Thursday, February 18, 2016

Of Assemblies and Spellings

The Greek word ekklesia (“assembly”) is the root of the word ecclesiastic in English and has become the word for “church” in a few Latin languages like French, Spanish, and Portuguese, as well as in Armenian: yegeghetsi (եկեղեցի).

The Greek word has its Armenian counterpart, joghov (ժողով “assembly, gathering; meeting”), and this is why the title of the Book of Ecclesiastes (Ekklesiastes means “Gatherer” in Greek) has been translated in Armenian as Kirk Joghovoghi (Գիրք Ժողովողի).

The word joghov, which is the source for joghovurt (ժողովուրդ “people”), has also been used by Evangelical Armenians to denominate their temples as joghovaran (ժողովարան), even though they have retained the word “church” in English.

If you wanted to gather people for any purpose, the verb to use would be joghvel (ժողվել), where popular use in Western Armenian has left aside the second o of the root joghov. Eastern Armenian uses the standard form joghovel (ժողովել).

The spelling of the verb joghvel, with վ instead of ու, represents an exception to the orthographic rule establishing that the sound v after a consonant and before a vowel is always spelled with the diphthong ու (u), which sounds v (e.g. arvesd – արուեստ “art”; badvel – պատուել “to honor”). This is why you cannot write joghuel (ժողուել), because the root of the word is joghov (ժողով) and not joghu (ժողու)!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Diplomats May Also Know about Couches

The English language has borrowed two words from Turkish within the meaning of “couch.” One is sofa, and the other, divan. Of course, neither of them is Turkish. The Turkic waves of invasion that flooded the Middle East from the 11th-15th centuries were composed by nomad peoples that, usually, did not sit down on sofas or divans, but adopted those objects and their names from Arabic (suffah and diwan).

The interesting point is that the origin of divan is Iranian. The Pahlavi word devan originally meant “archive,” and an archive included rolls of documents, bundles of written sheets, and collections of law, poetry, records, etcetera. The place where they were kept was also called devan, and the name also extended to the courts, where such records were also maintained. This is how the word went into Armenian as tivan (դիւան, pronounced divan in Classical Armenian), which meant “hall,” “court of justice,” “school,” and “archive,” in the Bible and among writers of the fifth century like Goriun and Movses Khorenatsi. The same word was also used, much later, with the meaning “collection of poems.”

The Armenian language did not content itself by borrowing tivan, but also created compound words like tivanabed (դիւանապետ “chief of the archive, chancellor”).

Now, Middle Eastern council chambers and courts had long cushioned seats along their walls, which by extension were called divan, and the word entered various languages (Russian, French, Spanish, and English) with that meaning. It also entered Armenian.

What is the relation between a diplomat and a couch? The fact is that the word “diplomacy” was translated into Armenian as tivanakidootioon (դիւանագիտութիւն), which literally means “science of the archives/office” (tivan = archive/office, kidootioon = science) and a diplomat, be it an ambassador, a consul or a chargé of affairs, is first of all a tivanaked (դիւանագէտ). As such, the word by definition shows him or her not only as knowledgeable on archives and offices, but also... on couches, particularly those called divan /դիւան...