Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Prenominal adjective borrowed into Arabic from Persian?

A major interest of mine lately is the way in which lexical borrowings can affect syntax, dragging bits of the source language's word order with them. I came across what looks like a nice example of this in a book on Gulf Arabic. In Kuwaiti dialect, as in all dialects of Arabic, adjectives normally follow the noun. However:
The (Persian) adjective kooš precedes the noun it qualifies. It does not occur in association with defined nouns. It is not inflected for gender or number. Thus:
    kooš walad, bint    a good boy, girl
(T. M. Johnstone, Eastern Arabian Dialect Studies, London: Oxford University Press 1967, p. 147.)
Only trouble is, my Persian grammar doesn't say anything about the Persian adjective in question being pre-nominal, and virtually all adjectives in Persian are post-nominal. Does anyone know more about this?

23 comments:

bulbul said...

I'm not sure if I remember Johnstone correctly (or was it Holes?), but wasn't there something about ḫōš occuring pre-nominally only in exclamatory sentences? I.e. "ḫōš walad!" = "good boy! (tap tap on the shoulder)".
I only know the Persian adjective خوش from expressions like "خوش امديد" = "welcome" and "خوش شانسی" = "good luck". The latter would fit the pattern.

Language said...

Yeah, the normal Persian word for 'good' is khub, which like any adjective follows the noun and ezafe: pesar-e khub 'good boy.' Khosh is more like 'pleasant, happy'; it occurs as part of nominal compounds like khoshakhlaq 'good-natured' -- maybe Arabic generalized from that sort of construction?

bulbul said...

I knew I've seen it somewhere recently!

Jacob Mansour, "The Jewish Baghdadi Dialect", p. 46, section 1.72 on loans from Persian and Turkish:

xōš "good" (e.g. xōš ʾādmi "good person")

Now the interesting bit is that Mansour classifies xōš as a particle. Perhaps he didn't know what to think of it either :o)

Anonymous said...

My knowledge of Farsi is self-taught and somewhat limited, but I can think of a few examples of khosh preceding the noun: khoshgel (pretty/handsome), khoshhaal (happy), khoshmaze (delicious), khoshbu (fragrant), khoshbakht (lucky), khoshlebaas (well-dressed). Thackston's An Introduction to Persion, lesson 23, section 67, characterizes khosh as a noun in these compounds. -- SnowLeopard

Lameen Souag said...

Thank you - these comments are helpful. Interesting that it should be in Iraq too - I wonder how far west its use extends?

bulbul said...

Yet another hypothesis - well, two, actually -, this time by the great Haim Blanc from his "Communal dialects in Baghdad", p. 150:

MJC (Muslim/Jewish/Christian) /xōš/ 'good', invariable, precedes the substantive: /xōš walad/ 'a good boy', /xōš bent/ 'a good girl', /xōš nās/ 'good people'; with article /lxōš walad/ 'the good boy'; often stressed, esp. in fixed expressions: M /xóṣṣebi/ 'a jolly good fellow'. Cf. Pers. xoš, though the special positioning is more reminiscent of Turkish. [171]

Note [171]: This /xōš/ is similarly deviant (i.e. precedes noun, is invariable) in the Neo-Aramaic dialects of the area, e.g. Zakho. Turkish influences are far less common in those dialects than in Baghdad, so that the solution must be looked for elsewhere.

Hm, I think I'll go and see if I have anything on the Neo-Aramaic of Zakho...

Interesting that it should be in Iraq too
When I first opened my Iraqi Judeo-Arabic translation of the Targum to the Canticles, I was very surprised to see that the language, looked very unlike the Iraqi Arabic I know and much more similar to Gulf Arabic (Kuwaiti and Bahraini). The similarities in vocalism are especially striking.

bulbul said...

Well, whaddya know:

AVINERY, I.: A Folktale in the Neo-Aramaic Dialect of the Jews of Zakho. JAOS 98/1 (1978), p. 92-96:

p. 94, line 4: ya xo:š na:ša! = oh good man!

p. 95, line 9: winne 'o xo:š 'arya le... = really, he's a nice lion...

Lameen Souag said...

Good hunting Bulbul! So we have a word khosh that everyone seems to agree is Persian, but doesn't behave like a normal Persian word, and shows up throughout the whole eastern half of the Middle East, in Neo-Aramaic as well as Arabic (it seems to be well-known in Iraq: http://www.wikiraqi.com/%D8%AE%D9%88%D8%B4). Is it some kind of retention from Pahlavi or some earlier Iranian language with different word order, I wonder?

MMcM said...

Horn 508 lists cognates in the expected languages, but doesn't seem to indicate anything remarkable.

Bulbul said...

OK, time for wild theories (it is Friday, after all):
What if xōš itself is a borrowing from an Adjective-first language?
People's 1: an entry in a dictionary of Pashto.
People's 2: WALS, which classifies Pashto as an Adjective-Noun language (feature #87).
How do you say, ladies and gentlemen of the jury?

MMcM said...

Don't the خوش compounds mentioned above have بد opposites? بد بخت 'unfortunate'; بد بو 'stinky'. And that's elsewhere a regular adjective, right? Modern Persian is perhaps adequately explained as compound adjectives with a fossilized order, per the earlier suggestion.

Could the rarity of borrowing syntax and the restricted use in the source somehow be linked? Not just a generalization as LH suggests, but a mistaken analysis?

bulbul said...

Don't the خوش compounds mentioned above have بد opposites?
Some, but not all of them.
First, there seems to be a lot more بد compounds than خوش compounds.
E.g. Junker-Alawi "Persisch-Deutsches Wörterbuch":
86-89 - بد
whereas
288-290 - خوش
ِAnd secondly, not all of these have a polar opposite. There is بد هيئت (ugly, misformed), but no خوش هيئت*. Instead, there is خوش هيكل (comely, well-built), but, again, no بدهيكل*.

And that's elsewhere a regular adjective, right?
Yes and a good point. Blanc says that in Iraqi Arabic and Neo-Aramaic, xōš is invariable. How about in Farsi, can خوش take a plural suffix? I tried googling both خوشها and خوشان and got 242 and 9400 hits respectively. With بدها, it got a little complicated because of all the Arabic stuff that keeps popping up. Anyway, I'm reasonably certain that بدها is OK. As for خوشها and خوشان, the former appears to be quite rare. The latter, I'm really not sure. Might check tomorrow.

Eli said...

I am speculating here:
Please execuse my transcription convention.

1- khOsh is used in all Iraqi dialects. it is common to both noun-adjective and adjective-noun sentence structre positions, although it is normally placed before the noun it qualifies. It is of common gender and number. Examples خوش ولد خوش بنت
2- It behaves almost like an adverb, and denotes more than just 'Good' .It is like aHsan walad (best boy). It emphesises the quality of the noun it qualifies
3- Other adjectives behaving like khOsh: kthir and qleel كثير قليل as in hAdha kthIr mAy (This is a lot of water, indicating too much water) again assuming a common gender and case. I guess one can possibly argue that these are not really adjectives.
4- khOsh quite often expresses surprise and wonder (with a noun or on its own:
a- hAdha khOsh Hachi (literally: this is good talk, but meaning: 'This is really something' or 'What nonesense'.
b -hAdhi khOsh (meaning as bove) but note the feminine article hAdhi, no doubt meant as hAdhi khosh HjAya, or mas'ala. The same expression with different intonation means: 'This is good'
c- khOsh khOsh (mening: Well, well!)
In example c, khOsh is heavily emphasised in tone by elongating the vowel O and does not act as an adjective at all.

Lameen, next time we meet, i can record the various intonations for you. regards... Eli

Eskandar said...

How about in Farsi, can خوش take a plural suffix?

As I'm far from fluent, I don't feel confident speaking to this, except to say that the animate plural of بد, which is بدان, is quite normal. For instance, it appears in a line from the Iranian anthem "Ey Iran":
دور از تو انديشه بدان
(far from you may the thoughts of evil be). I will say that I have never encountered خوشها or خوشان, but as I said, I'm not fluent, so they may very well exist unbeknownst to me.

vanya said...

"Khosh" is also common in Turkic languages - in Turkish (hoş) Uzbek (خوش), Kazakh (Khosh), etc. In Turkic languages adjectives are of course prenominal - no chance it is a widespread borrowing from Turkish?

bulbul said...

Eskandar,
thank you for the confirmation. I am far from fluent, too, but I believe بدها is attested as well. As for the plural of خوش, we obviously need a native speaker...

vanya,
good point, but I don't believe that Turkish h- in hoş would turn into x in Persian.

I looked up similar words in Grundriss der Iranischen Philologie (1901) today. Turns out there is a Kurdish (Kurmanji) cognate xväš which exists alongside the Persian borrowing xōš (and more common native weš). Both, however, behave as expected in a Noun-Adjective language, e.g..

Lameen Souag said...

I was talking to a Neo-Aramaicist friend recently who also suggested that it was from/via Turkic, actually. Obviously that couldn't work for modern Turkish, but does anyone know if Ottoman Turkish or Iraqi Turkmen has a x in this word?

MMcM said...

if Ottoman Turkish ... has a x in this word?

Like this?

Eskandar said...

According to the Türk Dil Kurumu (Turkish Language Association), "hoş" was borrowed from Persian, as attested to here. Furthermore, the etymology of the Persian word "khosh" can be traced back to Pahlavi (Middle Iranian) and from there further back to Avestan (Old Iranian), where it was pronounced "khash." My source for this is A concise etymological dictionary of Persian language by Sheikh Gulam Maqsud Hilali, p. 12.

bulbul said...

Iraqi Turkmen has a x in this word?

No for Turkmen:
hoş I. well, good, ok (particle); II. just, favorable, well-dispoed; III. bye-bye

That's Soviet Turkmenistan Turkmen.

karine said...

I don't know if you're still checking this thread but خوش is a Persian adjective that means 'happy' or 'pleasant' as someone mentioned already. It is used as a regular Persian adjective (post-nominally with the ezafe linking it to the head noun) as in the following examples from Google:
دوران خوش جوانی
dowraan-e khosh-e javaani
(happy days/period of youth)
بوی خوش زندگی
bu-ye khosh-e zendegi
(pleasant scent of life)

It is also an adverb, by the way. The examples mentioned where "khosh" appears before the noun are compounds ... in compounds, adjectives in Persian usually precede the noun and there's no Ezafe used. Ex. 'khoshhaal' (happy), 'khoshandaam' (one with a nice body) or 'khoshakhlaaq' (good-natured).

It is an old Persian word but I don't remember whether adjectives used to be prenominal in Old Persian ... i would need to check. Incidentally, in modern persian adjectives are almost always postnominal; prenominal adjectives that don't form a compound are rare and found mostly in poetry, like the 'bichaare' (poor, helpless) in 'bichaare khalq' (the poor people)... 'khalq-e bichaare' is definitely more common.

MMcM said...

whether adjectives used to be prenominal in Old Persian

No, they generally follow the noun.
adam Dārayavauš xšāyaθiya vazạrka xšāyaθiya xšāyaθiyānām.

Alex said...

(excuse the translit):
khosh is indeed invariable re-gender, number, etc. Re-positioning, it's like kullish (~killish) 'very', e.g. kullish hwayya 'very many / a lot', or kullish zeen 'very good (m.s.)', but this is not peculiar to Iraqi - Damascene Arabic here would have ktiir (from OA *kathiir), e.g. ktiir mniiH (from OA*maliiH) 'very good'. First, all such pre-modifiers are invariable; second, no-one has suggested that DA ktiir is borrowed from Turkish (or anywhere else!) just because it precedes its head. Also, if khosh were borrowed from Turkish hosh, then one would expect to find it also in (at least) Egyptian, whereas it fits in with the other Persian lexical items (cf. Bruce Ingham's work on Khuzistani and southern Iraqi) which are peculiar to Iraqi Arabic. Incidentally, khosh is used also independently to mean 'fine, great, good', for instance if someone suggests meeting and you reply 'khosh', or just generally in conversation as agreement (and, it strikes me, especially in phone conversations). Last point, hwayya 'a lot' (which I've heard only in Iraqi) is also invariant, like shwayya 'a little' (shared with other dialects), but I think (Eli, what's your opinion on this?) that whereas hwayya can both precede or follow its head, shwayya generally only precedes its head (hwayya fluus, hwayya naas ~ fluus hwayya, naas hwayya but shwayya fluus, etc and *fluus shwayya). I've not seen any research on this (can't remember off the top of my head if Blanc discusses this angle).