Archive for April, 2009

Reading Lezgi – Step 4.1. Meet the palochka.

April 20, 2009

Now that we’ve covered the whole alphabet let’s turn our attention to digraphs (or two-letter combinations signifying one sound). Lezgi has many of those because it has more sounds than Russian, for which the Russian Cyrillic script was originally designed.

Not counting the в /w/ (which we’ve already met – go back a bit and read once more how it behaves after a consonant), Lezgi has three… , let’s say, ‘modifier symbols’  – I, ъ, ь . In contrast to the English ‘h’ which is a letter of its own apart from forming digraphs (I’m talking about ‘ph’, ‘th’, ‘ch’ and ‘sh’, and to stretch things a bit ‘gh’, ‘kh’ and ‘zh’ as well), those three are barely (ъ) or not at all (two others)  independent letters.

We’ve already met ъ /’/ in its role as a letter, but we’ll talk about its combo-making abilities a bit later.

For now – let’s meet palochka,  everybody! ‘Palochka’ is not a Russian folk dance, but a word (it means literally ‘little stick’) for a special symbol designed for use in orthographies of several Caucasian languages. It looks (almost) like I, but as you’ll find out, because of technology constraints the proper palochka is almost never used, I, l, 1, or ! being substituted for it on the web. I’ll use I

In standard Lezgi, palochka is used in the following letter combinations (remember, it’s not a letter in Lezgi):

пI тI кI цI чI

These all mark so-called ejective consonant. You pronounce them like you would pronounce their regular equivalent except that you stop the airflow through your glottis (that is, you make a glottal stop). The resulting sounds sounds to me as if it was stopped in the mouth for a split-second and then forcefully released. Anyway, don’t worry, they are quite easy to learn.

кичIе – to be afraid (a very irregular verb)
кIан – to love / like / want (another very irregular verb)
кIвал – house, home
пIуз – lip
тIал – pain
тIвар – name
балкIан – horse
цIап – horse-shit
цIай – fire
чIал – language
-тIа – if (suffixed)
тIимил – a bit

And now let’s see if you can translate the following:

Зи тIвар Петр я.
Ваз Лезги чIал чидани?
Заз Лезги чIал са тIимил чида.
Заз вун кIанда, вазни зун кIандани?

КичIе жемир, чан хва – Don’t worry, dear son.

And we’ll finish for now with this lovely proverb:
БалкIан кIандай цIап такIан. – loves the horse but hates the horseshit

This post may be expanded, I’ll let you know.

Reading Lezgi – Step 3.3

April 11, 2009

It’s the time to collect the leftovers – that is the remaining single letters of the Lezgi alphabet. Later we’ll proceed to step 4 – the digraphs.

Here’s what’s left in store: Жж Чч Цц Шш Щщ Фф  ъ

Фф is, plain and simple, /f/. Just associate the letter with Greek ‘phi’ and you got it.

гаф – word
фикир – thought
фу – bread
фин – to go, going
физва – is going
фида – will go
фена – went
фур – hole

Чч – this one is English /ch/. It comes in aspirated and unaspirated variants, which are not differentiated in writing.

чай – tea
заз чида – I know
чам – bent
чам – (unasp.) bridesgroom
чан – (unasp.) soul, life; dear
четин – difficult
-ч – negation suffix (this becomes /-sh/ in some dialects):

Зи буба Бакудай хтанач – My father didn’t return from Baku.
Ина чай авач – There’s no tea here
Заз чидач – I don’t know

Шш is English /sh/

шак – doubt
ширин – sweet
шаз – last year
шумуд – how many?
туш – is not (negation of я)
зун Лезги туш – I am not Lezgi

Цц is /ts/ said as one sound. Like it has aspirated and unaspirated variants.

цав – sky
цал – wall
циф – cloud
яц – bull

Жж – depending on the dialect and the origin of a particular word it can be pronounced both as /j/ and /zh/ (‘s’ in ‘measure’). In some dialects only the latter pronunciation occurs.

жаваб – answer
жеда – will be, will become
жемят – society; people
жив – snow
жанавур – wolf
жув – myself; yourself
жумарт – generous, noble

Щщ occurs in Russian loans only, where it stands for /shch/ sound combo.

ъ – the use of this one marks a significant departure from Russian orthographic conventions. In Lezgi ъ, apart from its usage in many digraphs (see Part 4), stands for a glottal stop, ie. the sound in the middle of ‘uh-huh’ or in the Cockney pronunciation of ‘city’. It’s never written word-initially.

ваъ – no

Reading Lezgi – Step 3.2

April 11, 2009

Slowly but surely moving forward we approach “y and its family”, or the fossils of Russian orthography carried over to Lezgi. Let’s start.

Йй is /y/ or the first sound in ‘yet’. Because of the peculiar characteristics of Russian (and Lezgi) Cyrillic (about which we’ll talk later in this post) й occurs very rarely at the beginning of the word, and when it does it is followed by the и or уь (that’s a letter we’ll learn about later).

йирф – a kind of flat shovel
йис – year
йиф – night
йифиз – at night

Now, let’s talk about a word-final й having some very interesting properties:

a) in verbs, adding й it “moves the time backwards”:

Буба аниз фена.  = Father went there.
Буба аниз фенай. = Father had gone there.
Ина са кас ава. = There is a man here.
Ина са кас авай. = There was a man here.

b) the forms with й are used in relative clauses:

ина авай кас – the man who is here (lit. here-being-man)

c) with nouns, й  forms the lative cases which express the notion of moving away from something:

адак – under him/it
адакай – from under him/it (or, ‘about him’)
столдал – on the table
столдалай – from the table
Зи буба Бакуда ава  – my father is in Baku
Зи биба Бакудай атанва – my father has come from Baku

You may remember that at the beginning of the word, or immediately after another the letter e actually sounds /ye/. This weird behaviour is a leftover from the Russian Cyrillic system which has separate letters for “y+vowel” combinations. e is one of those. Before we go further, stop, and ask yourself “how do you spell an actual /e/ at the beginning of the word”?

Well, here’s how:

Ээ is always an /e/. It’s used quite rarely in Lezgi, always coming at the beginning of a word:

эвел – beginning
эвела – at the beginning, at first
эгер – if, in case that
экв – light, illumination, dawn
экзамен – exam
экран – screen
эрк – a close relationship between people who can rely on each other
эски – old (of things)
эхир – end

Let’s now review the remaining letters for y+vowel combinations:

Ёё stands for /yo/ and is barely used in Lezgi. No wonder – Lezgi doesn’t have /o/ sound in native words, remember?

ёлка – new year’s tree (not that it’s connected to Lezgi culture, but it’s just about the only word starting with ё listed in dictionaries).

Юю is read /yu/

юбка – skirt
юзун – to move
юлдаш – friend, comrade
юмор – humour
уюн – trick

Яя is a bit tricky as it has two very different pronunciations. At the beginning of a word or after a vowel it is pronounced /ya/:

аял – child
яб – ear
яд – water
як – meat
ял – breath
яр – loved one; the 15-day period starting from 21 March
яран сувар – the spring festival marking the start of the new year

я on its own means ‘is/am/are’. Now, we’ve already encountered ава ‘is/am/are’ haven’t we? The point is я is used in ‘x is y’ sense, whereas ава comes to play when you talk about ‘being somewhere’:

Зун Лезги я. = I am Lezgi.
Зун ина ава. = I am here.

Now, when я comes between consonants, it’s read /ae/ like the vowel in ‘cat’:

лянет – curse
мяден – natural resource deposit
няни – evening
няс – ill-fated; ill-willed
сят – hour; watch, clock