երկամեայ).

In the same way that Latin annus lives in English annual, Krapar am lives in Modern Armenian amenamea (ամենամեայ). Don’t put aside Latin and Krapar!

2. Gaghant

Did you know that Armenian Gaghant (Կաղանդ) and the English word calendar are related? 

English calendar comes from Old French, and then from Latin calendarium (“account book”), which has its origin in calendae (“the first day of the month”).

This Latin word was also the source for the Greek word khalándai, which actually took a different meaning, “new year.” The word and the meaning went into Classical Armenian as gaghant(kaghant, in Classical Armenian pronunciation). Most interestingly, the word was only inherited by Western Armenian. 

The familiar figure of Gaghant Baba (Կաղանդ Պապա), incidentally, is only known to Western Armenians too; Eastern Armenians know him as Tsemer Babig (Ձմեռ Պապիկ, “Grandfather Winter”). Gaghant Baba appears to be the Armenian version of French Père Noël ("Father Christmas"), but unlike his French colleague, the name is unrelated to Christmas, because it means “Father New Year.” Since Père Noël and Santa Claus bring presents on Christmas, perhaps this is why many people mistakenly think that Gaghant is a synonym of Dzenunt(Ծնունդ, “Christmas”), which is a mistake. Gaghant Baba has a different timing: he actually comes to Armenian children in the wee hours of New Year. By the way, if people tell you that they are coming for a visit on Gaghant, be aware: this means January 1.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

New Armenian Words Not in Your Dictionary

1) PasswordAny person with some reasonable knowledge of the Armenian language may invent a word, especially compound words. The old “watchword,” related to military issues, has found its equivalent in the twenty-first century as “password.” How should we say it in Armenian?If you get into the business of literal translation, you may put together ants-nil (անցնիլ) “to pass” and par (բառ) “word” to obtain antsapar “password.” However, there is not always the need to translate literally. A password is a secret (encrypted) word or text used to “pass” the obstacle; for instance, to enter a computer. People came up with a better solution that has become most used: kaghdnapar (գաղտնաբառ). This word combines kaghdni (գաղտնի “secret”) and par, the same as we have kaghdnakir (գաղտնագիր) to say...  “cryptogram.”

2) Upload and downloadAnyone may get a load of something or, otherwise, load something (for instance, on a vehicle). The Armenian word for “load” is perr (բեռ) and the verb, perrtsnel (բեռցնել). How do you deal with “upload” and “download” in Armenian?

You may hear, here and there, partzratsnel (բարձրացնել) and ichetsnel (իջեցնել). However, these words are standard Armenian for “to raise” and “to lower.” They give the “up” and “down” idea of the English term, but not the concept of “loading.” Since “to load” has a clear meaning of putting up something, but not putting down, you cannot use perrtsnel either.

Someone went to the roots and found the solution: to turn perr (“load”) into a new verb, perrnel, to give the idea of putting up something. The new verb perrnel (բեռնել) became the Armenian word for “upload,” and, combined with the prefix ner (ներ), which means “under, intro, down,” helped create the Armenian word for “download”: nerpernel (ներբեռնել).

3) AudiobookThe world of books has gone through unprecedented transformation in the past ten years. Readers of paper books are now sharing their world with other media, like e-books and audiobooks.

We do not have many audiobooks in Armenian yet, but what do we call the ones we have?The problem is with “audio.” As the reader knows, the word is related to hearing. The immediate answer would be something related to lsel (լսել “to hear”). Since we have lsaran (լսարան “audience”), Why not lsakirk (լսագիրք), with l(i)s “audio” and kirk “book”?

Again, it is a matter of being creative. More than hearing, an audiobook is about the voice (tzayn) as the means to transmit the information. Doesn’t tzaynakirk (ձայնագիրք) sound better? We already have tzaynakrutiun (ձայնագրութիւն) for “audio recording.” Let’s continue the word family.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Tricky Verbs and a Little Headache

We have frequently compared the Armenian and English languages in this column to look for similar features. This time, we will look for a dissimilar feature.

English verbs do not have endings in their infinitive forms: “to run,” “to think,” “to go.” This is not the case in other languages, such as Latin languages (Spanish, French, or Italian, among others) or Armenian, where those verbs are vazel (վազել), khorhil (խորհիլ), yertal (երթալ). Modern Armenian has three infinitive endings (el, il, al).(*)

In those three examples there is a root and an ending: vaz-elkhorh-ilyert-al. Sometimes, the roots have a certain meaning by themselves, which makes it easier to understand the meaning. For instance, the root yert (երթ) is a noun that indicates movement and means “march.”

Some verbs create a problem when we go from colloquial to written language. People tend to use different endings in their speech, which actually are the wrong ones. These troublesome verbs belong to the endings el and il, which are used as if they ended in al. The problem is compounded when those wrong colloquial forms become wrong written forms.

Many readers will probably recognize themselves in one or other of the following verbs, which are frequently misspoken and then miswritten. Rest assured that you will not lose anything by learning the accurate way to use them.


to findkdnal (գտնալ)
Yes ge kdnem
(Ես կը գտնեմ)
I findYes ge kdnam
(Ես կը գտնամ)
yellel (ելլել)to come outyellal (ելլալ)
Tun g’elles
(Դուն կ՚ելլես)
come out
Tun g’ellas
(Դուն կ՚ելլաս)
ichnel(իջնել)to go downichnal (իջնալ)An g’ichne
(Ան կ՚իջնէ)
goes down
An g’ichna
(Ան կ՚իջնայ)
mdnel(մտնել)to entermdnal (մտնալ)Menk ge mdnenk
(Մենք կը մտնենք)
We enter

Menk ge mdnank
(Մենք կը մտնանք)
desnel(տեսնել)to seedesnal (տեսնալ)
Tuk ge desnek
(Դուք կը տեսնէք)
You seeTuk ge desnak
(Դուք կը տեսնաք)
hedznel(հեծնել)to mounthedznal(հեծնալ)
Anonk ge hedznen
(Անոնք կը հեծնեն) 
They mount
Anonk ge hedznan
(Անոնք կը հեծնան)
yerevil(երեւիլ)to appearyereval (երեւալ)Yes g’erevim
(Ես կ՚երեւիմ)
I appear
Yes g’erevam
(Ես կ՚երեւամ)
 tvil (թուիլ)to appeartval (թուալ)
Tun ge tvis
(Դուն կը թուիս)
You seem
Tun ge tvas
(Դուն կը թուաս)
jbdil(ժպտիլ)to smilejbdal (ժպտալ)
An ge jbdi
(Ան կը ժպտի)
He/she smiles
Ան ge jbda
(Ան կը ժպտայ)

(*) There is a fourth ending ul that is used in extremely few cases.