Cavafy in Turkish.

Orhan Pamuk has an appreciation of C. P. Cavafy in today’s NY Times Book Review focusing on his best-known poem, “The City” (a sidebar gives the Keeley/Sherrard translation, which I am not happy with, but then there are no really good translations of Cavafy; see this ancient LH post for my attempt at one). Pamuk has nice things to say about the poet, his poem, and his city, Alexandria, but what leads me to post is this bit towards the end: “A longtime friend once published a selection in Turkish, working from Edmund Keeley’s translations…” That made me sad. Theoretically, you would think any Turk interested in foreign literature, and especially Cavafy, would learn Greek as a matter of course; the countries are right next to each other and their histories and cultures are inextricably intertwined. In fact, of course, the longstanding mutual fear and loathing makes that a utopian thought. How I dislike nationalism! (I also dislike ignoring the strict rhyme and meter of Cavafy’s great poem when you’re translating it, but that’s a separate issue.)

While I’m on the Times Book Review, I might as well quote the most educational correction I’ve seen in a while:

A review on Dec. 1 about “Queen Anne: The Politics of Passion,” by Anne Somerset , misstated the successional status of Queen Anne’s father before he became King James II. He was the heir presumptive of Charles II , not the heir apparent. (Generally, in the British system of royal primogeniture, the heir apparent, in contrast to an heir presumptive, is one whose claim to the throne cannot be superseded by the birth of a closer heir.) As the brother of Charles, who had no legitimate offspring, James was heir presumptive, but could have been displaced by the birth of a legitimate child to Charles.

I did not know that!

Comments

  1. Theoretically, you would think any Turk interested in foreign literature, and especially Cavafy, would learn Greek as a matter of course; the countries are right next to each other and their histories and cultures are inextricably intertwined. In fact, of course, the longstanding mutual fear and loathing makes that a utopian thought.

    So it would be fair to say that their histories and cultures are intertwined in mutual fear and loathing. As a consequence, some Turks might be motivated to learn enough Greek to spy on Greeks, though not in order to read their belles-lettres. This is not necessarily a Bad Thing – one has to start somewhere.

    As you may recall, in some 1960s Texas highschools courses in Russian were offered as being the language of the enemy. That was how I learned Russian basics. German and French came later, for completely different reasons.

    It was precisely the belles.lettres at which I balked in Russian at some point – too hard to read. I might have ended up fluent if I had joined the CIA – that was the spirit of the times. The money follows the Zeitgeist.

  2. They should correct the correction: he became James VII and II.

  3. As you may recall, in some 1960s Texas highschools courses in Russian were offered as being the language of the enemy.

    The complimentary Russian expression (in fact, bureaucratic term) was “the language of probable enemy” (“язык вероятного противника”; the Russian word for “enemy” used here is not from high-flown rhetoric, as in “foe”, but rather one used technically by the military or even in sports, as in “adversary”, “opponent”). The expression in question was only used in some rare civil documents and in the military, and typically only used in jest outside of those native contexts – or this is how I remember it now. A schoolboy attending a “school with reinforced English teaching” (“школа с усиленным преподаванием английского языка”) would smile knowingly to a half-teasing “so, how are you doing, learning the language of probable enemy?” in 1980s; an official term in casual conversation would automatically turn sarcasm on and produce those smiles.

  4. Theoretically, you would think any Turk interested in foreign literature, and especially Cavafy, would learn Greek as a matter of course

    I’m not so sure of that. How many people who are interested in literature and whose first language uses the Latin alphabet can read another language that uses another alphabet? When was the last time you saw non-English literature in its original language in even a large bookstore?

    Turkish-Greek relations are of course messy in the extreme, which probably doesn’t help in this particular case, though I note that there is a Cavafy entry in Turkish Wiki. At least some of his poetry has been translated into Turkish.

    I recall browsing the bookstores along İstiklal Avenue in Istanbul and remarking that a great big chunk of the Western canon had been translated into Turkish.

  5. How many people who are interested in literature and whose first language uses the Latin alphabet can read another language that uses another alphabet?

    We’re talking about people who want to translate, not just people with a vague interest.

    At least some of his poetry has been translated into Turkish.

    Yes, apparently from English.

  6. Theoretically, you would think any Turk interested in foreign literature, and especially Cavafy, would learn Greek as a matter of course; the countries are right next to each other and their histories and cultures are inextricably intertwined. In fact, of course, the longstanding mutual fear and loathing makes that a utopian thought. How I dislike nationalism!

    While I quite agree about nationalism as being about fear and loathing first and foremost, I think that the unavailability of direct translations of the poetry of a single poet (even if the poet in question is a must-read) should not be automatically explained by relations between the nations in question; after all, there is so much else to a literary process (e.g. English translations being well-known, recognized and accessible), and national feelings of the intelligentsia are at times so complex, that one can not reason from availability of texts to prevailing feeling as the supposed reason so easily.

    Perhaps the comparison with other languages that use different alphabets and writing systems could reinforce or weaken your hypothesis? For example, how many direct translations from Chinese to Turkic are available? If they are much more numerous than those from Greek where English translations are also available, then perhaps it is indeed the national bias showing?

  7. J. W. Brewer says

    How many people, in any European country, learn modern Greek (as opposed to classical/NT/etc.) as a standalone L2? Is it a lot more in nearby countries? Has Cavafy been translated into Bulgarian directly from the original?

  8. Hat: (At least some of his poetry has been translated into Turkish) . . .apparently from English.

    I suppose that’s not surprising. How did you come to that conclusion?

    The Turkish Publishers Association provides numbers on publishing and related information on its website. Imported books are only about ten percent of total book sales. Presumably Amazon has not made big inroads yet, as there are some 6,000 bookstores in the country. About 42,000 trade titles were published last year with an average print run of some 7,000 copies. Almost 15,000 titles in the “Literature and Rhetorics” category were published. No information on translations, and — no surprise here — no breakdown on Turkish vs Kurdish.

  9. J. W. Brewer says

    It is in any event a bit anachronistic to speak of a “British” system at the time (and even unto this day it is often imprecise to refer to “British” law). James eventually succeeded his brother as a matter of both English law and Scots law and even if the functional point here is the same (i.e. that any legitimate offspring of Charles – I think a daughter would have have sufficed — would have been ahead of James in the line of succession), it is quite possible that Scots law referenced the distinction with different jargon than apparent/presumptive, since in my very limited exposure Scots law has different jargon than English law for quite a lot of things.

    A related quirk of the law (namely that a monarch’s newborn son would have rights superior to those of his older sisters) helped precipitate James’ downfall, of course, since James’ daughters from his first marriage (Mary and Anne) seemed safely Protestant such that the birth (subject at the time to a certain amount of suspicion and conspiracymongering) of the future Old Pretender thus changed the dynamics of the situation.

  10. Here’s Ithaca translated into Hebrew from the Greek.

  11. I think that the unavailability of direct translations of the poetry of a single poet (even if the poet in question is a must-read) should not be automatically explained by relations between the nations in question

    Oh, absolutely; I have no idea what the story is with this particular translation. But it’s hard not to think of general Greek/Turkish relations in connection with it.

    How did you come to that conclusion?

    Oh, I was just referring to this situation. Maybe this is an outlier and all other Cavafy translations into Turkish are from the original, in which case I would be happy to withdraw my reference to cultural antagonism.

  12. J. W. Brewer says

    Pamuk’s own work has now allegedly been translated into 60 languages, including Greek http://www.orhanpamuk.net/news.aspx?id=25&lng=eng. I would wager a modest amount that not all of those translations into all 60 target languages were made directly from a Turkish original and that perhaps some (Estonian? Malayalam?) were made via a French or English edition. I wouldn’t wager a lot of money one way or another as to whether the Greek edition(s) of Pamuk were direct or indirect. And these days there’s probably more money to be made publishing Pamuk in translation (in virtually any language) than publishing Cavafy.

  13. Herkül Millas/Ηρακλής Μήλλας translated Kavafis from Greek into Turkish [with Özdemir İnce].

  14. And these days there’s probably more money to be made publishing Pamuk in translation (in virtually any language) than publishing Cavafy.

    Oh, I doubt money is much of a consideration in publishing any poetry.

    Herkül Millas/Ηρακλής Μήλλας translated Kavafis from Greek into Turkish [with Özdemir İnce].

    Well, then I’m full of crap; it’s not the first time!

  15. Herkül Millas/Ηρακλής Μήλλας appears to be a Turkish-born Greek, whose numbers, 10,000 or so, are fading fast. This Wiki entry suggests that there remain some 4,000 speakers of Pontic Greek in Turkey.

  16. J. W. Brewer says

    Dr. Millas seems to presently be a member of the much larger number of Turkey-born ethnic Greeks who no longer live in Turkey (the <10,000 numbers are for the remaining ethnic Greeks who have not yet emigrated from Turkey, under duress or otherwise). Millas has apparently been involved both in teaching Greek literature at Turkish universities and Turkish literature at Greek universities, which probably makes him quite a rara avis. It would be interesting to know how popular such courses are or aren't.

  17. ethnic Greeks who have not yet emigrated from Turkey, under duress or otherwise

    Wiki says: To be electable, Turkish law requires the candidates [for office of Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople] to be Turkish citizens by birth. Since the establishment of modern Turkey, the position of the Ecumenical Patriarch has been filled by Turkish-born citizens of Greek ethnicity. As nearly all Greek Orthodox have left Turkey (see Population exchange between Greece and Turkey and Istanbul Pogrom), this considerably narrows the field of candidates for succession.

    From a related Wiki entry:
    Because of its historical location at the capital of the former Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire and its role as the Mother Church of most modern Orthodox churches, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople has enjoyed the status of “Primus inter pares (first among equals)” among the world’s Eastern Orthodox prelates.

  18. J. W. Brewer says

    In the last few years some progress has been made on the problem Paul identifies, via a number (maybe a dozen, maybe a few dozen – reports vary) of mostly-ethnic-Greek bishops from around the world (typically not natives of Greece/Cyprus proper) quietly being naturalized as Turkish citizens, including at least one fellow (Metropolitan +Nikitas of the Dardanelles) who was born and raised in the United States. My understanding is that the “by birth” in the language from wiki may be imprecise/outdated. This will hopefully lead to a substantially better and deeper pool of candidates than might otherwise be the case the next time it becomes necessary to select a new Patriarch. Greek-nationalist/anti-Turkish sentiment among many segments of the relevant laity being what it is, this approach has I believe created some controversy, but it enables at least a short/medium-term pragmatic solution while not creating the domestic political headaches with its own hardliners the Turkish government would likely have if it abandoned the citizenship requirement (which is in an abstract sense entirely unjustifiable given modern notions of religious liberty, but history is what history is and what are ya gonna do?).

    What if any Turkish language proficiency these reverend gentlemen had to display in order to be naturalized (or whether they quietly received waivers from whatever requirement Turkish law might otherwise impose in this regard) is not known to me.

  19. I was aware of the British distinction between heir apparent and heir presumptive, but did not realize that it was specifically British. It’s hard to remember sometimes that every monarchy does things differently. (As J. W. Brewer’s second comment above makes clear, it can be hard to remember this even when you’re actively in the process of remembering it!) According to Wikipedia, a number of heirs apparent in various countries have been “forced to abandon their claim” for various reasons, though since one of those reasons is given as “Jointly assassinated with his father”, I guess “forced to abandon their claim” may be euphemistic in some cases.

  20. marie-lucie says

    I like the equivalence of Dr Millas’ first names: Herkül Millas/Ηρακλής Μήλλας . Herkül is obviously a transliteration of French “Hercule” (from the Latin name of the hero), while Ηρακλής ‘Heracles’ is the actual Greek form. Perhaps Herkül is a way of avoiding attention to an obviously Greek name.

    I know the Greek letters, but have never studied Greek, so here is a question for hellenophiles: is the mark on the ή a stress marker, or what? if not, where is the stress?

  21. marie-lucie says

    Heir apparent/presumptive: In French I think I have seen héritier présomptif, but don’t remember an apparent alternative. There are still descendants of the Bourbons who are in line for the throne of France. I remember the time of unrest just before De Gaulle was called to power: posters appeared everywhere with Un roi, pourquoi pas? ‘A king, why not?’, emanating from le Comte de Paris, the presumptive heir. Few people were receptive to this proposal. His eldest son and potential heir later ran into some troubles of his own, and I am not sure of the current situation of the French branch but there is a potential heir in Spain, a very distant relative descended from the Spanish branch of los Borbones, themselves descended from a younger son of Louis XIV and his queen, who was a Spanish princess. The Comte de Paris I remember was himself married to Isabelle d’Orléans-Bragance, another Bourbon descendant (Orléans being the title attributed to the reigning Bourbon’s brother, and Bragance ‘Braganza’ a title in the Spanish branch).

  22. is the mark on the ή a stress marker, or what?

    Yes, it’s a stress marker; Greek has a strong word stress.

  23. Marie-Lucie:

    What surprises me in the name Herkül is the H: what is it doing there? The Turkish pronunciation is /herkyl/, whereas the French is /erkyl/ and the Greek is /eraˈklis/, both /h/-less. What is more, Turkish syllables take the form (C)V(C), so Erkül would be just as well-formed, at least to my only semi-instructed eye.

    The /y/ is not necessarily a sign of French influence: Turkish vowol harmono requires a front vowel in the second syllable after /e/ in the first. Note that in Modern Greek η, ι, υ, ει, οι, and υι all represent /i/, so Μήλλας and Millas are both /millas/.

  24. The H- is there in the Turkish name of the god, so presumably from Latin. Turkish Wikipedia: “Yunan mitolojisinde Herakles, Roma Mitolojisi’nde Herkül.”

  25. Un roi, pourquoi pas?

    This reminds me of John Steinbeck’s satirical novella The Short Reign of Pippin IV. In order to break a political deadlock, the various French political parties of the day[1] resolve to restore the monarchy, leaving it to the various royalist parties[2] to decide which monarchy to restore. They are equally deadlocked, and finally the leader of the Merovingian party puts forward the name of Pippin Arnulf Héristal, an amateur astronomer and legitimate descendant of Pippin II (the father of Charles Martel), who then takes the throne as Pippin IV. Unfortunately for the politicians, he takes the job seriously…. The book is a delightful satire on the French, the English, and especially the Americans, and thus should warm the heart of any Canadian, native born or adopted.

    [1] The Conservative Radicals, the Radical Conservatives, the Royalists, the Right Centrists, the Left Centrists, the Christian Atheists, the Christian Christians, the Christian Communists, the Proto-Communists, the Neo-Communists, the Socialists, and the Communists (these last divided into the Stalinists, Trotskyists, Khrushchevniks, and Bulganinians).

    [2] Vercingetorians, Merovingians, Capetians, Burgundians, Orléanists, Bourbons, Bonapartists, Angevins, and Caesarians.

  26. The terms heir presumptive and heir apparent are ordinary terms of English succession law, and are not restricted to the monarchy. At common law my daughter would be my heir-presumptive, as I might still have a son who would supersede her. In New York, fortunately, as in most monarchies (Sweden being the first in 1980), the barbaric preference for sons over daughters has been abolished. In particular, the U.K. has abolished it, but has suspended the operation of the law until the 15 other monarchies in personal union have done the same.

    I can find no French analogue of heir apparent either, but in Spain such a person is an heredero forzoso, as opposed to an heredero presunto. This refers to the civil-law notion of a hereditas necessarium, an inheritance which the heir must accept, even if it consists solely of debts (at common law an heir is not responsible for the decedent’s debts beyond the extent of the estate).

  27. Ethnologue gives a much higher figure of 300,000 Pontic-speakers in Greece (as of 2009), and 1.2 million worldwide. I wonder if the Wikipedia figure excludes Pontic-speaking Muslims of Greek origin? The population exchanges (aka ethnic cleansing) of 1922 were theoretically about sending Greeks to Greece and Turks to Turkey, but in practice were along religious lines, so Greek-speaking and Greek-descended Muslims resident in Turkey mostly remained in place.

    Pontic, by the way, is not mutually intelligible with Contemporary Standard Modern Greek, though it’s often called a Greek dialect. We should now be speaking of the Hellenic language family, whose living representatives are CSMG, Pontic, Cappadocian, and Tsakonian.

  28. Where the hell is Nick Nicholas when we need him?

  29. We should now be speaking of the Hellenic language family, whose living representatives are CSMG, Pontic, Cappadocian, and Tsakonian.

    Wiki says that “Griko and Standard Modern Greek are mutually intelligible to some extent.”

    Yevanic, apparently only a dialect, is, alas, pretty much gone.

  30. J. W. Brewer says

    There may be something I’m missing but I think John C does not have to worry about the apparent/presumptive distinction. We don’t have hereditary titles in the U.S. New York (like the other U.S. states) abolished primogeniture and the fee tail in the wake of the Revolution, and various remaining semi-feudal institutions in land tenure in the Hudson Valley (as to which I’m not sure whether the apparent/presumptive distinction was relevant) did not survive the reforming impulse of the 1840’s. Put another way, we no longer have “heirs” in the classic sense the apparent/presumptive distinction applies to, because we no longer have types of property which the current owner cannot (by and large) direct the disposition of by will and which by their nature must be passed on post mortem to a single future owner rather than potentially be divvied up amongst multiple distributees.

  31. John C, unhappily for his peace of mind, does not worry only about things of relevance to the current situation in these United States.

  32. marie-lucie says

    Heirs : Property can be divided, but titles cannot. You cannot have multiple kings or queens at the same time in the same country. During feudal times when European nobles held lands, the title that went with a territory could not be divided, and normally neither was the territory, otherwise noble territories would have become smaller and smaller. So the eldest son inherited both the title and the land that went with it, and unless or until he had a son, his brother, or the nearest male relative, was considered his potential heir. This was the general idea; different countries made different adjustments according to their own customs.

  33. Where the hell is Nick Nicholas when we need him?

    Technical resources:

    “History and Diatopy of Greek” (from his thesis)

    Annotated bibilography of Tsakonian resources

    “Tsakonian documentary” (description, links)

    “Pontic in Cyrillic Orthography”

    “Greek in Turkish Orthography” (really Pontic too)

    “Tsakonian Orthographic Reform”

    “Pontic Locatives”

    Swiss German WP article on Tsakonian (linked by Nick)

    “Rumi and Sultan Wallad, linguistic notes” (very early Cappadocian, before it got hit up by Turkish, plus a followup)

    “Mariupolitan Transcribed through Russian ears”

    “Soviet Orthography of Greek”

    Not so technical resources:

    “Language Minorities of Bithynia” (shows map of Tsakonian, Bulgarian, and CSMG-speaking villages in Turkey in the 19C)

    “How to Teach Historical Linguistics” (with Greek/Tsakonian examples)

    “Demotic in the Soviet Union”

    “Tsakonian on YouTube”

    “Tsakonian Song Online” (in four versions: Tsakonian, Tsakonian with sound-changes from CSMG undone, CSMG, English)

    “Michael Deffner, Scoundrel” (cooking the Tsakonian books)

    “Where Are the Tsakonian Villages in Turkey?”

    “The Pontic infinitive, real and imagined” (more cooking the books)

    “News in Tsakonia, 1895” (with bits by me about Aristophanes in translation and L. Sprague de Camp’s fictionalized translation in the comments)

    “Those Who Have Bowed Down” (Nick on Greek Muslims and other assimilating minorities)

    “Hyphenated And Less-Hyphenated Greeks” (Nick on Greek-Americans and Greek-Canadians, with a Pontic song)

    “Salonica: Coffee with Galerius” (contains a brief description of Mariupolitan dialect, which is Russian-accented Pontic-flavored Northern CSMG)

    Lagniappe (< Louisiana Creole French, probably < American Spanish la ñapa ‘the gift’ < Quechua yapa ‘gift’) for Etienne, Marie-Lucie, and anyone who made it to the end of this list:

    “Frenchville, PA: a distinct dialect of North American French”

  34. Alon Lischinsky says

    American Spanish la ñapa ‘the gift’

    I’ve never heard ñapa, and CORDE shows it to be mostly a Caribbean form. South of Colombia, the usual term is yapa, a straight-out borrowing from Quechua. Ana Baldoceda had something to say about that in a nice article she published a while ago on the mistreatment of Quechua and Aimara borrowings in the RAE’s Dictionary.

  35. John Cowan says

    “Mistreatment”? You make it sound like words have feelings. You want mistreatment, see the etymology of English syllabus (from Etymonline):

    1650s, ‘table of contents of a series of lectures, etc.,’ from Late Latin syllabus ‘list,’ a misreading of Greek sittybos (plural of sittyba ‘parchment label, table of contents,’ of unknown origin) in a 1470s edition of Cicero’s “Ad Atticum” iv.5 and 8. The proper plural would be syllabi.

  36. Alon Lischinsky says

    @John Cowan:

    You make it sound like words have feelings

    Blame it on my being an L2 speaker :-/ (Then again, although the most frequent complements in the mistreatment of a N frame are all human and animate, phrases like “mistreatment of a doll” crop up occassionally.)

    Although this wasn’t my original intent, I think it’s fair to observe that, while words don’t have feelings, people do. Baldoceda’s observation is that the Academy tends to give correct if succinct etymological treatment to terms of Romance or, more broadly, Old World origin, including the numerous Arabic admixtures from Andalusian times. Should you search their dictionary for, e.g., alcázar or guerra, the Arabic and Germanic etyma are presented. Go for llama instead, and you will find only the uninformative ‘Voz quechua’. Amerindian etyma are often omitted, mistranscribed, or even attributed to the wrong language.

    The syllabus example seems to be just one more case of a random corrupt reading, and no worse than the extraneous h in anthem. The deficiencies in the coverage of Amerindian etyma seem too numerous and systematic for randomness

  37. John Cowan says

    The deficiencies in the coverage of Amerindian etyma seem too numerous and systematic for randomness.

    Yes, more likely a manifestation of ignorance in the dictionary author. And you’d have a hard time convincing my grandson that dolls aren’t animate and human.

  38. Alon Lischinsky says

    @John Cowan:

    more likely a manifestation of ignorance in the dictionary author

    this is a good context to apply the old distinction between nescientia (‘simplicem negationem scientiae importat‘) and ignorantia (‘carere scientia quam quis natus est habere’).

    The compilers of a dictionary of Spanish should include, or at least consult with, specialists in the Amerindian languages that influenced it (Quechua, Aymara, Nahuatl, Mapudungun, and the Mayan, Arawakan and Tupi languages, at the very least). It’s not as if there aren’t any.

  39. Hear, hear!

  40. Hear × 3. And while we’re at it, English dictionaries should catch up with the last 100 years of research on non-European languages. African languages seem to fare especially badly, in the OED at least.

  41. marie-lucie says

    JC: A very belated merci for the lagniappe of the Frenchville, PA dialect! Ruth King is the specialist in North American French.

    And also for the link to the article How to teach historical linguistics, from someone who stumbled into the subject pretty much by accident.

    I liked the article overall, but I am not too happy with the author’s recommendation for how to start:
    – You need to take a proto-language that you know reasonably well.
    – And a daughter language that you know at least somewhat
    (and then go on to sound change rules, etc).

    Indeed that is how many teachers of the subject would start, but there is problem with “starting with a proto-language”, which by definition has been reconstructed from known forms in one or more “daughter” languages. How to be sure that the reconstruction is accurate? For instance, many people dismiss PIE as a total fiction because its reconstructed forms are often completely different not just from those of the daughter languages but (apparently) from those of any known languages at all. Of course, there are very good reasons why PIE is reconstructed that way, but as an introduction to the topic, starting with the most abstract, sometimes speculative forms in the reconstructed ancestor of a very large family in order to arrive at some of the actually known forms does not seem to be best way to convince students or doubters that the reconstruction is valid. For IE and a few other language families which have been intensively studied (and for which there may be actual documentation covering centuries), the amount of knowledge and the large number of people who have worked on the subject means that there is a consensus on at least the major points, but this is not the case for the majority of lesser-known families for which only one person has proposed a reconstruction of Proto-XYZ (even before establishing that X, Y and Z are related at all!) which has been accepted largely by default.

  42. African languages seem to fare especially badly, in the OED at least.

    AHD is much better about this.

  43. Good tip, thanks!

    Gnu.
    OED: “Khoekhoe and San gnu.”
    Century dictionary: “< Hottentot gnu or nju.”
    AHD: “Probably from Dutch gnoe, from Xhosa i-ngu, white-tailed gnu, from San !nu, black wildebeest.”

    Chimpanzee.
    OED: “< an African language of Angola, in W. Africa. (Compare French chimpansé, -zé, -zée.)
    CD: “From the native Guinea name.”
    AHD: “Portuguese, from Vili (Bantu language of Congo) ci-mpenzi.
    Etymonline: “from a Bantu language of Angola (compare Tshiluba kivili-chimpenze ‘ape’).” [?!]

    I’d still like more detail (wouldn’t we all), but at least the AHD provides as much detail on African loans as it does on French or Greek ones.

  44. Exactly. I love that dictionary to pieces.

  45. Trond Engen says

    Y:
    AHD: “Portuguese, from Vili (Bantu language of Congo) ci-mpenzi.”

    Damn, the Bantu structure is so obvious. Or too obvious, maybe. The ki- (chi-) classifier wouldn’t occur to me as the obvious choice. Are there regular cognates to rule out a folk-etymology in Vili?

    Etymonline: “from a Bantu language of Angola (compare Tshiluba kivili-chimpenze ‘ape’).” [?!]

    That looks like a misunderstanding of the AHD, or maybe rather a common source. Kivili has to be the same as Vili (Civili), so perhaps “Tshiluba/Kivili -” or “Tshiluba (Kivili) >i>chimpenze“. Also, since it appears that the ki-/chi- isogloss cuts straight through the region, finding a ki- cognate of cimpenzi should be feasible.

  46. Trond Engen says

    I mean. rule out a folk-etymological nativization in Civili of a Portuguese borrowing from somewhere up-coast. A folk-etymology before Portuguese borrowed the word would strengthen the etymology.

  47. What’s ci- usually used for? Which classifier would you expect?

  48. Trond Engen says

    In my admittedly superficial understanding, ki-/chi- is used primarily for adjectives/nouns denoting manner etc., hence languages. I’d expect the class for animates, or maybe for people (ref. orang utang.

  49. But I don’t think you can generalize about classifiers; they can be used in spectacularly different ways in different Bantu languages.

  50. Trond Engen says

    Yes, of course. I was struck by the obviousness of the Bantu structure myself, and I believe it, but I think there’s some reason to be cautious. First it’s a little odd if the Portuguese didn’t borrow a word for Chimpanzee decades earlier and closer to home, Second, if it was borrowed at the mouth of the Congo it’s somewhat odd that they got it from Vili rather than the regional trade language Kikongo. An irregular classifier in Civili is a third oddness. But it could also be that none of these are odd and it’s completely straightforward.

  51. To be fair, the OED entries for both gnu and chimpanzee are dated 1900 and 1887 respectively, when Africanist work was a lot less advanced than it is more than a century later.

  52. David Marjanović says

    The ki- (chi-) classifier wouldn’t occur to me as the obvious choice. Are there regular cognates to rule out a folk-etymology in Vili?

    I once read somewhere that there’s a Bantu language – I can’t even remember which one – where ki-mpanzi means “small climber”…

  53. marie-lucie says

    le chimpanzé

    The French word always has a z. At least I have never seen it spelled with s. I have never seen a feminine form for it either, but it might exist.

    In Canada the word (also) refers to the chipmunk! Probably because of a confusion with a similar word from a local native language. (Etienne, do you know?)

  54. Marie-lucie, in answer to your question, I have never heard or even heard of this alternate meaning of chimpanzé (which I too have never seen spelled without a z) in Canada. But then, I’m a city kid, so my knowledge of this and other vocabulary items designating animals is rather limited.

  55. In the AU where Homo sapiens doesn’t reach the New World until Columbus and the continent is occupied by sims (H. habilis), the animal in question is known as the shimpanse in English. Evolution by natural selection is discovered by Samuel Pepys (of all people) in 1661, based on his observations of humans, sims, and a shimpanse, as well as the recent discovery in England of bones from a spear-fanged cat and a hairy elephant, species now known to exist only in America. His chief opponent, as best as I can figure it, is Soapy Sam’s great-grandfather.

    Other things change too, of course. Slavery is peacefully abolished in 1804 by court order, when a fugitive slave successfully argues that it is unjust to treat human beings of whatever color like sims. Hairy-elephant trains bind together North America for two generations until the Iron Elephant, invented by Richard Trevithick, a Massachusettensian of Cornish origin, displaces them. Eventually there are several large reserves for wild sims, and a sims’ justice movement. An HIV inhibitor is developed in 1988 in Terminus (our Atlanta, but perhaps with an Asimov side reference) due to work on sims.

  56. David Marjanović says

    How did Homo or Australopithecus or Kenyanthropus habilis or Homo erectus* reach America?

    * That’s from the school of thought that argues it’s all intraspecific variation. I’ll look for the paper, it’s pretty compelling.

  57. John Cowan says

    Oops, for habilis read erectus. They could easily have crossed an earlier Bering Strait land bridge during an earlier phase of the Ice Age (which we are still in, as I understand it).

  58. David Marjanović says

    Sure, except that was all really cold, and they weren’t equipped for that.

    The next glaciation is scheduled to begin in 50,000 years and have its Glacial Maximum in 100,000; but we’re probably preventing it right now.

  59. Y, quoting Etymonline on chimpanzee:

    “from a Bantu language of Angola (compare Tshiluba kivili-chimpenze ‘ape’).” [?!]

    Trond Engen:

    That looks like a misunderstanding of the AHD, or maybe rather a common source. Kivili has to be the same as Vili (Civili), so perhaps “Tshiluba/Kivili -” or “Tshiluba (Kivili) chimpenze”.

    Well spotted. A ridiculous number of web sites, and even some academic books, have repeated “kivili-chimpenze”, probably copied from Etymonline, who in turn copied it directly from the Barnhart Dictionary of Etymology (1988). (I don’t like Douglas Harper’s uncritical reliance on outdated secondary sources, but at least he provides a sources page.) And Barnhart copied it directly from A Dictionary of Africanisms by Gerard M. Dalgish (1982), where the entry reads:

    chimpanzee, n. the well-known ape of Africa. [ < a West African Bantu language ~ KiKongo, Tshiluba (kivili-) chimpenzi, kimpenzi ape]

    (The symbol ~ here means “related to”.) Google tells me Gerard Dalgish is a linguist who has published on Bantu languages, so probably he knew what he was doing and it was just a formatting error; but Barnhart didn’t recognize that Kivili is a language, and created a ghost word. (I’m confident that this book was Barnhart’s source because Dalgish leads off his acknowledgments by thanking Barnhart for urging him to write it; Dalgish is also listed on the staff of the Barnhart book.)

    Wikipedia tells me Vili (aka Kivili) is a language of the Kongo cluster, spoken on the Atlantic coast; Tshiluba (aka Luba-Kasai) is in the interior. I think Dalgish was just naming Tshiluba as a language that has a related word, *not* claiming that it was the source of the European borrowing, which you’d expect would be more likely on the coast.

    A collection of dozens of words for apes in African languages was presented to the Zoological Society of London by H.H. Johnston in 1905; none of them resemble “chimpanzee” and the only one that might be recognizable to Anglophone readers is mpongo, which (in the form Pongo) is now used as the genus name for orangutans, though Johnston turns up his nose: “As in zoological nomenclature the preference is for the adoption of a Latin or Greek name, it is a pity to introduce into our lists a barbarous word in preference to one derived from either of the classical languages. But when in addition an African word is taken as the name of an East Asiatic genus, then the choice is singularly inappropriate.” Womp womp.

  60. David Eddyshaw says

    Since when is KiKongo or Tshiluba a West African language?

    I am, however, gratified by WP’s suggestion that West African chimpanzees are basically just better:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_chimpanzee#Unique_behaviors

  61. David Eddyshaw says

    It’s just occurred to me that the Vili name (ci-)mpenzi could very well be from *-mpengi, not a million miles from KiKongo mpongi, the origin (apparently) of pongo.

    (Recall our exhaustive treatment, not long ago, of Zanzibar …)

    https://languagehat.com/timbuktu-manuscripts/#comment-4330243

  62. David Eddyshaw says

    On whether the ki-/ci- noun class is possible for a indigenous animal name, as opposed to evidence of borrowing: I know no Vili, but in Swahili at any rate, although ki- is quite often diminutive, there are also e.g. kiboko “hippopotamus” and kifaru “rhinocerus” …

    Probably irrelevant, but although the possibly-cognate Oti-Volta noun class suffix -ka/ga is recognisably diminutive – at times – in some of the Eastern languages, in Western Oti-Volta it includes a lot of animal names, like “dog”, “goat”, “mouse” (OK, a bit on the small side, that one), “donkey” and numerous others, including “monkey” and “ape.” [Also nearly all words for trees, which have been transferred en masse from the -bu class in all the WOV languages except Boulba.]

  63. Among the African cognates listed by the OED as relevant to the origin of pongo is “Yombi yimpungu (plural tsimpungu).” I don’t know that I have ever heard of Yombi though, and a quick Web search has not been enlightening.

  64. More commonly Yombe (Kiyombe); 670,000 speakers per Wikipedia (under Democratic Republic of the Congo).

  65. David Eddyshaw says

    Seems to be a dialect of KiKongo.
    The sg yimpungu pl tsimpungu looks like the Bleek-Meinhof* noun class pair 9 and 10, which incudes lots of animal names across Bantu. Don’t know why it’s devoiced tsi-, though.

    Lingala has mpunga, which is some kind of ape or monkey (dunno: it’s just one of the translations offered for “singe” in Guthrie’s book); looks like it comes from yet another word of the same general shape, anyhow.

    * I’m all for cancelling Meinhof and calling them Bleek-Bleek classes …

  66. David Eddyshaw says

    I wonder if “chimpanzee” could actually go back to a plural form, with a class prefix like that tsi-?

  67. I like that!

  68. David Marjanović says

    It took the zoologists a good long while to sort the chimps from the orang-utans.

  69. I’m all for cancelling Meinhof and calling them Bleek-Bleek classes

    no! call them by their proper name: Red Army Noun Classes.

  70. DE: “Since when is KiKongo or Tshiluba a West African language?”

    Dalgish’s slip, I guess (perhaps meaning to say “western Bantu” or “west coast Bantu”?); repeated by Barnhart; *not* repeated by Etymonline, so +1 for him. (The OED online, s.v. chimpanzee, unrevised, still says the source is “an African language of Angola, in West Africa.” They also have no definition for “West African”, despite using the phrase in over a hundred definitions.)

    DM: I think you meant to say “sort the chimps from the bonobos”. Sorting them from the orangutans is easy :).

  71. Notes and Queries, 9th S., VIII, Oct. 26, 1901, p. 341:

    CHIMPANZEE. – In the second volume of the N.E.D. (published 1893) this is stated to be the native name in Angola, therefore a Bantu word, but I see Prof Skeat in the new edition of his Concise Etymological Dictionary, 1901, ascribes it to “the neighbourhood of the Gulf of Guinea.” His information, though later in date than Dr. Murray’s, must be less correct, as there can be no doubt of the existence of the Bantu form kampenzi among the tribes south of the Congo river. There is an island near the left bank not very far from the mouth which in Tuckey’s ‘Congo,’ 1818, p. 92, is called “Zoonga Kampenzey, or Monkey Island.” In Burton’s Gorilla Land, 1876, vol ii, p. 84, it is more grammatically written “Zunga chya Kampenzi,” and translated “Chimpanzee Island.” JAS. PLATT, Jun.

  72. David Eddyshaw says

    @rozele:

    Red Army noun fractions?

  73. @DE:

    i concede the field.

  74. David Eddyshaw

    > I wonder if “chimpanzee” could actually go back to a plural form, with a class prefix like that tsi-?

    Oh, that an interesting theory.

    David: which Red army, the Russian or the German?

  75. @V: The one from Die Kinder. Did you not get the joke?

  76. David Marjanović says

    DM: I think you meant to say “sort the chimps from the bonobos”. Sorting them from the orangutans is easy :).

    No, seriously. I guess if all you have are dried hides or something, it’s not obvious that they aren’t “almost the same” – and certainly not that chimps are closer to us than to orang-utans!

    The bonobos were recognized much later.

    Did you not get the joke?

    I don’t.

  77. David Eddyshaw says

    @V, Brett, DM:

    rozele was referring to the great-niece.

  78. I don’t.

    Me neither, and Google is no help.

  79. David Eddyshaw says

    It seems a pity to explain the joke from under rozele, but

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ulrike_Meinhof

  80. I know about Ulrike Meinhof and the Red Army Faction, and I assumed the RAF was the referent of the first joke, but I didn’t get the reference to Die Kinder.

  81. David Eddyshaw says

    It seems to feature a “Red Liberation Front”, presumably modelled on the actual RAF.

  82. Too far in the weeds! I can’t see my way out of here!

  83. David Marjanović says

    Same here.

    (Ulrike is linked from Carl’s Wikipedia article.)

  84. J.W. Brewer says

    When it came to Marxism-spouting terrorist gangs of the Seventies, the Japanese Red Army (日本赤軍) was so much cooler than the rest of the field, including but not limited to the Baader-Meinhof RAF, that one rather suspects the latter’s fan base of Eurocentrism. Which to be fair may not have been nearly as grievous a sin in hard-left circles back then as it subsequently came to be considered. I mean, the JRA would have been even cooler if they’d been more interested in liberating the Symbionese than the Palestinians, but you can’t have everything.

  85. I was genuinely curious whether V was deadpanning or didn’t get the seemingly rather obvious joke. (After all Carl and Ulrike’s familial relationship has come up her previously.) However, I thought just asking whether V didn’t get it would sound too snarky, so I tried to leaven it with a cultural reference. I just didn’t expect it to be so obscure. I mean, I probably first heard about the Baader-Meinhof Gang via their fictionalized appearance in Die Kinder. Those Anglo-German thriller miniseries (Smiley’s People, Game, Set & Match, Die Kinder, Traffik) were an important influence on me in my youth.

  86. David Eddyshaw says

    Not obvious at all to normal people (among whom I would also imagine that Ulrike is much better known than Carl.) V may simply be more normal than is customary in these parts.

    Surely Smiley’s People was not Anglo-German? Or do you mean the plot, rather than the production?

  87. David Marjanović says

    Those Anglo-German thriller miniseries

    Never heard of any of them.

    Is the last one Trafik “tobacconist’s” by any chance? Final stress; ff would suggest initial.

  88. @David Eddyshaw: I think of Smiley’s People as being in the same category, even though it wasn’t a co-production with the West Germans, for thematic but also other reasons. Unlike the previous installment, Smiley’s People did have some shooting overseas, even if the climactic bridge scene was apparently actually filmed in England.

    @David Marjanović: Traffik. Part of it was later remade as an American film, although about the cocaine business instead of heroin.

  89. David M: Oh, now I see! My mistake was assuming “a good long while” meant “until recently”. But, as I’ve just now learned from a little reading, the good long while was from the early 1600s (first European description of orangutans, by a Dutch physician in Java) to the late 1700s (orangutans first classified as a separate species from chimpanzees). During that time, zoologists used the name Orang-Outang for all large apes, both from Malaysia and from Africa. From Going the whole orang: Darwin, Wallace and the natural history of orangutans:

    Chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans were gradually discovered by Europeans in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries following trade and European colonial expansion in Africa and Southeast Asia. Travellers’ accounts and specimens of great apes, often in poor condition, put on display at markets and animal gardens, or kept in the menageries of the wealthy complemented the enduring European tradition of mirroring human life in monkeys.

    Almost all great apes which reached Europe alive in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were juveniles that died young … and thus still much more alike than fully grown adults which in combination with the sparse knowledge about the great apes’ anatomy and general appearance is part of the explanation why all were classified as orangutans.

    There’s also a footnote pointing out that the first publication on gorillas (which attached the classical name “gorilla” to them, as one did in 1847) calls them “a new species of Orang”. So the broader sense of “orangutan” hadn’t died out yet.

    The use of the African word pongo for orangutans was the same conflation in the other direction.

    In short, I shouldn’t have doubted David M on a point of paleontology! He was right, the modern chimp/orang distinction can’t be projected too far back.

  90. David Marjanović says

    …that’s not paleontology, though, it’s history (of science), and I don’t think I ever knew much more about this than that Linnaeus wasn’t clear on the distinction.

  91. Linnaeus had not only a Simia satyrus which was a mix of chimpanzees and orangutans, but also a Homo troglodytes based perhaps partly on folklore and partly on orangutans. A second Homo species: that got a lot of pushback!

    Y, re Kampenzi Island: It’s ironic if the word “chimpanzee” came from a language on the *south* side of the Congo River, since the apes on that side are now called bonobos.

  92. I always preferred pygmy chimpanzee over bonobo.

  93. David Eddyshaw says

    Apparently bonobo was a misspelling on a packing crate of the placename

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bolobo

    whose people’s language was

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bangi_language

    of which Lingala is (more or less) a creole.

    Truly, All Threads are One.

    [“Not to be confused with the Bangime language of Mali”, says WP. Surely nobody would do that? No Hatter, anyhow …]

  94. @David Eddyshaw: This has come up at Language Hat before. However, the OED is dubious.

  95. David Eddyshaw says

    Well, the “misspelling” thing does look uncomfortably folk-etymological …

    That New Yorker article is very interesting. Also I liked

    “This pop image of the bonobo—equal parts dolphin, Dalai Lama, and Warren Beatty”
    “You always think there’s going to be something round the next bend, but there never is.”

  96. Trafic the movie. Dutch-funded Italian-French, “originally designed to be a TV movie”.

    For reasons still beyond me, the French teacher showed the movie as a cultural event after school hours. Beyond me because there’s hardly any dialogue, and what there is is as oblique to the action as in any M. Hulot movie.

  97. David Marjanović says

    a Homo troglodytes based perhaps partly on folklore and partly on orangutans

    …and that one, as Pan troglodytes, has ended up as the name of the chimpanzee. Meanwhile, Simia (as Linnaeus called all primates other than Homo) descended into such chaos that in the early 20th century the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature took the singular step of taking off and nuking the entire name from orbit. It is now banned from existence. The orang-utans are now Pongo pygmaeus (Borneo) and Pongo abelii (Sumatra).

    Well, the “misspelling” thing does look uncomfortably folk-etymological …

    How?

    Anyway, the version of the story I’ve been told is that it wasn’t even misspelled, it was BOLOBO on the crate, and the recipient managed to not only misinterpret the meaning but also to misremember the shape.

  98. Pongo pygmaeus (Borneo) and Pongo abelii (Sumatra)

    There is also the Tapanuli orangutan:

    The Tapanuli orangutan (Pongo tapanuliensis) is a species of orangutan restricted to South Tapanuli in the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. It is one of three known species of orangutan, alongside the Sumatran orangutan (P. abelii), found farther northwest on the island, and the Bornean orangutan (P. pygmaeus). It was described as a distinct species in 2017. As of 2018, there are roughly 800 individuals of this species and it is currently on the critically endangered species list.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tapanuli_orangutan

  99. Arguments from primatologists in favor of changing “pygmy chimpanzee” to a new name:
    1a. The species isn’t a subtype of chimpanzee; that is, it’s significantly more different from other chimpanzee subspecies than they are from each other.
    1b. The species isn’t distinctly smaller than chimpanzees; the size ranges overlap.
    1c. “Pygmy chimpanzee” is long, and necessitates some awkward retronym for other chimpanzees.

    Arguments against “bonobo”: (e.g., Kortlandt 1993)
    2a. It’s not a real word in an African language.
    2b. Tratz and Heck don’t deserve the honor of naming the species.
    2c. “Pygmy chimpanzee” is cute and therefore more effective at raising money for saving the rainforest.

    Those are all from the 1990s at the latest; by the early 2000s, “bonobo” was well established by lots of popularizations, and the arguments were moot, especially 2c.

  100. David Marjanović says

    Thanks for reminding me of the Tapanuli orangutan; I probably never knew its name.

  101. January First-of-May says

    I just didn’t expect it to be so obscure. I mean, I probably first heard about the Baader-Meinhof Gang via their fictionalized appearance in Die Kinder.

    Meanwhile I (approximately) only know “Baader-Meinhof” as a byname for the frequency illusion, and when not recently reminded of the actual referent, I tend to think it’s a railway station.

    (I actually recently misremembered it as “Baarle-Meinhof”, furthering the railway station confusion; for the record [to explain that joke], Baarle is a town in Belgium and the Netherlands, for which reason it is quite famous in many narrow circles.)

  102. I grew up in 70s Germany, so for me, it’s unexpected and strange to hear that anyone hasn’t heard about them. Which only shows again how different experiences and background assumptions are across time and geography.

  103. David Eddyshaw says

    I’d never come across “Baader–Meinhof phenomenon” as a name for the Frequency Illusion, but presumably it will not be long before I do, once again …

  104. Whenever I hear the Frequency Illusion referred to as the “Baader–Meinhof phenomenon,” I immediately think, Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve heard someone call it that!

  105. David Eddyshaw says

    I think you’re thinking of the Meinhof-Baader phenomenon …

  106. No, that’s the Meinhof-Baader phemonenom.

  107. David Eddyshaw says

    Of course. (Brings back memories …)

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