Thursday, October 27, 2016

Do Not Invent Words That Do Not Exist

Life is far from having a straight course. There are curves, shortcuts, reversals. Looking from outside, they are irregularities and exceptions to what one may consider rules.
Language is part of life. Therefore, it also has irregularities and exception to the rule (the rules of language, indeed) all the way.
One of those irregularities is the verb to fall, as any English speaker knows. The present is fall, the past tense is fell, and the participle is fallen.
“To fall” is also irregular in Armenian. The verb is eehnal (իյնալ) in Armenian, but the past tense loses the յ and acquires a g (կ). Thus, we have Yes eenga (Ես ինկայ, “I fell”) or Anonk eengan (Անոնք ինկան, “They fell”). Unlike English, the past participle remains in the same form: eengadz (ինկած, “fallen”).
A fake irregularity has been created in the colloquial language. For instance, in the case of the verb nusdeel (նստիլ, “to sit”), if we want to have someone sit down before the performance starts, we have to nusdetsenel that particular person (նստեցնել, “to make someone sit down”). It is a perfectly legitimate word, as it is in the case of the pairs vazel/vazetsunel (վազել/վազեցնել, “to run/to make run”), antsneel/antsunel (անցնիլ/անցընել, “to pass/to make pass”), and several others.
However, there is a false parity, which we find here and there in spoken language, particularly among Middle Eastern speakers of Armenian. It is the case of the ghost word eengatsunel (ինկացնել). For instance, you may hear someone who says:
Ան զիս ինկացուց/An zees eengatsoots/ “He(she) made me fall”
The verb eengatsunel, unlike vazetsunel or antsunel, does not exist in Armenian.
How do you properly say the abovementioned sentence?
If you want the short answer, you have Ան զիս տապալեց/An zees dabalets.
Too fancy? Then you have the long answer: Գետին ինկայ իր պատճառով/ Kedeen eenga eer badjarov / “I fell to the floor by his(her) cause.”
However, the questions may remain: Why eengatsunel does not exist?
There is no “why.” Sometimes, language, like life, has its own reasons

Thursday, October 13, 2016

You Drink the Same Wine in English and in Armenian

After Noah’s Ark rested “upon the mountains of Ararat” (Genesis 8:4) and the covenant was established between God and Noah, we are told, “Then Noah began farming and planted a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk, and uncovered himself inside his tent” (Genesis 9:20-21). Since the Bible says nothing about Noah moving out of the territory around the mountains of Ararat, we may assume that he planted the vineyard and produced the first Armenian wine there.

Thus, wine is at least as old as Noah. If such is the case, then the Armenian word for wine, kini (գինի) is equally old. Moreover, we have to add that Armenian kini and Englishwine are cousins.

The word wine has comparable words in many Germanic languages. Thus, its origin has been traced back to a common Proto-Germanic root, which at its turn acquired it from Latin vinum (“wine”). The latter, the same as Greek oinos, was derived from a Proto-Indo-European (PIE) word, *woin-o. Now, it is a matter of debate whether this root comes from another PIE root, *wei (“rotate, twirl”), or was derived from a Mediterranean unknown language. Semitic languages such as Hebrew, Arabic, and Ethiopic also have words very similar to PIE *woin-o, which perhaps was also their ultimate source.
What about the Armenian word? Let’s start with the following tweak: kini is, of course, the Western Armenian pronunciation of գինի, while the actual pronunciation in the fifth century A.D. and before was gini

Linguists have found out that the PIE sound ¬*w  yielded g (գ) in Armenian. For instance, PIE *wel (“to see”) gave the Armenian word geł / Western Armenian kegh (գեղ “beauty”), which is no longer used alone in Modern Armenian. Instead, we have keghetsgootioon(գեղեցկութիւն “beauty”) and keghetseeg (գեղեցիկ “beautiful”), among many other words with kegh.

In the same way, PIE *woin-o became Armenian gini. You should not be surprised: the Latin word vinum entered the Welsh language and became… gwin

Remember: when it comes to languages and their relationship, 2 + 2 is not always 4.