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Anger Is Not Allowed

Do you know Justin Rosenstein? He is the engineer who invented the Facebook Like button—if we knew its benefits, we would have used it more often. But I will return to that towards the end. Now let’s move on to languages…

I know, there are some people who get urticaria, a skin rush, whenever the word ‘language’ is mentioned—a Sudanese saying goes: الفي بطنو حرقوص براهو برقص. (anyone who has worms in the stomach, dances involuntarily.) The culprits take the opportunity to unleash their bigotry and hypocrisy. But I will not reward disrupters, let’s we move on…

Fun with languages and accents

I see a few people preoccupied with searching Tigrinya words for every new foreign word they find; it’s often a stretch and I thought of giving them some suggestions that might help them in the search.

Languages have their own rhythms, melodies and tone. For instance, if we try to adopt a word from Japanese or Chinese or Polish, it would not be easily adoptable. But since Tigrinya is a Semitic languages (I am not talking about our Cushitic languages),  we need to use loanwords from Semitic languages because they snuggly fit, seamlessly (Assyrian, Arabic, Hebrew.) We must realize that languages have distinctive phonemes that only native speakers can pronounce—I will explain that later. Now let’s see how Tigrinya is progressing.

The Italians brought us new terminologies, concepts and words– specially nouns. We adopted the Italian words because they sneaked into our languages easily due to the superior resources and cultural advantage that overwhelmed us. For instance we replaced “Bet for CASA” which phonologically became ‘Geza’. Until then we had Bet-Mekhaa, Bet-Asgede, Bet-Giroghis, Bet-Juk, now we have Geza-Kenisha, Geza-Banda, Geza-Tanika, etc. Others we simply accepted because we didn’t have their equivalents or didn’t know before the Italians arrived. The car was alien to us, and we have no choice but to adopt the Italian word for it: Machina. Briefly we tried automobile, as ottonaable; it didn’t work and we adopted  Machina which we adjusted to Mekina in Tigrinya and Mekiinet in Tigrayit. It’s unnatural for our sound system to pronounce  automobile? Then they introduced us to highways—but we had only megedi or gebey for a trail, a road, or a street. The Ethiopian authorities translated highway as awra-godena.

If a tongue is used to specific sounds only, it is difficult to make it say unfamiliar sounds. Recently I  watched a program in which they asked Japanese people to read the word Refrigerator. It was difficult for them because the pattern, the sounds, and its combinations are unusual to the Japanese. It’s so hilarious to watch. They struggled to pronounce it—liflitor, leefeegitol, etc.

Alert: the following is supposed to be an eye-opener and not meant to be taken out of context—if you can take it for what it is, if you are lighthearted, laugh about it. If you wish, blame it on Keren– jokes and humor were our daily stable and I would like to get you to embrace the innocent culture and shed off some of the stiff behaviors that many Eritreans display, J’espère que c’est clair.

Most Eritreans can identify a Saho speaker easily when they speak Arabic, Tigrinya, or Tigrayit, unless they have learned the language adequately, or grew up with it. Saho speakers do not adopt to the Geez Saades vowel; they use the saals instead. For instance, many pronounce “nskha” (You) as “niskha”, Ekhli (Grain) as Eekhli.

I lived in the Senhit region for a year, and having grown up in Keren, I polished my Blin and in no time,  and learned to speak it fairly well. Now it is lost—who do I speak to? Many of my Blin friends reply to me in other languages.

When I was growing up in Keren, the Blin speakers didn’t speak much Tigrinya and Tigrayit as they do now. In those days, we were encouraged to learn Blin because it was so common. Now the Blin speak Tigrinya and Tigrayit as good as, or better than, the native speakers. Only Arhe Hamednaca, the Eritrean Swede politician insists on speaking to me in Blin and I love it. And when I need help, I often go to Kiflemariam Hamde’s website to sooth my nostalgia and check some words. But in the past, the Blin spoke Blina only. They had difficulty pronouncing Tse and Ha—it was TaHaytu not tshaytu. And here is a joke: TeHaytu, ezziaa gedogey tkercheni hala n’eshta zengebilet entehaloki qrechinni (ጠሓይቱ እዚኣ ገዶገይ ትቀርጨኒ ሃላ ንእሽታ ዘንጀቢለት እንተሃሎኪ ቅረጭኒ). In case you are wondering, that is a perfect Kerenite Tigrinya! It means, “TseHaitu, I have a stomachache, could you give me a piece of ginger if you have one?”

The Beni Amer replace Z with D: zet is pronounced as det. Zaabeyyu is Daabeyyu, etc ዘት = ደት.

In the Semhar-Tigrayit, Harressu (ሃርርሱ) means wake him up; in other places it means pick it up. A friend once ate breakfast in a teashop in Massawa and  when he finished, he asked the waiter “Haressu,” (take the plates away.) The snapped, “ኢኢኢህ! ሰክብ ዓላ?” meaning, Ohhh, was it sleeping? That is an expected witty response in Massawa. But to this day I cannot get used to the Semhar “ሓንተ እናስ Hante enaas” (a man). Everywhere else, it is “ኦሮ እናስ -Ooro enaas.”

How about the Tigrinya speakers?

Tigrinya speakers have difficulty pronouncing the long vowel which is common in Tigrayit—and you can tell a Tigrinya speaker in a minute because he has to say one of those Tigrayit words with a “shedda,” (stress.) They would say “hleka” with no stress on the L and killing the vowel. It’s “helleeka.” ህልለካ not ህለካ.

Tigrinya speakers who do not speak Tigrayit or Arabic do not pronounce my name right? To them it’s SaliH, not Saaleh. The short vowel ‘e’ between the L and H, is difficult to pronounce for many—it’s ሳልሕ not ሳሊሕ.

The Sudanese singer Sayed Khelifa had a song dedicated to Haile Selassie in which he says, “Haile keborelley”… kbereley doesn’t come naturally to Arabic speakers. ክቦረለይ instead of ክበረለይ.

Then there are adopted loan words that change slightly to fit the speech pattern of those who adopt the loanwords. In the Gulf states, they borrowed the word driver, but it is not easy for them to pronounce it before Arabizing it to “drewel.” But everything else is easy compared to the sound that Arabs hate the most: P, which they do not have in their language. To them, P and B are the same. Beoble, Bolice, Bakistan, Bancake, Brimier league, Liverbool, etc. I once had an Egyptian coworker in the data center and I used to call and ask for information on certain customers, and if I spelled a customer name with a B or a P, he would ask me: B khefifa wela B teeyla? Is it the light B or the heavy B. He showed me how B is light by asking me to hold a paper in front of my mouth and say the two. Unlike P, saying B doesn’t require blowing between the lips. When you say P the paper moves, it doesn’t move when you say B.

If you want to identify a Pilipino among East Asians, ask them to say 44, they will say “porty por.” P is the closest they come to pronouncing F. I was waiting por you in pront of the oppice.

It’s difficult for Italians to say words that don’t end with a vowel… check their nouns, they all end with a vowel. Roma, Firenze, Bologna, Parma, Palermo, Sicilia, Lampedusa, etc. Or their names: Antonio, Luciana, Renato, Paulo, Jovanni, Maria, etc. If you want to speak with an Italian accent, add a vowel in the end of English words.

Now let me end this segment with the winner: my favorite pronunciations.

  1. Tigrinya speakers add an I to Oakland and Tax? It is Oaklandi and Taxi! Could it be an Italian influence or what?
  2. Most Ethiopians pronounce WashingGton with the G like in Gun. They also pronounce Qwaatar instead of Qatar though they have similar words in their language like quTr, Qetero and their word for a village, GeTer ገጠር which is how the Qataris pronounce the name of their country.
  3. My father’s name is “Abubaker” and among many things, it means father of “first born child.” Tigrinya speakers pronounce his name Abekker, and Tigrayit speakers called him Oubeker, but his friends called him Bakri. In Tigrinya, his name could be translated as Abo Bukhri. And from the root of Bukhri also comes words like Bekhore, Bukhri, Bukhra, abakhore, Bekere, Bakir, Bukra, etc. So, you can call me Saleh Bokhre Johar

See how colorful and fun languages are? Why would one hate any language? Why? Hating languages is a crime. Languages should be loved and enriched, not hated. I think we need a Language Human Rights Defenders—sorry, it’s not human—let’s say Language Protection Advocacy.

As you can tell, hopefully, this episode is my way of whetting your appetite to learn languages and I promise I will visit the topic often. So, if you like this episode or not, I will tell you what to do about it after the next segment.

The New Language in Eritrea

Some are translations while others transliterations, or just loanwords. And for those who didn’t notice yet, there is a new language in Eritrea. It started in the late eighties but now it is perfected;  youngsters have developed peculiar words of their own: Kherribu (for died), khezibu (for lied), Haremarim (for women, chicks), Habiyeya (for I loved her), etc. These and many others are adopted from Arabic and they have created verbs from many nouns. Well, it’s the language market and who knows, if you return to Eritrea in 100 years and said “afqireya”, someone might correct you, “abowatna Habiyeya eyom zblu nerom.” (our ancestors didn’t say it that way!) Now let’s go to the Like and Dislike buttons.

Justin Rosenstein’s buttons

Human beings react to what they see or hear; often times we get the itch to react and make our feelings known. In the era of social media, the reactions elevated to a different level, very loud. If you do not like anything you see, you insult, badmouth and react like a drunk person in a store full of bottles. But if you are happy with what you heard or see, you put smiles, hearts, flowers, etc. Reacting rationally is human, reacting like an animal is irrational. So, for the irrational, I would like to remind them the following: instead of foaming behind anonymity and making vulgar comments, insults, and indecent remarks, it is easier to click the Dislike button. That is where Justin Rosenstein comes to your help. Click the DISLIKE button and save yourself the trouble of vomiting on the screen.

I do not need to tell my decent audience much because they know the buttons are there and they use them properly. If you like today’s Negarit, please click the Like and Share buttons (and don’t forget to subscribe). I do not know who invented the subscribe button, but I will tell you when I find out. Until then, please click the Like, as well as the Subscribe, and the bell notification buttons—they are great ways to express your appreciation. One more thing for the irrational, you can also click the dislike button until Eritrea become a welcoming country, but please do subscribe—it’s my policy that doesn’t discriminate at all, you are welcome.

Finally, how I wish we discussed such topics inside Eritrea, among our people, in literary clubs, conferences and lecture halls where it would have a different level of satisfaction and exhilaration. Where we could teach and learn, where we could gain and exchange knowledge. But that is not possible with the presence of PFDJ, the anti-happiness and anti-stability, the exclusionary… the exclusive cult that is chocking Eritrea. That’s why we’ve to focus. It will be down and we will reminisce our sufferings with a shy promising smile because we do not hold grudges except for those who are choking us and our people. But we do not enjoy seeing our compatriots suffer, even if they are members of the PFDJ cult. We do not have sadistic traits to be that callous and that cruel. Everyone who is not a PFDJ cult member should be thankful he is not. The suffering will be over, sooner than later–the rooster doesn’t lie.

NB: the above is a transcript of Negarit 104–Negarit Youtube channel

*Apologies for not providing proper spelling keys for many words.

About Saleh G. Johar

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  • Yp

    Selam.

    Seemingly another win for Isaias in Kassala. Saleh Ammar has been dismissed.

    Instead of dealing with Isaias’ henchmen Musa Mohammed and Turk, Hamdok has decided to sack the governor instead.

    https://www.eremnews.com/news/arab-world/2288681

    Inevitably, tribal clashes ensued and 6 people have died and 20 have been wounded. May they rest in peace.

    • Brhan

      Selam Yp
      Thank you for the news. Interesting.
      شكر

  • Haile S.

    Selamat ወዲ ቦኽረ

    ራዛ ናይ ኣብኡ ሓዛ። ናይ ኣቦዋትካ ወሲድካ ናብ ቋንቋ ኣድሂብካ!

    First thing first first. Good thing that you decided to sit. I was holding my breath, the bookshelf doesn’t fall on you and the antique ኮካ ኮላ bottle there doesn’t break to pieces knocked by the gesticulating habesha hands that were equally speaking without missing one verb. That is another aspect of language hopefully you will grace us with one day.

    Second, good that I read your written material first before I listened to your video. I wouldn’t have understood there was a french expression there 🙂 🙂 :-). እንታይ ገበርናካ ትተዃትዀና! Now I have to find my Kerenite friend and start a conversation in french with him. Who know he could be the deguised Sultan 🙂

    “j’espère que c’est clair”
    ጀ’ስፔር ከ ሰ ክሌር. It is in fact ጀ’አስፔር ከ ሰ ክሌር, but the “አ” is very very silent. Don’t worry about my hammer. It is an inflated baloon. Go say it the way you can!

    You remember we had optional french language class in high school before it stopped in 1975 because of the urban war. My grade 9 french teacher then was a habesha. Whenever she came she use to say ‘silence s’il vous plait’ ሲላንስ ሲ’ል ቩ ፕለ meaning silence please. At first what we were hearing was ሥላስ, therefore, we baptized her Madame ሥላስ. The ear also hears different when you don’t know the language. At that time, we had a lot of difficulty and took us a lot of time pronouncing this bizarre language. In fact the whole year was just to learn how to pronounce words and know the basics, bonjour, bonsoir!

    • Saleh Johar

      Hi HaileS,

      Everything is okay but how dare you? The bottle is not antique. It’s crystal, and very expensive, given to me by the CocaCola company for which I worked.

      On the silent A, is it light B or heavy B 🙂

      See, if there is a vowel, I have to say it–you are good at killing vowels. That is what you do with Tigrayit as I explained 🙁

  • Brhan

    Hello Saleh.
    I have these to share with you.
    1. ነርሕሽን and ገ/ላሴ:: These are two are famous Eritrean as well as ( Tigray, Ethiopia) names of male persons. With the first name, it is نور حسين with ‘s” not with “sh”. So person with that name have to shift from both pronunciation according to the listener , if he is an Eritrean they go with “sh” and with an Arab with ‘s” otherwise, there happened some weird moments between a person who wants hear what your name is and person who wants tell what his name is.
    With ገ/ላሴ which is ገብረ ስላሴ :: I read or heard sometime, a veteran ELF, telling this story. He taking attendance of his new platoon and he is pronouncing the long form but no one said yes. He counted the number of the platoon and it was exact. He calls again and again , no answer. I believe his assistant came and saw the name in the list and said ገ/ላሴ, then , it is , yes sir, here we go.

    2. Another, question, do you think we have to standardize English spelling to our Eritrean names. Look: Saleh, Salih or Tesfai or Tesfay? What about if two brothers spelled their last names one as Saleh and the other as Salih or as Tesfai or Tesfay an immigration office in the West is having hard time to understand the puzzle.

    3. Last but not least , why the majority of Eritreans do not have last names? Apart the people in Massawa. And before I end my topic, you know that, in the Eritrean passport your full name is written like your name s, your father, and grandfather. In English, there is style which considers the first word in sequence to be your last name, separated by comma, from the rest. Such as, Doe, John. Some times the comma can not appear and the first word by default is your last name. So with the Eritrean case if someone’s name is Tsgeweyni Habtom or Rahma Abdu , there you have the trouble. Suppose these two attend an English school which follows the mentioned style the two poor women will keep quite when the teacher is calling desperately Abdu Rahma, Habtom Tsgeweyni.
    I think there needs an amendment in the Eritrean passport. Even Ethiopians have changed their passport to include last name and first name category.

    But thanks Saleh, it was a good episode like a sweet tea!

    • Saleh Johar

      Yes Brhan,
      I can talk aboiut this for days non-stop.
      How about:
      1- Gebremichael – Grenchel; Abdulkadir – Abqadir; Mohammed-Nur – Hamennur…so many such names
      2-with the family name protocol it’s difficult because as you said we have three names–including the grandfather’s name. Usually the grandnfather’s name goes for last name (family name) I think it was under Atta Turk that Turks passed a law forcing everyone to have a last name. But I do not like it when they call my wife Ms Johar, a male name and I correct them.
      3. Everyone should be able to choose his last name when you live in Western countries. Many also include their group or tribal name as a last name.
      4. If your name is Tesfai Berhe, no one should be allowed to call her hello Berhe 🙂
      5. Usually governments should create a standard for transliteration/translating names, hopefully not by forces. But standards is a must–Ethiopia has Dereja Medabi office but I am not sure how far they go. Standards are also important to prevent wastage like different sizes of doors and other fixtures that prevents the development of standard sizes and hampers mass production. The same wastage is prevalent in the Third world because the things they buy cannot be used in a country–electronic and electrical gadgets. Without a strict standards regime, one cannot develop mass production and prevent wastage. How many gadgets are out of use because traders import gadgets that doesn’t work in a country and they are damaged and thrown away. Imagine how much that costs the national economy.

      • Brhan

        Hello Saleh
        Just a note , but the Turks were in Massawa before AtaTurk ( of the early 1900s). So the issue of last name as a law must be way back to the coming of Turks to Massawa mid 1550s? If by Ataturk you mean Mustapha Kemal Ataturk?

        • Saleh Johar

          Brhan,
          I know when the Turks were in Eritrea. I said Ata Turk enforced that in Turkey for the Turkish people. I didn’t say he did anything in Eritrea. Check it again

          • Brhan

            Hello again Saleh,

            You are right …we can talk for days….my subject for today is about gender inequality in languages.

            Previously you mentioned that you do not like when they ( Westerners) call your wife Ms. Johar , a male name and you correct them. I think this has to do with gender equality in language/culture.

            With the issue of gender equality rising in the west, now, many companies for example are rewriting their human resources policy manual in a way it reflects gender equality in its narrations.

            Now let me give you the case of gender inequality in the two languages

            When we address someone we underestimate or our enemy , in Tigrinya we use the feminine suffix: so for a man or boy we say. ሪኢኻያ ዶ ‘ታ ወዲ ? If you are asked to translate a Tigrinya short story to English ..what can you … “ The man said did you see her” or “him”. And in both cases you will include explanation between brackets or footnote, so there is no sentence lost in translation issue. For enemy , it is obvious, we fought our enemies, by saying, ሃዲመን…ኢደን ሂበን…ተማሪኸን. Also, you have our famous proverb ቀሚስ ኣደይ ሓንኩሉኒ ? How do we translate this to a feminist in English? Do not call me troublemaker but she will say a man in your culture, in first place doesn’t wear it. Why then we use it? Why not then ቀሚስ ኣቦይ

            ሰበይታይ ? What about our brave women warriors?
            In the above examples we are using feminine pronoun suffixes, nouns with negative meaning or messaging. So, the question is why are feminine pronouns or nouns used to express negativity ? Is there a language without gender inequality or it is natural to have it in languages because of Adam, Eve and the apple!

            To conclude this subject let me share with what I have found in Amharic which is the opposite of the above. In mid 80s when I visited Addis Ababa, and made friends there, I was surprised to hear men addressing to each other using feminine suffixes. So , a man will say to another man coming to his table at a coffee house…መጥተሻል እንዴ. I was shocked and they calmed me by saying this kind of talk is to express the strong bond that ties their friendship. It is limited among close friends. For me , if had made close friend , I would have said መጥተሃል እንዴ …I don’t know if this type of slang is used to this day there.

            And any similar situations in Tigrayit?

            Stay safe

  • Kokhob Selam

    Thank you Mr.Saleh,

    “Finally, how I wish we discussed such topics inside Eritrea, among our people….”

    This is very important to all who are interested on languages and is as you mentioned..this is brief but we should go in deep and that will be in free Eritrea.. It is good as stating point and you are always loyal —“always giving help and encouragement:” to your nation…Keep giving us very new information…. What you are doing is let us know what was in the past and what is now and hints in coming generation and you will be remembered in future studies of new Eritrea..

    I heard from Ethiopians that Quatar thing that depends…… from which back ground came someone to pronounce any word as you said it..accents…

    To go further we should make Eritrea free form this Mafia group call PFDJ and that will happen soon ” The suffering will be over, sooner than later–the rooster doesn’t lie.”

    KS,,

  • Abi

    Selam Ato Saleh
    -የቀንየለይ or it የቐንየለይ?
    ለስላሳው “ቀ” ወይስ ሻካራው “ቐ”?
    ( ጉሮሮ የሚቧጥጠው ቐ)

    Thanks for “ Introductions to Linguistics”.
    I think a person’s pronunciation of the English language largely depends on the phonetic alphabet of his mother tongue ( የአፍ መፍቻ ቋንቋ) The richer the phonetic alphabet of his mother tongue in comparison to the IPA ( International Phonetic Alphabet”, the easier to pronounce sounds correctly or at least as close as possible.
    This is the reason we have difficulty pronouncing “th” sounds like the word “the”.
    We don’t have it in our phonetic alphabet. So we use the closest sound available for us. We use the sound “ዘ“ instead. The same thing with Arabic speakers. They use “b” (በ)instead of “p”(ፐ).
    My eleventh grade English teacher could not pronounce the sounds of vowels like “e “ and “a”. He always say ይፍ (if) or ዬ (a) .
    Mind you, there is a difference between the regular alphabet and the phonetic alphabet of any given language.

    On a serious note, I can’t find the dislike button.

    • Saleh Johar

      Hi Abiy,
      Thanks for the complimentary input on linguistics. You teacher must have been Indian. Most Arabs have to do that as well, Trup become eTrump. They have to start with a short vowel.

      But for many Eritreans ቀ and ቐ are distinguishable thanks to the Arabic ق and غ. And though there is the th sound in Arabic, ث , many pronounce it as z. ze boy, ze girl,etc. but there is also a problem with v, villa becomes Fella.

      Don’t you find the IPA not adequate to explain Semitic sounds? I do.

      Once I boated in front of a Polish ship captain “we have twice as mad many sounds as English” he asked me to repeat some Slavic words and he kept laughing at me. I never boasted again. But other times, I tell people to pronounce ቀ ቐ ጸ ጠ ኸ ጨ ኛ ጰ and ዐ then I raise my head and smile victoriously. I can do that with you on a few sounds— takeዐ and ኸ 🙂

      • Abi

        Selam Ato Saleh
        You are right. My English teacher was Indian.
        IPA is not adequate for semitic languages. All those sounds you mentioned don’t have symbols in the IPA chart. See, we are superior:)

        • Saleh Johar

          Ras Aby, indeed we are superior. Who needs an IPA chart 🙂

    • Brhan

      Hell Abi,
      What is the word “ghost” in Amharic. Your friend went back again to his ምሽግ to look for a ghost!

      • Abi

        Brhan
        Ghost is ጣረሞት.
        You might bump into him if the ምሽግ is too dark:)

        • Brhan

          Abi thanks for the translation
          I knew from the beginning he was talking about a ghost. I also think you knew from the beginning he was talking about ጣረ ሞት !