How to read Lezgi – Step 2

Okay, so it’s time for the second installment of the series. The previous one (Cyrillic letters which look and sound roughly the same as Latin ones) was trivial. This time we’ll focus on something more difficult – those Lezgi Cyrillic letters which look like Latin ones while not sounding like them. Be careful with them and don’t mix them up!

Here’s the list for today:
Cc Yy Пп Рр  Хх Нн Вв

Cc has a kind of a  special place here. It’s pronounced like [s], so not exactly different from English “c” (which either sounds like [s] or like [k]).
New words (here and there I’ll transliterate to make sure you’re not confused):
cа [sa] – one, a (that is an indefinite article:  cа кек – one fingernail/a fingernail)
сам  – straw
сас [sas] – tooth (especially one of the front teeth)
сес  – voice, sound, call, vote
кас [kas] – person, human being
мас [mas] – price
маса – other, another, different;  са маса кас – a different person
месела – for example

The above should not be too difficult to digest, the next chunk:

Yy is pronounced more or less like ‘u’ in English ‘pull’
Пп (ok, maybe including it here is a stretch, but it does look a bit like ‘n’) is pronounced like English ‘p’ in ‘part’ or like ‘p’ in ‘spit’ – that is either with, or without the aspiration (puff of air following the release).

мус? [mus] – when?
пак [pak] – pure, clean, impeccable, saint
пака – tomorrow
пакама – morning, dawn, daybreak
пас – rust,  corrosion, mold
тум [tum – aspirated t] – seed
тум [tum – unaspirated t] – tail, handle (as you can see, the difference in pronunciation is not reflected in writing!)
туп – ball; gun
уму – thaw
уста [usta] – master, anyone skillful

Нн – looks like an ‘h’ but sounds like an ‘n’. However, there’s a hook – when н comes after a vowel and is followed by a consonant or a pause,  it sometimes (that is, in some varieties of spoken Lezgi) adds a nasal quality to it, and dissapears. That is, for instance, the word ун (meaning ‘yes’) is often pronounced not as [un] but [ũ] (that squiggly up there, called tilda, marks nasalization). But relax, it’s not that important to nasalize the vowel, you can just pronounce the н and still be understood.

Рр – This  is Lezgi [r] sound. Among all the varieties of English you can find a similar sound only in Scottish.  So roll your ‘r’s but don’t overdo it.

Хх – Now, pay close attention, as this sound will probably be difficult for you to make. Try to pronounce the ‘ch’ in ‘loch’ the way the Scots do, and then try to place the friction even further back inside your throat (this is to make space for the second Scottish ch-like sound present in Lezgi about which you’ll learn later; it is very important to maintain difference between the two).

кар – work, thing to do
ксун – to fall asleep; falling asleep
ксус! – fall asleep! (imperative; anything strange here?)
ксана – I/you/he/she/it/we/you/they fell asleep

^ yes, indeed, the above means that Lezgi verbs have the same form for all persons

курс – course
намус – honour, dignity
нек – milk
нер – nose
нур – light
мах – legend, traditional tale
рак – door
рахун – to talk; talking
рахух! – talk! (another strange imperative)
рахунар – talks, the act of talking
стха – brother
пер (aspirated) – mood;
пер (unaspirated) – shovel

зи пер хана [zi pher xana] – my mood broke = worsened
зи пер хана [zi per xana] – my shovel broke

хак – stake
хана – 1. broke; 2. bore (brought to life)
хата – error, mistake
хатам – the very last
хер – wound
хтун – to return

Now a little task: what can you learn about Lezgi plurals from the following set:

махар – legends
нерар – noses
нурар – lights
перер – shovels
сарар – front teeth
сесер – sounds, voices, votes
сурар – cemetary
хкар – stakes
хрер – wounds

Вв is all what’s left for today. The first problem with it is that its pronunciation varies from that of an English ‘w’ to that of an English ‘v’. Sometimes it even sounds like a version of ‘v’ made with both lips touching (normal ‘v’ is when lower lip touches the upper teeth, try it). However, as basically it is a ‘w’ you can pronounce it that way all the time. The second problem is that when в follows a consonant it sort of forms one sound with it – the consonant is pronounced with rounded lips (linguists call that labialization).
That lip-rounding in some dialects sort of invades, infects the next vowel (yes, affects is a better word), changes it into ‘o’ (which doesn’t normally occur in Lezgi, as we told earlier), and disappears.
I guess that was confusing, so let’s have an example: the word свас means ‘daughter-in-law’ or ‘bride’. It is normally pronounced [s_was], [s_w] symbolizing the almost-at-the-same-time pronunciation of [s] and [w]. In dialects suffering from ‘lip-rounding infection’ [s_was] turns into [sos] that is [a] is changed into [o] and lip-rounding disappears from [s].

Ok, enough theory, let’s have the new words:

свах [s_wax] – molar tooth; сухвар [sux_war] – molar teeth
(see how the lip-rounding can’t stay in one place?)

сев [sew] – bear; север [sewer] – bears
сувар – holiday
вун – you (one person)
вах – sister
хва [x_wa] – son
ава – there is
ксанва – am/is/are asleep, have/has fallen asleep (from ксана ава)

Now, I’ll leave you with all this. Think about it, digest it, analyse the example words, draw conclusions and ask me if anything is not clear. Hell, tell me even if something is clear but could be improved!

The long-term fate of this blog truly depends on your feedback 🙂


6 Responses to “How to read Lezgi – Step 2”

  1. Eskandar Says:

    My notes 🙂

    Loanword spotting
    Persian: кас, пак, туп, уста*, кар
    Arabic: месела*, намус, нур, хатам
    Russian: курс

    *These look like they entered Lezgi through Turkish/Azeri

    My guess is that for verbs of the type ending in -ун, you can drop the -н and reduplicate the previous consonant to form the imperative. Am I even close?

    I figured the difference between -ар and -ep had to do with vowel harmony, but нерар vs. сесер seems to disprove that. In any case, just going from the small sample you provided, it would appear that -ар is more general and -ep appears under specific conditions…maybe?

  2. learninglezgi Says:

    Nice work, Eskandar.

    You’ve missed a couple: пака <-pagah; тум (tail) <- dom (don’t ask me why the devoicing – if I understood properly Lezgi phonology I’d have written a PhD on that); хата is Arabic and сес & сувар are Turkic (as is AFAIK “tup”)

    “master” has in fact three, not 100% equivalent, forms: уста устад устIар

    Good observation, but your data sample is too limited 🙂 Let’s just say that as for now we’ve seen three strategies for forming the imperative: ‘bare root’; ‘root+a’ and ‘consonant reduplication’. And that’s not all there is.

    Lezgi vowel harmony is IMO much more interesting than Turkic one (from which it was, in all likelihood, borrowed) in that it doesn’t work in ALL syllables (it has to do with word stress). More on that later.
    Another observations:
    Vowel deletion in plurals (inter alia, this is also stress-related):
    xak – xkar kas – ksar (forgot this one) etc.
    Root changes:
    sas – sarar
    Morphologically plural lexically singular:
    surar (though this is also a regular plural from sur – grave)

  3. Eskandar Says:

    Ah, I had forgotten that “tup” is originally Turkic. I look forward to reading more about Lezgi plurals! 🙂 Heads up- I just noticed you’ve misspelled “endeavors” in your blog’s title.

  4. learninglezgi Says:

    No, I haven’t. Look again 🙂

  5. Jessica Says:

    Hi, I’ve been doing some work with one of the Lezgi dialects, and I guess it’s related to the Axty group. For them, aspiration v. unaspiration is even a bigger deal than for the others (only something like 19 minimal pairs in the standard dialect if I read correctly.) Anyways, I’m working with a Lezgi lady who’s come up with a nice Latin orthography for indicating aspiration. I don’t know if it’ll ever get approval (official or otherwise), but if you’re interested let me know.

    • learninglezgi Says:

      Judging from the map only, it should be in the Axty group. Axty is AFAIK, the most divergent group, and that would explain the difficulty you report Ismaili Lezgis had with understanding others.
      And yes, I’d be interested in that orthography.

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