Monday, August 30, 2004

Agglutination in Turkic with Uzbek examples

Look at this Uzbek conversation:

Men tushunyapmanmi? Yöq! Tushunmayapman.

Pretty scary, huh? Let’s put in some hyphens.

Men tushun-yap-man-mi? Yöq! Tushun-ma-yap-man.

Here’s a little glossary:

ma - not
man – “me” ending of the verb.
men – I
mi – question marker
siz – you
tushun – understand
yap – -ing
yöq - no

Here’s our conversation with the secret decoder ring read-out after:

Tushun-yap-siz-mi? (understand-ing-you-do-?)
Men tushun-yap-man-mi? (I understand-ing-I-do-?)
Yöq! Tushun-ma-yap-man. (no! understand-not-ing-I!)

As you can see, those weird long words are not completely (just largely) incomprehensible. If you know to look for the little pieces, you can start to follow what’s going on. Let’s try one more. Here is the conversation:

Ruscha bilasizmi?
Ruscha bilamanmi? Yöq! Ruscha bilmayman.
Inglizcha bilasizmi?
Ha, inglizcha bilaman.

Now in digestible pieces:

Rus-cha bila-siz-mi?
Rus-cha bila-man-mi? Yöq! Rus-cha bil-may-man.
Ingliz-cha bila-siz-mi?
Ha, ingliz-cha bila-man.

The glossary of new words:
bil(a) – to speak/to know a language
cha – language
ha – yes
may = maingliz – English

Now with the secret decoder ring read-out:

Rus-cha bila-siz-mi? (Russian-language speak-you-?)
Rus-cha bila-man-mi? (Russian-language speak-I-?)
Yöq! Rus-cha bil-may-man. (no! Russian-language speak-not-I.)
Ingliz-cha bila-siz-mi? (English-language speak-you-?)
Ha, ingliz-cha bila-man. (yes, English-language speak-I.)

Incidentally, throwing in our “yap” particle would give, for example:
Ha, inglizcha bilayapman. = Yes, I am speaking English, which is not the same as “I do speak English” (in response to “Do you speak English?”).

Got all this now? Ready to go to Uzbekistan and negotiate a major business deal? Maybe not. But you should have some idea how agglutination works and what it looks like.

Of course, tacking regular particles/endings together to create large but logical words looks like a great way to run a language. Why don’t we all do it? There are complications…

Click here for the trouble with endings, followed by what the Turks have done about it.