Arabic and Contact-Induced Change.

Last December, I mentioned C. Lucas & S. Manfredi (eds.), Arabic and Contact-Induced Change: A Handbook as forthcoming; it has now come forth, and as bulbul wrote me, like all LSP books, it is completely free. Among the thirty chapters, from “Pre-Islamic Arabic” to “Contact and the expression of negation,” there are two of particular interest to LH readers: “Maltese,” by Christopher Lucas and Slavomír Čéplö (aka bulbul), and “Berber,” by Lameen Souag. Bulbul says, “The other recent book I was involved in and your readership may find of interest is, naturally, Maltese Linguistics on the Danube“; it ain’t free, but he says he might be able to help out LH readers — drop him a line if you’re interested.

Unrelated, but I recently finished reading Kataev’s excellent 1966 memoir Святой колодец [The Holy Well], about half of which consists of accounts of various trips to America in the late ’50s and early ’60s; at one point he’s in Houston describing its boom-town growth, and says that you can look out at a stretch of land that seems completely empty, but in fact a whole neighborhood can spring up there overnight because the нулевой цикл [nulevói tsikl] has already been laid down, so prefab houses can immediately be plugged into the sewer system, electricity lines, etc., and be ready for occupancy. I have had no luck finding an official translation for the technical term нулевой цикл, which literally means ‘zero cycle’; people online suggest things like “foundation work.” I thought maybe some knowledgeable LH reader (AJP?) might know the terminology.


  1. Нулевой цикл строительства – preparing the site, delivering the equipment, laying and insulating the foundation, in short all the work done before the walls are erected above the ground floor level.
    The term appears to date to the early 1930s. Eventually, separate permits and specs started to be required for below-ground and above-ground work and this initially very technical term thus got into wide circulation.

  2. Yes, I figured out what it means, but there must be a standard English term for it.

  3. Mise en place wd be the culinary term.

  4. Stu Clayton says

    Germany German speakers call it the “opening up/making available” of a plot [of land]: Erschließung or Aufschließung [eines Grundstücks]. Erschließen is used in other, related ways: Der Sinn dieser Maßnahme erschließt sich mir nicht is a a fancy way of saying “I don’t get it”.

    As always, further research is needed as to what the Austrians and Swiss might say here. Bavarians may have their own jargon.

  5. In NZ when opening up a new subdivision, it’s called ‘linear infrastructure’: roads, pipes, cables. here’s a related usage.

    But that doesn’t include per-plot foundations or insulation.

    The term came to the fore here after the Canterbury earthquakes: a huge amount of the linear infrastructure got munted, and has had to be repaired/replaced. Of course within the City most of it runs under the roads; so still 10 years on there’s continual wandering road closures. Every journey is like a new day guessing where the roadcones’ll be.

  6. Lars Mathiesen says

    The Danish term is byggemodning, literally ‘maturation for building.’

  7. Stu Clayton says

    So hyggemodning could mean “learning to be nice” ?

  8. AJP Crown says

    ‘Foundation work’ is awful, it sounds like concrete. Utility infrastructure would cover power, water, cable and sewerage lines. Utility grid is often used to mean just electricity, and its layout is not necessarily gridded.

  9. AJP Crown says

    (I learnt “Utilities” from Monopoly.)

  10. PlasticPaddy says

    Groundwork sounds better than foundation work (and appeared in some relevant translations in reverso when I checked), but I suppose groundwork has no precise usage in construction, like say “priming”.

  11. AJP Crown says

    Expressions change according to locality, however, I only know foundations to refer to the construction the building stands on where it meets the ground: pilings, grade beams, masonry, big rocks etc. Groundwork I haven’t encountered. I’d expect it to be something like sitework: grading the land around a building with earthmovers, building access roads, stuff like that. In my limited experience bringing utilities to a site are the responsibility of the local authorities and utility companies. Once they cross the property line, the owner starts paying.

    I’ve mentioned before the system I’ve seen in Sweden where they run utility lines buried in sand under the sidewalks. Any time something needs changing in New York, for example, they tear up the road but in Stockholm they merely lift a few pavers fiddle around with the cables and put everything back afterwards.

  12. Utility infrastructure would cover power, water, cable and sewerage lines.

    Thanks, that works for me!

  13. AJP Crown says

    Utility network too.

  14. Lars Mathiesen says

    I’m not sure that ‘nice’ covers hygge very well. This margin is too small to expose further on the matter. (And then he did).

    (English Wiktionary on the subject is not too bad, though the etymology section is a bit messy).

    We don’t actively go teaching people to hygge, most kids seems to absorb the notion from the ether or somewhere. Sitting in your comfy chair reading to a child on your lap is more or less the epitome of hygge—unless it was scheduled; hygge and schedules are oil and water. Add an open fire to turn it up to 11.

    An interior decorator can’t create hygge. A place needs to be lived in to become hyggelig; hyggemodning is well-formed but oxymoronic.

  15. David Eddyshaw says

    As adopted into English, hygge seems to be pretty much synonymous with “twee”, but it is of course a truism that borrowings often have very different senses from their originals. Moreover, anglophones may be culturally unable to comprehend the true concept. Like the Mexicans and Cortés’ ships.

  16. AJP Crown says

    It’s not ‘twee’ in Norway, at least. Hygge is close to ‘cosy’ in Britain, but doesn’t carry cosy’s potentially twee overtones.

    Norway has managed to avoid the big deal made about Danish ‘hygge’ in Britain & the US, where it’s apparently impossible to translate but has some suggestion of pillows, liquor, fireplaces and niche markets.

  17. Lars Mathiesen says

    If you have to try, you are failing.

  18. David Eddyshaw says

    “Cosy yet not twee” sounds like a pretty good rendering. Commercialisation would presumably be every bit as toxic to the real thing as scheduling. Hence the devolution to mere tweeness.

    “The Hygge you can write popular books about is not the true Hygge.” (Lavsen)

  19. John Cowan says

    Tearing up a NYC street only annoys the very limited number of drivers, whereas tearing up the sidewalk annoys every New Yorker. I think the city made the correct decision.

  20. David Marjanović says

    the very limited number of drivers

    Including the countably infinite number of cab drivers and every single one of their passengers.

  21. They should take the subway like normal people.

  22. AJP Crown says

    Buses too.

  23. Trond Engen says

    It’s easier to mark and use part of a lane as a temporary sidewalk than the other way around.

  24. AJP Crown says

    The other thing of course is the cost both to the environment and the taxpayer of tearing up the asphalt with jackhammers versus lifting pavers set in sand. And the city didn’t make a choice. As far as I know, no choice has ever been presented on this, it just carried on doing the same old thing.

  25. As do most of us.

  26. it just carried on doing the same old thing

    Один человек очень любил жареные сосиски. Женившись, он попросил свою жену почаще их готовить. Вскоре он заметил, что его жена перед жаркой отрезает у сосисок кончики с двух сторон. Удивившись, он спросил ее:
    – Дорогая, а зачем ты отрезаешь кончики у сосисок? Почему не жаришь их целиком?
    – Я не знаю, – ответила молодая супруга, – моя мама всегда так делала, поэтому я тоже так делаю.
    Заинтригованные, они отправились вдвоем к маме.
    – Скажи, мама, – спросила дочь, – почему ты всегда отрезаешь кончики у сосисок перед тем, как их поджарить?
    – Я не знаю, – ответила мама, – так делала моя мама, я училась готовить у нее и делаю так, как она. У нас такая традиция.
    И они втроем направились к бабушке. Бабушка сидела на кресле-каталке, укутанная в плед, и спала. Пришлось разбудить.
    – Бабушка, почему ты всегда отрезала кончики у сосисок?
    – Не знаю, – ответила бабушка, – моя мама всегда так делала. Пока не поздно, надо узнать у нее.
    Прабабушка лежала на смертном одре и готовилась отойти в мир иной.
    – Скажи, почему мы отрезаем кончики у сосисок перед жаркой?
    Прабабушка встрепенулась и оглядела окруживших ее родственниц:
    – А вы что, до сих пор готовите на той маленькой сковородке???

  27. AJP Crown says

    Haha! Brilliant. Thanks.

  28. I’m going to use that joke the next time someone tells me “we’ve always done it like this”.

  29. Stu Clayton says

    Procrustes And The Sausage: Thinking Outside The Box Bed

  30. January First-of-May says

    Essentially the same joke at Snopes. It must be a pretty old story.

  31. Lars Mathiesen says

    The one I know — husband is always nagging his wife why she can’t make meatballs the way his mom did. She tries every recipe she can find, nothing doing. Finally she gives up and just goes and buys canned meatballs. “Oh, finally, just like my mother made them!”

  32. John Cowan says

    It’s like Primo Levi’s tale “Chromium” from The Periodic Table, where he’s working in a paint factory as a chemist. He begins to wonder why one varnish recipe included a raw onion. What could it be for? No one knew; it was just part of the recipe. So he investigates, and eventually discovered that during a time when high-temperature thermometers had become unavailable, the employees had started throwing the onion in years ago to test the temperature of the varnish: if it was hot enough, the onion would fry.

  33. AJP Crown says

    And that’s just the beginning. I think Primo Levi is my favourite writer.

  34. David Eddyshaw says

    I’ve just had the chance to look at the Arabic book, and it’s as fascinating as you’d expect.

    I (naturally) looked very early on at the chapter on Nigerian Arabic; I knew this was a thing, but had been thinking of it as sorta creole-like, which is very far from the case. I should have known better: when I lived in Kano, our medical director, who spoke extremely good Saudi Arabic, told me he’d had some Nigerian Arab patients with whom he’d been able to communicate quite well. (The patients, on the other hand, were astonished, as he was a Sri Lankan Tamil.)

    The chapter on foreign influences on Classical Arabic, by Marijn van Putten, is also extremely interesting. I knew that there was a huge Aramaic influence: what I didn’t know was that it antedates Syriac, because it shows neither the loss of short vowels in unstressed open syllables nor the bgadkpat phenomenon. Apart from anything else, this surprised me because I had never realised how late those phenomena are in Aramaic (1st – 3rd century CE, apparently); I knew they were Aramaicisms in Hebrew but had no notion they were so recent in Aramaic itself. I must track down Holger Gzella’s A cultural history of Aramaic, which is the reference for this.

    I also hadn’t realised that there is a substantial Geʿez influence; I’m used to thinking of all the borrowing going from (Christian) Arabic to Geʿez.

  35. Wow, all of that is very interesting indeed, and I’d like to have seen the expressions on the faces of the patients on seeing a Sri Lankan Tamil speak extremely good Arabic!

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