The Sounds that are a Pleasure to Pronounce

Кинидаго лъачIезда мун лъазабизе захIмат буго.
Дур ругелщинал гьаркьал, рикIкIинищ цо анцIгоялде щвезегIан: цо, кIиго, лъабго, ункъо, щуго, анлъго, анкьго, микьго, ичIго, анцIго — магIарул мацIалда анцIгоялде щвезегIан рикIкIине кIварав батIияб миллаталъул чи чвахулеб гIорул цояб рахъалдаса цояб рахъалде, кодоб борхун кIудияб гамачI ккун, вачIарав гIадин вукIуна. АнцIгоялде щвезегIан рикIкIана, хадусеб рикIкIине захIмат гьечIо. Гьанже дуда лъин лъана, квачI бай.
Цогияб миллаталъул чагIини щай, магIарул лъималазда чIахIияз абулаан, къосинчIого, тIатIала, лъабго нухалъ «Къверкъ кьурулъа гъоркье кIанцIанин» ункъо рагIи абеян. Ниж, кинабго росдал лъимал хIорил рагIалда, хъазал гIадин цоцалъ ран хъудулаан. «Къверкъ кьурулъа гъоркье кIанцIана!» «Къверкъ кьурулъа гъоркье кIанцIана!» «Къверкъ кьурулъа гъоркье кIанцIана!» — ян. ГIемерисезда гьеб лъачIого къосунаан.

It’s difficult to teach you to those who don’t know you from birth.
How many sounds you have, just counting from one to ten: цо, кIиго, лъабго, ункъо, щуго, анлъго, анкьго, микьго, ичIго, анцIго – for a non-Avar to count from one to ten in Avar is like crossing from one bank of a rushing river to the other with a large stone in one’s arms. If you can count from one to ten, it’s not difficult to count further. Now you know how to swim as well – now go and start paddling.
Forget about non-Avars – Avar elders instruct children to say, without stopping, these four words, three times in a row “Къверкъ кьурулъа гъоркье кIанцIана” (“A frog jumped down from the cliff”). We village children would all be making a noise like geese at the shores of a lake. “Къверкъ кьурулъа гъоркье кIанцIана!” “Къверкъ кьурулъа гъоркье кIанцIана!” “Къверкъ кьурулъа гъоркье кIанцIана!” Most could not do this without making a mistake.

Трудно мне, мой родной язык, сделать так, чтобы все знали тебя. Как богат ты звуками, как много их у тебя, так трудно неаварцу научиться произносить их, но как сладко их произносить, если умеешь! Вот хотя бы простенький счет до десяти: цо, к1иго, лъабго, ункъго, щуго, анлъго, анкьго, микьго, ич1го, анц1го. Когда я встречаю человека, который на аварском языке может правильно сосчитать до десяти, я сравниваю это с мужеством, нужным, чтобы перейти разлившуюся реку от одного берега до другого, держа на плече огромный валун. Если сумеешь считать до десяти правильно, то сумеешь и дальше. Теперь ты уже умеешь и плавать. Смело иди вперед.
Что говорить о людях других национальностей! Даже нашим аварским детям старики говорили: “Попробуй без запинки, подряд три раза скажи: “Къода гъоркъ къверк къвакъвадана”. Это значит: “Под мостом квакала лягушка”. Всего четыре слова, а бывало, мы, аульские ребятишки, целыми днями тренировались, чтобы правильно и быстро произнести эту фразу.

It’s hard for me to get others to know you, my dear native language. Your wealth of sounds, so many are they, that it’s difficult for a non-Avar to learn to pronounce them, but what a great pleasure it is if you can. Take the numbers from one to ten: цо, кIиго, лъабго, ункъго, щуго, анлъго, анкьго, микьго, ичIго, анцIго. When I meet a person who can correctly count to ten in Avar, I compare it to the bravery needed to cross from one bank of a river to the other with a beam balanced on one’s shoulder. If you can do this, you can count even further. Now you know how to swim as well – go ahead and try.
Never mind non-Avars, even our Avar children are told by their elders, “Now try to say three times, without making a mistake “Кьода гъоркь къверкъ къвакъвадана“, which means “A frog croaked under the bridge”. Four short words, but we village children practiced all day to pronounce this tongue-twister quickly and without mistakes.

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On Grammar, Literature, Poles and Mules

1962 абилеб соналда совет хъвадарухъабазул делегациягун цадахъ дун вукIана Польшаялда. Цо нухалъ Краковалда дир гостиницаялъул номералъул нуцIида кIутIана. Балагьана. НуцIил кIалтIа вугес бацIцIадаб магIарул мацIалъ гьикъана Расул ХIамзатов гьанив вугищан. «Вай дур рукъ бухIаяв магIарулав, мунго кинан гьаниве ккарав», — ян дица гьев гьебсагIат жаниве вачана, гIодорчIана, ниж гIемераб мехалъ гара-чIварана.

In 1962 I was in Poland as part of a delegation of Soviet writers. One day in Krakow I heard a knock on the door of my hotel room. I looked out, and at my doorstep stood a man asking in perfect Avar, “Is Rasul Gamzatov staying here?”.
“May your house burn down, brother! How on earth did you end up here?” I exclaimed and invited him in. We sat down and talked for a long time.

Несколько лет назад в составе делегации советских писателей я был в Польше. Однажды в Кракове ко мне в номер гостиницы постучали. Я открыл дверь. Незнакомый человек на чистом аварском языке спросил:
– Здесь живет Гамзатил Расул?
Я растерялся и обрадовался:
– Чтобы не сгорел и не обрушился дом твоего отца! Как же ты, аварец, оказался в Кракове?
Я чуть не бросился обнимать своего гостя, затащил его в номер, мы проговорили до конца дня и целый вечер.

A few years ago I was in Poland as part of a delegation of Soviet writers. One day in Krakow I heard a knock on the door of my hotel room. I opened it, and the stranger there asked in perfect Avar, “Is Rasul Gamzatov staying here?”
“May your father’s house not burn down and not collapse, brother! How on earth did you end up in Krakow?” I nearly flung myself around his neck and pulled him into my room. We talked until well into the night.

Гьев магIарулав ватичIо, магIарул мацI цIаларав, гьелъул грамматикаялда тIад ургъулев Польшаялъул гIалимчи ватана. Гьес магIарул мацI лъазабун буго концлагералда аскIоре ккарал кIиго магIаруласдасан. Цояв магIарулав хун вуго. Цояв тIурун ворчIун жеги чIаго вуго.
Дие тамашаяб асар гьабуна гьев Польшаялъул гIалимчияс. Дица гьев Дагъистаналде гьоболлъухъдин ахIана.

It turned out he was not an Avar, but a Polish professor who had studied Avar and worked on its grammar. He had first heard it being spoken by two fellow inmates in a concentration camp. One of them later died; the other escaped and is still alive.
The Polish professor made quite an impression on me, and I invited him to Dagestan.

Но гость не был аварцем. Это был польский ученый, занимающийся языками и литературами Дагестана. Аварскую речь он впервые услышал в концлагере от двух узников-аварцев. Язык понравился ему, а еще больше понравились сами аварцы. Поляк начал изучать наш язык. Впоследствии один аварец умер, а другой перенес заключение, был освобожден Советской Армией и жив до сих пор.
Мы говорили с поляком только по-аварски. Это было для меня удивительно и непривычно. В конце концов, я пригласил ученого в Дагестан в гости.

But my guest was not an Avar – he was a Polish professor who studied the languages and literatures of Dagestan. He had first heard Avar from two fellow inmates in a concentration camp. He took a liking to the language, but more than that, he took a liking to the Avars themselves. The Pole began studying our language. Eventually one of them died, but the other survived, was liberated by the Soviet Army and is still alive to this day. I found the whole thing quite surprising and unusual. In the end I invited him to Dagestan.

Гьай-гьай гIемерисел мацIалъул гIалимзабаз гIадин гьес мацI захIматго, кIвахIалго, грамматикаялъул законалда рекъон бицунеб букIана. Литератураялъул, гьаб дир тIехьалъул мацI гьедин гIаммаб законалъе мутIигIлъуларо. Щибав поэтасул гIаммаб гуреб, жиндирго хасабги букIуна грамматика.

Of course, like many linguists this professor spoke slowly and carefully and according to the rules of grammar. But the language of literature, of my book, does not obey these rules. There is no one common grammar for all poets – each has his own personal grammar.

Да, мы оба говорили с ним в тот день на аварском языке. Но все же между моей речью и его была огромная разница. Он говорил, как подобает ученому, на очень чистом, очень правильном, но слишком правильном, даже равнодушном языке. Он думал больше о грамматике, а не о красках речи, о схеме, о конструкции фразы, а не о живой плоти каждого слова.

Yes, we both spoke Avar that day. But nevertheless there was an enormous difference between his speech and mine – he spoke like an academic, in a very clear and correct, but almost too correct and even indifferent Avar. He was thinking more about grammar than the beauty of the language, about tables and construction of phrases and not about the living substance of each word.

Дие бокьун буго литература грамматикаялъе гуреб, грамматика литератураялъе мутIигIаб тIехь хъвазе.
Гьедин хъвачIони, литература релълъуна жиндаго нахъа, хIамида хIажат гьечIев нухлулав рекIинавурав гьоцIалъесда: хадуб гьев нухлулас хIамаги, хIамида къараб къайиги жиндир бугилан дагIба гьабула.

I want to write a book where grammar obeys literature and not where literature obeys grammar. If I don’t write this way, then literature will become like the man from Gotsatl who let a traveler he encountered on the road climb up behind him on his mule. The traveler then started arguing with him, claiming the mule and everything attached to it as his own.

Я хочу написать книгу, в которой не язык подчинялся бы грамматике, а грамматика языку.
Иначе грамматику уподоблю путнику, идущему по дороге, а литературу уподоблю путнику, едущему на муле. Пешеход попросил подвезти его, и путник, едущий на муле, посадил пешехода сзади себя. Постепенно пешеход осмелел, вытеснил ездока с седла, стал прогонять его, крича: “Мул этот мой, и все имущество, привязанное к седлу, тоже мое!”

I want to write a book not where the language obeys grammar, but rather where grammar obeys the language. Otherwise grammar becomes like a traveler walking along a road, and literature becomes like a traveler riding on a mule, where the former asks the latter to let him climb on behind him. Eventually he will become bolder and push the owner out of the saddle before chasing him away altogether, saying “this mule, and everything attached to it, is mine!”

First Contact

Cyril Graham – The Avar language. The first (and very likely, only) grammatical description of Avar in English, from 1873.

He first called my attention to the peculiarities of the Lesghian or Avar language. He said he had not yet been able to master it on account of the interminable intricacies of its construction, and the difficulties in its pronunciation. He, however, was able to quote me the numerals, which, loaded as they are with “clicks”, excited my curiosity.

… that which most surprises is the paucity of words taken from absolutely foreign tongues, such as the Persian, the Georgian and the Tatar with which the Avars cannot fail to be brought in contact. The few Arabic words of course have found their way into the language through the Kuran.

We now come to the question, who are these Avar? By the Persians and the Russians they are called Lesghians, but they themselves repudiate this name. Their legends are few, history, properly so called, they have none. Their poems and stories only tell us of quarrels – for which, by-the-bye, they have three words – and raids on the part of the Russians and Persians.

When I come to the alphabet and grammar I shall say a few more words with regard to a certain peculiarity which at once strikes the stranger; the extraordinary “click” found in the beginning, the middle and the end of words, and resembling nothing in our continent, but reminding us of the terminal sound so exuberant in the Aztek language. Whence it came – for as far as I can gather it is not to be found amongst the neighbouring tribes – I cannot imagine. Except to those who have heard it uttered, it is impossible to explain it. It differs entirely from the many South African “clicks,” and used as it is by a race who are in possession of a highly developed language, offers itself as a phenomenon which requires careful investigation.