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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Pyaar, Ishk, Mohabbat

Keerthi Reddy in Pyaar Ishq Aur Mohabbat
(प्यार इश्क और मुहब्बत)
no copyright infringement intended

(click here for the Romanian version)

It all began with an essay about Slavonic influences in Romanian language (Vechea slava, slavona si graiurile slavilor). More precisely, it began from a sentence there: the author (Dan Caragea) considered that Romanian would be the only language having love offered  in a triplet of synonyms (dragoste - iubire - amor), the three of them with almost the same meaning, while infinitely nuanced (nu cunosc nici o altă limbă în care să ni se ofere tripletul dragoste – iubire – amor, toate trei cuvintele având aproape acelaşi înţeles, dar infinit deosebite în nuanţe...)

Now, you'd ask me, what would be the reason of such a statement within an essay dealing with Slavonic influences? Well, dragoste and iubire are words of Slavonic origin, while amor is Latin, that's why.

No other language with such a tender triplet? The statement was refuted in a comment made on the essay by Ahmed Abd Al-Wahhab, who stressed out the existence of such a triplet in Hindi and Urdu (pyaar - ishk - mohabbat), also in Farsi and Arabic (an extremely rich language, he said, where a word can have in average 6 to 10 synonyms, each one being subtly differentiated by the sentence context).

Well, if we came to Hindi and Urdu, let's try to clarify this: which of them was the first? From what I know, Urdu was the first (and I could be wrong, of course). Romanian language has an archaic word, ordie, which means army or military camp. It came in Romanian from Turkish, and it is linked to the Urdu language, which initially was the language of the army, the Muslim conquerors of the Indian peninsula. A language where strong Arabic /Farsi influences have been mixed with words of many neighboring countries crossed by that army. And then, much later, the Hindu intelligentsia, in an epoch of affirming its national identity, took Urdu and tried to purify it from non-Indian elements, as much as it was possible, firstly by using devanāgari as alphabet. The outcome was the Hindi language. Anyway, Hindi and Urdu speakers understand each other perfectly.

Rigveda manuscript in Devanāgari (early 19th century)
binding: India, 19th c., blind-stamped brown leather, gilt spine, sewn on 5 cords, marbled endleaves
no copyright infringement intended

Now let's come back to the tender triplet (dragoste - iubire - amor). Obviously Romanian cannot be the only language offering synonyms for love. As well as there could also be tongues where the word love is missing (I found such an example long time ago, in a novel, Carlton, authored by Cezar Petrescu : according to him, Eskimos would have forty synonyms for ice, while nothing for love; though I think it's not true - there should be at least one word).

Beginning to look for the tender triplet in Hindi (and further in Urdu, Farsi, and Arabic), I came upon a Bollywood movie named no more no less than Pyaar Ishq aur Mohabbat (प्यार इश्क और मुहब्बत), the English title being Love, Amour and Romance (thus we have a tender triplet also in Shakespeare's tongue, and actually we should add endearment, and tenderness, and some other synonyms, too).

Speaking about movies, a Turkish TV series aired currently is named Aşk ve Ceza (Love and Punishment). Thus love is in Turkish aşk, which is very much alike with ishk from the title of the Indian movie (that carries in Hindi the same meaning, love, as we can see).

So I had the word in Turkish, and its three synonyms in Hindi, I needed to find, if possible, their correspondents in Urdu, Farsi and Arabic.

Now and then I enjoy tracing some Romanian words, and, in case they came from Turkish, I'm trying further to find the word in Arabic and Farsi, and then even further, if possible. In this case a better approach was to take the reverse way: starting from Hindi, as I already had the pyaar - ishk - mohabbat triplet (even with devanāgari characters: प्यार - इश्क - मुहब्बत).

Unfortunately I don't know any of these languages, not having even the so called basic knowledge. I must rely heavily on dictionaries (and for all these languages I have access only to web dictionaries, which offer some basic help, not too much). More than that, looking for synonyms is not what web dictionaries are supposed to provide. Above all, these languages (with the exception of Turkish) do not use the Latin alphabet (and generally do not write the vowels).

For transliteration there is a bunch of websites offering great tools:

I used these websites in two ways: either finding a word with a web dictionary and then getting its transliteration (for instance प्यार, then pyaar), or guessing a a word and building it character by character in the alphabet of that language, then checking whether my guess was correct (using for this again a web dictionary).

I took firstly the Hindi word प्यार (pyaar) and I rebuilt it in Urdu: پیار which transliterated gives something like paar, checking then the word with the dictionaries, I found in Hindi pyaar, and in English love. I was not able to find pyaar in Farsi or Arabic. It seems from what I read that pyaar is a word coming from the Hindu culture, so no wonder it does not exist in Arabic or Farsi.

I was luckier with ishk: I found it in Hindi (इश्क), Urdu (عشق), Farsi (عشق), and Arabic (عشق). The same with mohabbat: in Hindi (मुहब्बत), Urdu (محبت), Farsi (محبت), and in Farsi comes from Arabic - hub (حب).

And the tender triplet is in Hindi actually a quadruplet:  prem (प्रेम), means again love, only this word does not appear in Farsi and Arabic any more (while existing in many other languages spoken in India - its origin is Sanskrit).

Now, if we want to differentiate between synonyms, I found a web forum (http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=507122) from which I realized that in India, like in England, anyone has her or his own idea when to say love and when romance. Anyway ishk and mohabbat came to India from Arabic via Farsi / Urdu, while pyaar si prem were found by Urdu speakers in India.

Here is a bunch of web pages where all these words are discussed and compared each other:

(Dan Caragea)



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