Subscribe to Blog via Email
July 2021 M T W T F S S « Mar 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31
Rumi and Sultan Walad, linguistic notes
The Greek of Rumi and Walad, like the Greek of the Proto-Bulgarian inscrptions, the Judaeo-Greek scripture translations, and the Latin-Greek phrasebooks, should be a more accurate reflection of the spoken language of the time than what we have in Greek script, inevitably influenced by diglossia. In fact, given where it was written, Rumi and Walad should preserve the earliest attestation of Cappadocian Greek.
Well they’re hardly preserving Cretan Greek, are they. And once Sophocleanisms like δοκάση are expunged from the redaction, the text does not look noticeably learnèd in the flavour of its Greek. It doesn’t look like the Cappadocian that Dawkins recorded in 1910 either, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise: the prodigious language mixing that moved Dawkins to say “the flesh is Greek, but the soul is Turkish” was centuries in the making, and Cappadocia would only recently have been cut off from contact with the rest of the Greek-speaking world. So their Greek looks like what Early Modern Greek from elsewhere looks like. In fact, the main value of these texts linguistically is to confirm that Cappadocian hadn’t really diverged yet from the rest of Greek. Grégoire did go through Dawkins when offering his suggestions on the text, and drew up a list of Cappadocianisms from the texts which is not overwhelming.
- δικιέσαι (Dedes δοικάσαι) “manage”;
- the ancient possessive (what ancient possessive? Is he referring to the archaic placement of clitics?);
- θέκνω for θέτω and Meyer and Dedes’ θέτνω (the mss vary between the two);
- τζακώνω meaning “smash” and not “ambush” (as Meyer already correctly guessed);
- θύρα (but that’s an archaism, so counts for less).
The other caution (which also applies to at least the Judaeo-Greek translations) is that you’re not getting normal Greek. For the Judaeo-Greek, it’s because the translations were word-to-word from the Hebrew, so they tell you very little about Greek syntax. For Rumi and Walad, the Greek is clearly second-language Greek. (Fourth-language, in fact.) Dedes says we can’t be sure about the level of Rumi’s Greek, since there’s so little of it, but Walad’s may have even been perfect, as he was born and bred in Anatolia. That’s not the impression I got: Wikipedia reports Turkish scholars saying Walad’s Turkish was halting, and his Greek is too. It’s probably not fair to point out the absence of definite articles; at least some of that will be because of the absence of vowel pointing, and some more is awkwardness brought on from rhyme. (Btw, Rumi is probably the first poem to consciously rhyme in Greek; Sachlikis was over a century later.)
But Walad clearly uses way too many full pronouns, in phrases like ηύρα κείνον τον εγύρευγα εγώ “I found the one I was looking for”, or Εσύ φιλείς εμένα για τη ζωή <τού>τη “you kiss me for this life”. And the first verse of the Rababname excerpt, Με τους άγιους πώς δοικάσαι λάλησε, is forced even by the standards of Greek verse.
εγώ το θέλω έγινεν, κανείς να μη το είπην does look odd enough to resemble Modern Cappadocian; but in between the fourth-language Greek and the poetic licenses of the syntax, I won’t read much into it.
If Rumi wrote Καλή μέρα λιγερέ, πώς <εί>στεν, καλά ‘στεν;, then we’d have the first instance in Greek of a politeness plural (by five centuries), and an early attestation of πώς είσαι “how are you?” as a salutation. (That’d be news, because it ain’t a salutation in Standard Modern Greek, and Pontic has the same salutation as the Standard: τι κάνεις/ντο φτεάς “what are you doing?”—yes, that’s Wikipedia orthography for φτα̈ς). Both the plural You and “How are you” are unlikely, so I wouldn’t count them as evidence.
I derided Mertzios’ emendation to καλή μέρα, λιγυρή, πού ‘στην, καλώς την “Good day, slender girl, where had you been? Welcome”—but at least that reading had not required a politeness plural. The original reading is, کالیمیرا لییری پو ستن کالا ستن kalymyra lyyry pw stn kala stn. In these texts waw can transcribe /o/ (کالویروس kalwyrws καλόγερος) and yeh can transcribe /e/ (اِرتمِی airtimy ήρτε με); so we could still read λυγερέ, πώς ‘στεν, and καλά ‘στεν. But Burguière & Mantran’s πώς ‘στεν as an elision is implausible, so there’s problems with this passage anyway. There is an είσταιν infinitive, used for example in Mediaeval Cypriot; but how does the infinitive fit here? I’m tempted to go with a modified Mertzios—πού ‘σταιν; καλώς τον “where to be? welcome”, if only it made grammatical sense…
Oh, and if any wags are thinking of reading pw stn as πούστην, (a) shut up, and (b) that’d be pwshtn. And (c) shut up.
“Huh?” says everyone non-Greek reading this far. πούστης (from Persian pusht “arse”.) Derogatory. Passive homosexual.
- the archaic preposition αχ for εκ (which earlier translators mistook for “ah!”),
- όγιον as an archaic form of σαν (Ancient οἷον),
- more surprisingly the survival of τις,
- the clear use of να as a future marker (as was the norm before 1400),
- που fully developed not just as a relativiser, but an indefinite pronoun,
- Dedes’ proposed ση for στη, as in Pontic,
- common redundant nu after subjunctives—hybridising them with infinitives, at least in Dedes’ reading (να με βρην, να έρθην)
Surprisingly early instances of the analogical /n/ in ναν, first verse of Gazal 885 (نادفیلو nadfylw ναν το φιλώ)—if we accept that [na do filo] could already reflect underlying /nan to filo/.
Accusative indirect objects, of course; always striking to see them with nouns and not just pronouns, as in το πωρικό το πικρό δώσ’ το άλλους.
That’s all that comes to mind right now. Comments as always welcome.