Armenian Language Corner

Do We Always Go Together?

This is what the final song of the famous musical Grease says: “We Go Together.” However, two quite different languages like Armenian and English do not go always together. This is quite clear in the word… “together.”

The English words “together” and “gather” are somehow related, as their meanings point out, and it is logical to think that together has evolved from the combination of to + gather.

The Armenian equivalent, միասին (miasin), is also a composite word, but has an even deeper meaning. Its origin indicates a closer relationship: two people who have not only come to gather, but have been raised together. The first word, մի (mi), is the Classical and Eastern Armenian form of “one”—մէկ (meg) in Western Armenian—and the root of the word միութիւն (miootioon, “unity”) and the second word, սին (sin), is the result of the substitution of a vocal (this is technically called ablaut) from the original word սուն (sun, “to keep, to feed, to raise,” from which we have սնունդ/sunoont, “food, nourishment”). Thus, in the beginning, to be miasin meant that one had been fed and raised with someone else.

Now, while today miasin always implies “together,” this does not mean than every time we see “together” in English we should automatically think of miasin. Otherwise, we find ourselves in trouble.

One hears, for instance, “They live together.” This is, of course, Անոնք միասին կ՚ապրին (Anonk miasin g’abrin), and there is nothing wrong here. However, when we say “He has come together with his family,” the case is different.

Armenian has something that Latin had and, for instance, German still has, but the English language has lost: noun declination (հոլովում, holovoom). These are the little particles է (e), ի (i), ով (ov), with the particular cases that “torture” us when we learn the paradigms of declination of various nouns.

One of the six cases of noun declination is called “instrumental declination” (գործիական հոլով, kordziagan holov), which applies to the abovementioned sentence. The English with is an indication of instrument, and thus, you should forget “together” when you render the sentence into Armenian. You may either say,

1)Ան իր ընտանիքին հետ եկած է (An ir undanikin hed yegadz e = He has come with his family),


2) Ան իր ընտանիքով եկած է (An ir undanikov yegadz e = He has come with his family)

As we said in the beginning, yes, languages go together, but not always.