Grape

I recently received an inquiry as to the form of ‘grape’ in a certain Turkic language, so I decided to add it to the database.

It has been interesting doing this research, as I cannot find a single native (i.e. not Russian vinograd) form in any Siberian language. You would think that grapes might be able to grow in the Altay region, but apparently not.

It is very difficult to reconstruct the proto form. Wiktionary gives *jüŕüm, as does Siemieniec-Gołaś. This reconstruction is appropriate for Central Turkic (i.e. non Siberian and non-Bolgar). Interestingly, Khalaj exhibits an initial /h/ (hüzüm). This might explain why some languages in the Common group have initial /y/ and others do not. I’m still not sure what to make of Khalaj initial /h/…

Where is gets weird is when we look at Chuvash and Western Yugur. Chuvash has iśĕm, which is unexpected. Any intervocalic /z/ should change to /r/ in Bolgar (word final /z/ is another matter for another time…). In Western Yugur, the forms are öǰüm, öčüm, üčüm. The Western Yugur forms neatly matches the Chuvash form and points to a proto-form like *ečüm, which is very strange. There’s not way to reconcile Common Turkic *(h/y)izüm with that.

A couple more notes: Mongolian үзэм refers to raisins, while усан үзэм (literally wet raisins…ugh…) refers to grapes. The Western Yugur forms may apply raisins only as well. Also, Russian изюм refers to raisins as well. It’s clearly derived from Turkic, but it’s unclear what language it’s from.

I suspect that all of the Turkic forms are borrowings from some other language, but it is unclear which one. Chinese uses pútáo (or something like that), the Persian languages all use angur… It is tempting to try to link it to Persian raz, meaning vine, cognate with Greek rháx, Latin racemus (whence raisin). However, the origin of these words is unknown, and we still have to account for the rounded vowels and the –üm at the end of the word.

A brief history, new glosses?

This project started as something I began many years ago. When I lived in Turkey, my host mother had a comparative dictionary of the Turkic languages, and I would marvel at how similar yet different they could be. Later, I began my own database of sorts on a series of notecards. I eventually tossed the notecards and moved on, in part because I hadn’t been consistent in my transcription and because they were cumbersome to transport and use.

More recently, I took a class on SQL, and once my instructor recommended I look into PHP, I realized I could publish data to the web. It was then that I began putting this all together – at first on my hard drive, and later on this website.

Thinking back to those original cards, I have come remember that I once had a number of glosses that do not exist in this database. And looking through the many, many dictionaries, grammars, and field reports in my references, I have come to realize that other authors found some of these glosses to be important as well. Adding new glosses is no small task as it can be annoying to have to revisit old sources. In some cases, I may have to wait weeks, as I obtained them through interlibrary loan.

For now, here is a preliminary list of the new glosses I have considered adding:

  • butterfly
  • fly
  • walnut
  • hammer
  • ax
  • bee
  • honey
  • wool
  • thread
  • footprint
  • penis
  • vulva
  • urine
  • feces

I was on the fence about the last four, given their taboo nature. However, they do show up in sources with surprising frequency. Even the Codex Cumanicus has them. If it’s good enough for Late Medieval Italians, it’s good enough for me.

Because I’m a bit obsessive (as the existence of this site shows), I might try to add a few more to achieve a nice, round number. However, adding these 14 will bring the total to 365, which is certainly nice.