The Return of Сulver.

Back in the day, Сhristopher Сulver’s Linguistics Weblog (one of the oldest links in my blogroll) was a dependable pleasure, frequently updated. Then it went pretty much quiet while its author was traveling, and I removed it from the blogroll; when he started posting again I restored it, and now he writes me: “I’m getting back into my studies of esoteric Finno-Ugrian themes as well as blogging on whatever general linguistics topics catch my fancy.” This is excellent news for everyone interested in general linguistics topics, which presumably includes most LH readers, so I encourage you to add him to your bookmarks and/or RSS feeds. Some recent posts to whet your appetite: Doză and badog (“How old is the use of Romanian doză to mean ‘aluminium can’?”), On the etymology of Hungarian srác ‘guy’ (it’s of Yiddish origin), Mari and Chuvash potatoes, and The Steppe of Hunger (what the Russians call Голодная степь is the ‘lord desert’ in Kazakh and Uzbek). Enjoy!


  1. The Steppe of Hunger (what the Russians call Голодная степь is the ‘lord desert’ in Kazakh and Uzbek)

    Nice site! Actually he linked to a wrong Steppe of Hunger, the one in today’s Uzbekistan. Tulpan the movie is set in Kazakhstan, in the other, somewhat lesser known (Northern) Hungry Steppe west of Lake Balkhash. Its Kazakh name, Betpak-Dala, is explained as either Turkic batpak/batnak “muddy” + dala, “plain” or perhaps Farsi bedbaht, “misfortune”. It is a desolate landscape of saltpans / mudpans called takyr in Kazakh. No nomads ever lived there; the only place of human habitation is a uranium mining town of Kyzymshek.

    Many of beautiful tales of Maxim Zverev were about the wild Betpak-Dala and Lake Balkhash shores, and I still remember being fascinated by these stories as a child, and by the strange wild creatures which survived human encroachment only in these hardscrabble steppes.

  2. PS. The “Lord” in “Lord Desert” Mirzachol sounds ambiguous, as if possibly referring to the Almighty or to a spirit of the desert itself. But the original Mirza is a nobleman title with a much narrower meaning, <= Farsi Amirzade, Emir’s Son, Prince of Blood. Many Timurid rulers of Mawarannahr / Samarkand (to which the Mirzachol Steppe of Hunger belonged) bore the title of Mirza, which is generally not translated in English. Thus, “Mirza’s Desert” might be a more appropriate translation.

    One must note that Mirzachol is no longer a desert or a place of starvation. Its loess soils are fairly good, and having been crisscrossed with irrigation canals, it’s now one of Uzbekistan’s prime agricultural areas.

  3. David Marjanović says

    I’m more surprised he didn’t know. Every atlas I’ve encountered – all of them, however, in German – writes “Hungersteppe” or “Betpak-Dala (Hungersteppe)” rather prominently across the landscape.

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