The Hidden Language of Civilization (Part I of III)

Lia Avetissian

By Lia A. Avetissian, Yerevan, November 2012

Yerevan-based Lia A. Avetissian is a linguist, author, Armenologist, translator, and an investigative journalist. A graduate of the Faculty of Oriental Studies at the Yerevan University, Ms. Avetissian will publish her next book–"These Incredible Armenians"–in 2013.

Armenians are huge lovers of bread. “Bread” in Armenian is հաց (“hats”). For that reason “to eat” sounds in Armenian “հաց Lia Avetissianուտել” (“to eat bread”). And this is applied even to a new-born baby, who is still feeding on mother’s breast.

When a husband returns home with his friends and randomly throws the line to his wife: «հաց դիր» (“hats dir” which means “put on bread”), it does not mean that soon there will be only bread on the table; there will also appear cheese, herbs, various snacks and salads.

Even the word “hunger strike” is translated into Armenian as “refusal of bread”, հացադուլ (“hatsadul”). If we try to translate the Armenian word հոգեհաց “hogehats”, (“funeral repast” in English) we will still have the meaning of “bread in the name of the soul of the departed”.

By Lia A. Avetissian, Yerevan, November 2012

Yerevan-based Lia A. Avetissian is a linguist, author, Armenologist, translator, and an investigative journalist. A graduate of the Faculty of Oriental Studies at the Yerevan University, Ms. Avetissian will publish her next book–"These Incredible Armenians"–in 2013.

Armenians are huge lovers of bread. “Bread” in Armenian is հաց (“hats”). For that reason “to eat” sounds in Armenian “հաց Lia Avetissianուտել” (“to eat bread”). And this is applied even to a new-born baby, who is still feeding on mother’s breast.

When a husband returns home with his friends and randomly throws the line to his wife: «հաց դիր» (“hats dir” which means “put on bread”), it does not mean that soon there will be only bread on the table; there will also appear cheese, herbs, various snacks and salads.

Even the word “hunger strike” is translated into Armenian as “refusal of bread”, հացադուլ (“hatsadul”). If we try to translate the Armenian word հոգեհաց “hogehats”, (“funeral repast” in English) we will still have the meaning of “bread in the name of the soul of the departed”.

In brief, bread is the basis not only of Armenian cuisine, but also of human relations. Armenians even swear on their honor, putting their hands on bread and saying: “Let’s take this sacred bread as my solemn witness” (էս սուրբ հացը՝ վկայ). In fact, the heroes of the Armenian epic story about the odd and stubborn characters of Sassoon (“Սասնայ ծռեր”), used to swear on their honor by mentioning bread and wine, just like Jesus did much later on.

The dual important role of bread in Armenian life is expressed in the language and in all its dialects. And the role of dialects is not less important. Before the Genocide of 1915, there were more than 60 spoken Armenian dialects. If you cross the zone of application of one dialect, then know for sure that you will find specific ways of cooking national dishes there, with different selections of herbs, grains, spices and other ingredients. However, you will also notice in no time the same specifics in the design of carpets, clothing and household items, wedding ceremonies and glorifications, which are also reflected in the uniqueness of the terminology.  

That is why linguists, who try to conduct their studies by abstracting off the material culture and the intangible heritage of the nation in question, are destined to make false conclusions. This very error occurred with the “Kypchak language”, which was the spoken Armenian dialect in the Crimea that included many Turkish words. After the exodus of the Armenians according to the behest of Catherine the Great in the 18th century, many Armenian town-council books and other documents that were written in the Armenian alphabet by native Armenian speakers were left behind, in the Crimea. After nearly 130 years, during the Soviet era, these were “recognized” by some ignorant linguist-classifiers as being written in a separate Turkic “Kypchak” language – clearly a false conclusion.

Judging by the short word “hats” (հաց), it can be understood that bread is one of the oldest components of the Armenian menu. After all, like any human child, nascent humanity was getting used to speech, starting with one-syllable words. The older a nation is the more monosyllabic words it has in its language. Of course, with the development of science and technology, the words become coated with very long structures. However, the richer and more inclusive the original vocabulary is filled with short words, the more organic is the language for the native speakers.

Also, the temporal and genetic relationship among those who used to speak that language in the past and the ones who continue now to speak the language is stronger. And, when we consider the existence of short words in the terminology of different fields, we can see that the language is actually supporting its own nation, at the time of its entry into the historical arena, with the already familiar baggage of skills and knowledge.

If you try to reveal a compound word, as if it was packaging, and if you find two or three short roots with a meaning inside, you can then be sure that the knowledge associated with them was available to your forefathers long ago, perhaps, long before it was presented by the most imperfect of all sciences – linguistics.

Let’s look at the word "theory", which was once written in Armenian almost in the same way "te / or / ea", թէ/որ/էա, but literally meant "if (in fact, it) exists." It seems like there is no better and clearer way to define the actual essence of the concept of "theory". However, in the 20th century, the word was re-translated from the ancient Greek, where it was interpreted as "I observe". And here, we obtained the ridiculous word "tesutyun" (տեսութիւն) in the Armenian newspeak.  Although, mere observations for the creation of a theory are not enough; the ability to organize a system is needed here, which should be supported by the eternal questions: "Are my conclusions correct?” or "Does that element of a system really exist?". 

By the way, the word "theorem" in Armenian is almost synonymous, but with the presence of the author's personal factoring, "te / or / ima", թէ/որ/իմա which means “If (in fact) I get it." After all, theorems and theories still need to be proven, unlike the axioms. Although for Armenians, who like to explore the world, the axiom contains an element of subjectivity as well, because "aks / (z) / ima” in Armenian is Ակս/զ/իմա, which is “My view on the Knowledge."

Words are not some random collections of sounds, flowing one after the other through all the countries and continents supported by self-progression, as it is commonly believed. Double book-keeping in linguistics, which once disfigured the mounting vocabulary of humanity by transferring it from "dead languages" and filling it with rough and far-fetched meanings, can play a cruel role. This is not especially the case for the people whose role in civilization has been skillfully hidden for several hundred years. Word is the main tool of our thinking and understanding of the world, and from its distortion not only just some of us suffered, but especially entire nations.

For example, there is the word “byur” (բիւր) in the decimal system of the Armenian language, which stands for “ten thousand”. In Ancient Rome and Byzantium among all administrators, those who were the most competent people and had organizational skills were called "byur / a / krats” բիւրակրած, which means "carrier of 10,000 (merits)," i.e., obviously referring to a sage and a leader in one packaging. As the recruitment of human resources was proceeding, taking into consideration the exceptional abilities of applicants, that word was a living proof, speaking for itself, binding as a job description.

But it was enough to erase from the administrative term its initial Armenian meaning, to present it as a cross between the modern French (“bureau”, part of those leading a corporate structure) with the ancient Greek (“kratos,” power), which, let’s face it, is ridiculous – and have a look at what happened to humanity – as ubiquitous bureaucracy became a global problem, whose employees certainly are not among the scholars and commanders.

Mikhail Zurikyan, a remarkable Volgograd engineer, built bridges in peacetime, and during the Second World War blew them up. For both activities he was awarded with orders and medals, as he was able to find brilliant solutions in both cases. However, as it turned out, Zurikyan – who became an orphan in Western Armenia during the horrors of the Genocide in 1915, grew up in a Lebanese orphanage run by American missionaries, and spent his adult life in Russia – realized better than many linguists that there is construction not only with metals, but also with words.

Perhaps this was because he could simply see the difference between mounting elements and structural parts. In 1993, at the age of 86, Mikhail Zurikyan wrote and published 300 copies of a thin book entitled "Secrets of the Dialect," which would explode in the face of Armenian and world linguistics. But we already know that linguistic science is still a tool of a larger politics; that is why we need to be alert. In his book, Zurikyan practically outlined a new theory of the Indo-European parent language, showing that the Armenian, which has been represented as a very old but a deadlocked branch of the tree of the Indo-European languages, in fact, is its trunk and roots.

Unaware of Zurikyan revelations, Muscovite Areg Dyushunts went on to show in his brilliant series of publications ("Mind Code: a Verbal Algebra of Harmony") that the Armenian language is the parent language of all humanity. Samwell Garibyan, a Guinness record holder, famous for his outstanding mathematics memory and in many languages, advanced the same conclusions in his publications. In his 2011 book, “A Study of the Origins of the HAI, the First People”, professor at the University of London and polyglot Hovhannes Pilikian, claimed that all languages of the world are dialects of the Armenian language, while drifting away from it in various degrees.

Of course, you can shrug and ignore this scanty little nation with limitless civilizational ambitions. Or, you can try to get acquainted with its language. Although this process will be much more time-consuming than shrugging, but will be much more exciting as well.

(To be continued…)

 

7 comments
  1. Armenian vs. Armenian

    This article by an expert in Armenian language-an Armenologist – tells me how far apart the Western and Eastern Armenians have grown linguistically and idiomatically.

    In our family, grandparents and on, we have never used հաց ուտել (eat bread). Instead we use կերակուր ուտել (east food). Also, I have never been to a հոգեհաց but I have been to հոգե-ճաշ.

    If you ask me, I would say that I do not think թէորէա is an Armenian word. To me it is an Armenianized word for the non-Armenian word theory. The correct word for me is տեսություն (eastern Armenian spelling). I was surprised to read that the author thinks that  "(տեսութիւն) for theory" is a ridiculous choice.

    I have never used in conversation Ակս/զ/իմա, which is another odd word for me. In fact this is the first time I come across the word. Instead I have often used the word կարծիք (opinion).

    There goes the "one" nation……………….. 

    1. Notion

      Gardzik has the notion "I do not know" while axiom has the notion "it is true until proven wrong".

  2. տեսնել and տեսիլ

    տես is a root word according to Hrachia Ajarian – Հրաչեայ Աճառեան – dictionary. It is also a conjugated word of the verb տեսնել (to see, observe), such as տես ինչպէս (look how).

    տեսիլ is also an Armenian root word that means vision, not necessary as eyesight, but in the sense of envisioning grander scale of things, such as a president having 'the vision thing" – տեսլական – as President Bush Sr. said once.

    Checking the Ajarian root dictionary will reveal that the root word տես is used in many words that have nothing to do with seeing or observing. For example, տեսակ (variety), տեսուչ (principal), տնտես (someone who manages wisely), տնտեսագէտ (economist), տեսչարան (principal’s office) and so on.

    Ms. Avetissian states that the Armenian word տեսութիւն for theory is, in her own words, a ridiculous choice because she claims that it implies to see or to observe. I believe she bases her reasoning on the assumption that the word տեսութիւն is derived from the word տեսնել (to see, observe). However, that may not be true. The word տեսութիւն may have been derived from the տեսիլ and not տեսնել.

    I agree with her that language is ever-evolving and, much like Darwinian natural evolution, language evolves to best adapt to the evolution of thought and technology. Both can be truncated. 

    The Western Armenian diction, I believe, is a truer representation of our language’s natural evolution based on its root words. The Eastern Armenian language's evolution got adulterated after the Soviets took over the short-lived first Republic of Armenia and brought about this massive infusion of "Armenianized" foreign words with a dictated diction.

    We do not need to have UNESCO to remind us that the Western Armenian, alas, is an endangered language. Its demise will not benefit the nation. It is sad that the linguists in Armenia do not want to consider evaluating the course the Eastern Armenian language has taken. Let us admit, eventually it is the Eastern Armenian language that will prevail and with it the natural evolution of our language and the sentiments it conveyed through the ages in its literary form will be relegated to the shelves of libraries. 

    1. Vahe, Since you buttress your

      Vahe,

      Since you buttress your first point by quoting Hrachya Ajaryan, I would say that it's about time we became more realistic about Ajaryan's work and brought him a few inches down from the pantheon. He is NOT infallible on etymological matters.

      With all due respect, admiration and gratitude, I have to point out that, thanks to Soviet regime pressure, his work was sometimes compromised. He is NOT the final arbiter on all matters pertaining the roots of the Armenian language. Some of his conclusions have been questioned by Armenian linguists in Armenia and elsewhere. To cite one example, he is widely faulted for attributing Iranian/Persian/Pahlavi as the root of more than 50% of Armenian root words. When you go through his famous four volumes it seems every other Armenian root word is derived from the languages of our neighbor in the south.

      I would advise that you research the work of the new Armenian etymologists who point out the shortcomings in the great man's work.

      1. Quoting Ajarian

        Hayorti,

        I quoted Hratchia Ajarian because, somehow and I am not sure how, I have remained with the impression that he is considered an authority on Armenian language. It is up to linguists to critically evaluate his work. That is way beyond my league. The other two dictionaries I have are your standard English-Armenian and Armenian-English dictionaries.

        I referenced him to argue against the daring assertion that Ms. Avetissian, as an Armenologist, noted that "the word (theory) (my insertion).. was interpreted as "I observe". And here, we obtained the ridiculous word "tesutyun" (տեսութիւն) in the Armenian newspeak."

        Putting my two cents worth of "research" together I find that her assertion that տեսութիւն is derived from the Armenian word տեսնել (to see, to observe), is unfounded and I tried to put together a layman’s argument to substantiate my claim. That was the crux of my comment.

        I wonder, Hayorti, do you think that the word տեսութիւն is derived from the word տեսնել and hence its choice obviously ridiculous?.

        Vahe

         
        1. I Don’t Know…

          Vahe,
          I don't know whether "dessoutune" is derived from "dessnel". I wish I did.
          The point I am making is that rather than checking various sources, Armenians tend to rush to Ajaryan's "Armadagan Pararan" whenever there's a question about the origin of Armenian words. His is not the only source; he is not infallible. The tendency to assume Ajarian is the only or final word would freeze research into the origins of the Armenian language.

      2. Indo-European Languages

        To Hayorti,

        I am not a linguist and not familiar with the works of  Hrachya Ajaryan, but I do know that linguistics–as well as the history many other humanity sciences–have been subjected to pressure by Soviet leadership and politicized elsewhere in the world. However, I do not find surprising or offensive that Armenian words have Persian roots or vice-versa. I am pretty sure that before we distinguished ourselves as Armenians and Persians, there were people living and speaking in these regions (like now Sumerians and others). And probably those words which have common roots in Persian and Armenian are originally older and trace to the times in history where there were no distinction between Armenian or Persian.

        There are many studies, and among them mathematical models (like this one Mapping the Origins and Expansion of the Indo-European Language Family Remco Bouckaert et al. Science 337, 957 (2012); DOI:10.1126/science.1219669), showing that the Indo-European languages trace their origin to the Armenian Highland and the surrounding areas, and that the Armenian is one of the first branches of that family of languages. This is a nice fact, making all of us feel good and proud. And there is a lot to research, study and learn about the formation, development of languages and people carrying them. But when people start to bend facts, try to put an "Armenian" stamp on everything and everyone it all turns ridiculous and superficial.    

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