Armenian Language Corner

On the Ways to Repent

Western Armenian speakers, regardless of the country they live, have a tendency to mix Turkish words, sometimes believing they are Armenian or sometimes just out of their ignorance of the Armenian word. One such example is the combination փուշման ըլլալ (pooshman ullal), where the Turkish word pushman (“repentance”) is combined with the Armenian verb ullal “to be.” There is, of course, the Armenian verb զղջալ (zughchal) “to repent.”

Interestingly, however, if you read David Bek, the novel of Raffi (1835-1888) about the hero of the movement of liberation of Siunik in the eighteenth century, you will find there the verb փոշմանել (poshmanel “to repent”)which probably existed before the famous novelist and has continued being in use until today in Eastern Armenian colloquial language, even finding its way into modern dictionaries, although with the clarification that this is not a literary term. Here, we have the foreign root poshman as the basis for the creation of an Armenian verb with the addition of the verbal suffix -el.

However, why poshmanel and pushman ullal sound differently?

The short response is that the former comes from an Iranian source and the latter from Turkish. According to the data provided by Hrachia Adjarian in his etymological dictionary, the word փոշիման (poshiman “repentant”) appears in Armenian medieval poetry (Hovhannes Telkurantsi, the quatrains ascribed to Nahabed Kuchag, and other texts), while the older word փաշաման (pashaman “repentance or admonition”) appears in Classical Armenian. Both come from Iranian, the former from Farsi pashiman and the latter from Pahlavi pashaman.

The Armenian dialects have furnished Eastern Armenian with many words of Persian or Turkish origin whose foreign nature, being very old, is no longer recognized or known. Western Armenian, however, does not accept Turkish words like pushman and others as literary language and, naturally, do not include them into dictionaries.

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