My favorite archivist has appealed to the collective polyglottery of the Languagehat readership and is hoping one of you can translate the Armenian on this lovely document (pdf), a diploma in Armenian from a school Mount Holyoke used to run in Bitlis. She and I will be deeply grateful for any assistance!
Bemused observation. I can’t believe I have all these readers who know obscure Native American languages and Slavic tongues, and not one who can read Armenian!


  1. Kári Tulinius says

    I’m working with an Armenian poet tomorrow in a poetry translation workshop (using English as a bridge language), if no one else has stepped up, I’ll ask him for a quick translation.

  2. Hi, I’ve studied a little Armenian. This document was a little hard for me to read (I’m not used to cursive, Western Armenian, or pre-modernized spelling), and I’m not sure I’ve translated it well, but I think it reads:
    Մաունդ Հոլեոք Աղջկանց Վարժարան Ի Բաղէշ
    (Mount Holeoke Girls College, Bitlis)
    Մեր աղջիկները պալատի շէնքին համար փորագրոված քարերով պէս ըլլան:
    (Our daughters shall be like the polished stones of a palace.)
    Լուսին Իսրայէլեան օրինավորապէս ավարտած է վարժարանիս ուսմանց կանոնավոր ընթացքը ի վկայով թիվն, որոյ կը տրովի այս վկայագիր ստորագրութեամբ տեսչուհեաձ և վարժարանիս կնկով:
    (Lusin Israelyan’s having graduated and studied in college according to the law in the required interval is witnessed on this date, which is marked(?) by the signature of the examiner and the college’s stamp on this certificate.)
    It’s very rough indeed. Several bits I couldn’t construe and had to guess.

  3. Honestly, the only Armenian I can read is երանի խալալարարաց.

  4. “obscure Slavic tongues”? You mean someone here speaks Sorbian and Kashubian?

  5. Depending how important it is and whether anyone with better knowledge shows up I can check it with an Armenian in a day or two.

  6. Thanks very much, PF! It’s not vitally important, she just wants it for a writeup she’s doing on the document for the archive blog, so don’t knock yourself out; what you’ve provided looks good enough for rock and roll.

  7. J.W. Brewer says

    The middle line is presumably from Psalm 143/144, which comes out in Coverdale (2d half of verse 12, although versification may not be consistent across versions) as “and that our daughters may be as the polished corners of the temple.”

  8. and that our daughters may be as the polished corners of the temple
    So you can bump into them without their taking offense ? Maybe “cornerstones” is meant. Though why even these would need special polishing, or deserve special mention of their polished condition, I can’t imagine.
    “Polished stones” might mean some kind of building stone unfamiliar to Anglophones – one of those expressions like “siberian pine tree” that must do duty in English for a specific species of tree in Siberia for which there is no common English name.

  9. Trond Engen says

    Yeah, it’s an odd image. Could it be the bare columns? Let our daughters gain the strength and steadfastness to metaphorically hold the metaphorical house?.

  10. J.W. Brewer says

    You can poke around different English translations of the Psalms (of which there are even more than of the OT as a whole . . .) and see different approaches to the image: some do have “palace” as opposed to temple, some suggest support pillars or cornerstones . . . I suppose the Hebrew text may bear multiple readings and I suspect the standard/traditional Armenian text of the Psalter was mediated through LXX Greek in any event (but maybe the 19th century Protestant missionaries had their own rival Protestant text of the scriptures in Armenian?), although I haven’t bothered to confirm that. IIRC, Coverdale himself had no or little Hebrew and was primarily working from Latin in his rendition of the Psalms.
    One Norwegian translation I found online (I haven’t taken time to see how standard it is) has “våre døtre som hjørnestolper, hugget som til et slott.” Luther rendered in into German as “und unsere Töchter seien wie die ausgehauenen Erker, womit man Paläste ziert.”

  11. Tom Recht says

    I think ‘polished’ is a mistranslation. The New International Version gives “Then our sons in their youth will be like well-nurtured plants, and our daughters will be like pillars carved to adorn a palace” – i.e. statuesque. In modern Hebrew too, the adjective mexutav means ‘carved’, not ‘polished’.

  12. The New English Bible has:
    Happy are we whose sons in their early prime
    stand like tall towers,
    our daughters like sculptured pillars
    at the corners of a palace.
    Psalms 101-150, by John William Rogerson and John William McKay, says “sculptured pillars: the reference may include either good looks, or regal stature, or both.”

  13. Google Translate renders the Armenian line as “Our girls like the Facility available for poragrovats stones.” Now all is clear!

  14. The line is from OT/Hebrew Bible Psalm 144, verse 12:
    בְּנֹותֵינוּ כְזָוִיֹּת מְחֻטָּבֹות תַּבְנִית הֵיכָל׃
    Almost as helpful as Hat’s findings at Google Translate:
    Our daughters {bnotay’nu}
    as angles, corners {kizaviot’}
    carved, chiseled, well-formed, clear-cut, well-formed (shapely) body {mixutavot’}
    form, mold, model, pattern, format, figure, image; paradigm (gram.); structure, formation {tavnit’}
    [of the] palace, temple {heyxal’}
    Definitions from Alcalay.
    Klein gives the root חתב xatav four separate entries, with cognates in other Semitic languages, plus a fifth in Modern Hebrew. 1. to cut or gather wood; 2. he embroidered; 3. to praise; 4. to strike out, erase. MH: sculptor, carver.

  15. The verb փորագրել (the poragrovats of languagehat’s google translation) actually means “etched” . Not sure why I went with “polished” at the moment. I think I got it from a translation of the psalm I looked at for reference. The root is գրել, to write.

  16. Sorry, փորագրել means “to etch”, փորագրոված is the resultative, “etched”.

  17. Thanks! (I still remember fondly your reports from Siberia; I hope you have the text saved somewhere, and you might think about writing it up for publication. That was good stuff.)

  18. The New International Version gives “Then our sons in their youth will be like well-nurtured plants, and our daughters will be like pillars carved to adorn a palace” – i.e. statuesque.
    Being either rooted in the ground, or heavy and cemented to a building, clearly these children will stay put to do their parents’ bidding. That’s the set-up many immigrant Turkish fathers in Germany are determined to maintain, as discussed in another thread here recently. The plants and pillars must remain attached to the Old Country, and have no business running around speaking German.
    The combination of farm and palace images suggests an author who is himself not rich, powerful and ensconced, but who admires these traits. Sons come and go, but daughters are forever and the king is here to stay. The scriptwriters of Dynasty could easily have composed the OT.

  19. Speaking of translations, it’s curious that Rutgers University’s newspaper is called The Daily Targum
    See also Wiki Targum.

  20. Paul, your “The Daily Targum” link is broken. It should be The Daily Targum.

  21. Thanks very much for your encouragement, then and now!

  22. Thanks Stu.

  23. At the site I couldn’t find an explanation under “About us”, or at other links there, as to why that name was chosen for the newspaper.

  24. Aramaic slang on the campus !? That’s pretty exotic.

  25. This is why kids are so eager to go to college: their parents won’t let them use words like “targum” at home.

  26. Yeah, I make them call it “taytsh” instead.

  27. Vahagn Petrosyan says

    Here’s the Armenian text, transliteration and my translation. If you have questions, please come to my talk page at
    Մաունդ Հոլեոք Աղջկանց Վարժարան
    Maund Holeokʿ Ałǰkancʿ Varžaran
    (Mount Holyoke Girls College)
    (In Bitlis)
    Մեր աղջիկները պալատի շէնքին համար փորագրուած քարերու պէս ըլլան:
    Mer ałǰiknerə palati šēnkʿin hamar pʿoragruac kʿareru pēs əllan.
    (Our girls are like stones carved [cut] for the palace’s edifice.)
    Լուսին Իսրայէլեան օրինաւորապէս աւարտած է վարժարանիս ուսմանց կանոնաւոր ընթացքը, ի վկայութիւն որոյ կը տրուի այս վկայագիր ստորագրութեամբ տեսչուհեայ և վարժարանիս կնքով:
    Lusin Israyēlean ōrinaworapēs awartac ē varžaranis usmancʿ kanonawor əntʿacʿkʿə, i vkayutʿiwn oroy kə trui ays vkayagir storagrutʿeamb tesčʿuheay ew varžaranis knkʿov.
    (Lusin Israyelian has duly finished the regular course of study at our college, in witness whereof the present certificate with the signature of the directress and the college’s seal is being granted.)

  28. Thanks for taking the trouble, Vahagn; I really appreciate it, and so will my friend.

  29. marie-lucie says

    Thank you, Vahagn, for including the phonetic transliteration as well as the translation.

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