The Wonderful World of the Armenian Language
Speech delivered in early 1989 Armenian Cultural Month -1990-s
Armenian Church of the Holy Martyrs- By: Rev. Vazken Karayan’s - invitation
by: Zarminé Boghosian
What I hope to share with you in this talk is my interest in words and the joy of studying the Armenian Language!
The more I learn the more I realize how little I know my language!
I will attempt to take you on a tour to the wonderful world of Armenian Proverbs, sayings expressions and words.
Before I begin I feel it is just appropriate to mention that this is the Month of October, Armenian Cultural Month! The idea of the celebration was coined by Archbishop Karekin Hovsepiantz – (later the Catholicos of Cilicia in Antilias Beirut). His objective was to celebrate the invention of the Armenian Alphabet and acknowledge the genius of Mesrob Mashdotz, the founder of Armenian Alphabet, as well as to highlight the outstanding work of the translators within appropriate and festive celebrations!
As we read a portion of a written back in 1942.addressed to the Armenian Mirror Spectator he said: “Unfortunately, owing to circumstances, a large section of our youth of both sexes has been deprived of the good fortune to read and write the language of their parents. Some are the offspring of Turkish speaking parents, others; due to the indifference of their elders, or the absence of Armenian schools or their own unwillingness to attend them, have remained unacquainted with their mother tongue, which along with the church, is the very foundation of our national culture and consciousness.”
Of course, it should be our aim, by all means, to keep alive those two precious heritages, both as a source and medium fore preservation of all the true values we have received from our predecessors. Yet, it is not altogether impossible to satisfy that need under present circumstances, with the use of English Language. The important thing is to give sustenance and cultivate in the soul of the new generation the seeds from which will blossom forth a consciousness and an appreciative attitude towards the race they owe their very existence. Grafted with these should be, of course, the duties of American Citizenship and the best American traditions.
“Fortunately, we live in a country which we can be rightfully called the very birthplace of liberty. A marvelously great, broadminded state composed of a free great cosmopolitan citizenry, very similar to a colorful bouquet of flowers, where individualities are not sacrificed, so long as they keep with whole.”
Realizing the harmony bringing us together within an enjoyable evening like this, let us begin our journey …
There are many lessons and messages tied with words, proverbs connected with spiritual and cultural inheritances as sources of inspiration and edification.
Probably there is no other national literature that has more poetry dedicated to the mother tongue- Mayreni-lezoo- than in Armenian Literature. Armenian poets have probably dedicated more odes to their mother tongue than to feminine charms.
For Hamo Sahian a contemporary Armenian Poet- the mother tongue is “as sacred as the bread on the table, an a life giving nourishment!”
Vahan Tekeyan, waters our mouth by
saying that each and every word of this language is like “A ripened delicious
fruit, picked from the richest orchards of our past!” As he writes in his fourth verse of the same
”I hold rounded words, fruits both tart
And sweet with juices uncounted suns made ripe;
Words that anoint the lips, bless the palate
And give comfort to the heart.”
It is not just one of us- Siamanto, Silva Gaboudikian, Hovhannes Shiraz, or Barouyr Sevag continue showering their love songs dedicated to the Armenian Language.
The cool and non-Armenian language expert Armenologist has also seen – and I quote him- “The richness, the agility of the Armenian language which has provided also the strength for survival and preservation. According to another admirer of Armenian Language, Lord Byron, “Armenian is the only language to communicate with God!”
Whether to communicate with God or with one another Armenian Language I sweet, as Shavarsh Nartouni says:
“It is fit for a king, as well as a laborer,
Suitable for townspeople as well as a laborer,
Ever youthful and ever mighty!”
As I promised to take you on trip via Armenian proverbs, I would like to begin our trip with the first lines written in Armenian. Mesrob Mashdots translated this sentence from the proverbs of the bible!
«Ճանաչել իմաստութիւն եւ զխրատ, իմանալ զբանս հանճարոյ․»
“To know wisdom and instruction is to perceive the words of understanding.”
Armenian Language is rich in proverbs, those pretty sayings that not only dominate our speech and exercise our brain as we think about their meaning, but also take us to our motherland, to our old folks when they needed to praise or criticize bureaucracy, or stress the importance of leadership-
«Լեցուն հասկին գլուխը վար կը խոնարհի։»
«Աքլորը շատ եղող գիւղին առաւօտը ուշ կը ծագի։»
How about this?.... «Պարապ տակառը շատ աղմուկ կը հանէ։»
«Օրօրոց շարժողն է որ կը կառավարէ ազգը։»
The world is governed by those who swing the cradle of our children! There is so much depth in this saying to make the world aware that the future of a nation is based on the manners of a mother, and how she swings her child’s cradle!!
«Հայ ծնիլը դիւրին է, Հայ մնալն է դժուար։» It is easy to be born Armenian, it is difficult to remain Armenian!
«Ծառը արմատով է զօրաւոր, Մարդը՝ իր բարեկամներով։» The strength of a tree derives from its roots, the strength of a man comes from his friends.
The word “fate” in Armenian is very poetic. JAGADAKIR – Ճակատագիր – your future is written on your forehead! Think of an invisible hand that has the power to write on your forehead at your birth, whatever life has saved for you!!
The word – family – undanik- Ընտանիք – people who live under same roof!
Herades –Հեռատես- someone who can see beyond the regular sight field what’s coming up – not merely farsighted!!
Armenian Language is flexible to suit and perfectly fit for the expectations of modern technological vocabulary. The word “heratsayn- հեռաձայն” is coined by combining two words into one! In English as well as several other European languages – the same challenge was met by adopting two Greek words “tele” =Far, and phone=sound words.
Fax is He-ra-dib-հեռատիպ- Հեռատեսիլ-Television, Համակարգիչ – Computer.
By knowing the root word midk-mind you instantly may build a whole list of positive words! Be a lay named person if you can, to keep your relationship in good terms with your immediate surrounding, it is as important to be a –
Ներողամիտ – neroghamid-
Ազատամիտ – azadamid -
Սրամիտ – Sramid -
Ուսումնամիտ - oosoomnamid
Փոփոխամիտ- popokhamid- unstable
Ձեռքերդ դալար, Վարձքդ կատար, ցաւդ տանիմ, - these are wxpressions full of emphaty, recognition, and willingness to take away the pain from an ailing loved one, if you see that he/she is in pain, and instead share the pain.
Շնորհակալ եմ․ ե-րախ-տա-պարտ եմ․․․ are expressions many of my (new learners) students find them as tongue twisters, however after several repetitions- reiteration it is easy to say, and more so very meaningful when you know that when you say shu-nor-ha-gal yem.. you are acknowledging being a recipient of the favor – shu-norhk-the grace given to you by the other person. Think of the words East & West – in Armenian – արեւելք a-re-va-dzak- a-re-velk- արեւմուտք- A-rev-moodk․
While on the subject… I would like to extend my sincere thanks to our Hayr Sourp, church parish council and say: “shu-nor-ha-gal yem” … for the opportunity to share with you the riches of our beautiful Armenian language! A
Armenian words can sing, bloom, caress, thunder, words are our cultural heritage! They bring to us the past, its images, impressions, perceptions, we add to the list with each passing generation.
Thank you for helping to bring the heritage alive within this family- un-da-nik- ըն-տանիք- the translation of the word indicates that when a group of people live under ONE roof
they are called: un-da-nik- ըն-տանիք-
Frederick Feidy, a French writer has said that “The Armenian language has the power to express freely and accurately scientific and disciplined thought, philosophic ideas, poetic nuances, multicolored shades, all at the same time.”
I encourage you to take your own journey through the wonderful world of Armenian Language. I ask you to share this journey with your children, with your parents, family and friends.
In the cold hostile world we live,
If we want to be forgiven by generations to come,
Let us cling to our tongue –language with love,
And with burning hearts, let us dear friend speak our mother (Tongue) Language
As Hovhannes Shiraz wrote:
“The church is a bell- and the school is the clapper (The tongue of the bell..)
One without the other cannot ring! (Function)
Papken Catholicos said: “The church & school have lived side-by-side better. Yet have lived through each other and for each other!”
Presentedby: Zarminé Boghosian