The Great Multiheaded Vocabulary Project

Two new glossary projects. I am taking the vocabulary of the last 5 chapters of my Urdu textbook and the first chapters of my Greek Reader, and writing out words basic to the discussions in those chapters. The reason I chose those two is that they treat of similar topics: the civilization that the language bears and its relationship to literature and language. There should be a lot of overlap in the vocabulary and what I do is take one page of vocabulary in one of the books and write the English in the middle of the page and the Urdu to the left in one color and the Greek to the right in another color so I can tell at a glance which book the word came from. I go back and forth between the books. The Urdu words are pretty well known to me, the Greek are new.

The main reason I’m doing this is b/c I enjoy it, it relaxes and soothes me as the words conjure up associations. Another reason is that it is a way of making sure I am dealing with vocabulary that I will be using since a lot of my reading in both languages has to do with history, culture and literature. Another reason is to familiarize myself with the words – esp. the Greek – and then read the material over several times until I know the vocabulary cold. And yet another is to check my knowledge of these words in other languages. And lastly, the words themselves sometimes have cultural embedding and associations that are quite interesting. One word in Urdu I came across was translated as ‘moral culture’. I puzzled over that with my Urdu-speaking friend and then I remembered a Russian word that seems to perfectly express that –nravstvennost’ = morality, morals and nravy = way of life, nravouchenie = moral admonition, and so on. The term moral culture doesn’t express much of anything I can think of in English. Perhaps ‘life style’ comes close but that became a euphemism for homosexuality and needs to be rescued from the moral majority.

Another project is in Urdu where I am going through the glossary and finding words with multiple translations into English to see if I can find a thread connecting the translations. A good example is pakka with meanings cooked, ripe, ready, matured, solid, substantial, permanent (as of a brick or stone house or paved road). Another one is tang meaning narrow, tight, distressed, straitened, harassed. That last one involves the sort of semantic shift we see in the narrowing ‘angustus’ of the throat and ‘anxius’ meaning anxious. Yet another is surat meaning form, state, condition, case, face. On the latter, I think of English ‘on the face of it’ or ‘in this case’ as in ‘given this condition’, and so on. Sometimes these lead to interesting cultural associations as when xandan means extended family, household, lineage, dynasty and it is better sometimes just to use gharvale(house member) when you mean your immediate family.

I’ll add more to this as I come across revealing parallels and comparisons.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *